Training Tools: Teach How. Teach Why.

helping grow

Can you imagine being hired to do a job and not receiving training? Or being asked to fulfill a role and not being provided with a clear understanding of how to achieve the desired outcome?

Do you think it would be possible to do perform well under those circumstances?

Over the past few years I’ve worked with small and large retailers, large trade shows, emerging and well-established brands and individuals who are writers, thought leaders and business owners.

Hands down, every project I’ve been asked to lead can be boiled down to one priceless element: Communication.


I believe that most people want to do a good job. In order for them to do a good job, they need to know what to do.

Far too many employers leave communication to chance which can result in time wasted, off-the-mark projects, and/or frustrated and disenfranchised individuals who lose momentum. Healthy and positive risk taking is elusive without communication because it is when we have a clear picture of expectation that we have the necessary outline of how to move forward.

My most valuable experience in recent years was while performing as a visual merchandising project lead during my store remodel and at new store openings across the country while working at REI.

Projects like these move fast and usually operate under chaotic and changing conditions with newly-formed teams that may or may not have experience. The teams I led numbered from 3 or 4 to 25 at a time. During our store remodel, we would arrive around 7 a.m. and begin the task of making a store that had undergone overnight construction back into a shoppable store. Every morning was a surprise but we had to be ready to open the doors at 10 a.m. New store openings had a set opening day. The task of a project lead was to not only lead my team to create a consumer experience, but to train sales staff in visual merchandising practices along the way.

I had floorset plans which were able to be interpreted because of the training foundation I had received. A foundation that began with a company manual*.

I learned the value of not only teaching others best practices, but explaining the reason behind the inevitable adaptations and out-of-the-box solutions necessitated by things that did not go according to the book by sharing the why behind the plan.

We must know how and why.

When we know how to do a task and the why behind decision-making, we are given the tools to develop creative problem solving techniques that are real-life and more likely than not in alignment with desired outcome. We give valuable autonomy to the people we hire. We develop a team.

Identifying and documenting your best practices lays the foundation for your staff. This is not a luxury for businesses that want to hit home runs, it is a necessity. When I work with a client on the development and documentation of a manual, it is a wonderful opportunity for organization leaders to determine and identify what they value most in their practices. The development of these tools pay for themselves over time.

Merchandising is a team sport and like any team sport, the rules and guidelines of the game need to be clearly communicated so that we can trust one another and ourselves. Training in both technique and policy are important.

I view training as a series of layers that when attended to result in a system that is seamless.

Human beings have different learning styles and a good training program involves all of them. Good layers include:

  • The foundation: Best Practice Manual
  • Make it come alive: Group workshops where the ‘why’ is explored
  • Touchy-feely: Hands-on practice to understand the ‘how’
  • Cementing skills: Follow up and feedback
  • Trainer evolution: Identifying and developing training apprentices

Individuals who know what is expected of them and know what to do are not only being given the tools to be a team member, they tend to be happier and more satisfied team members.

They also know how to do a good job.

*I’m here to help. Reach out for a complimentary consult and begin the layering of your training. 

This entry was posted in Merchandising Planning, Retail sales, small business tips, visual merchandiser, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *