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Sector Benchmark Report: Embracing Change in Retail Businesses (2016)

by | May 25, 2016 | Sector Benchmark Reports

This report provides powerful evidence to help senior management and L&D teams in the retail sector to ensure that their learning experiences lead to closer alignment to business goals and greater learning results for its employees.

This report is available to download, thanks to the support of Kallidus.

Aspirations are high amongst L&D leaders in this sector. Along with most organisations in the sample, increasing learning access and flexibility is a key driver for learning innovation through technology. They are also looking to improve on-the-job productivity and reduce the time that people can spend away from their job in formal training, speeding up the application of learning into the workflow. However, whilst improving training efficiency is paramount, retail businesses are also looking to improve the quality and consistency of the learning experience.


The report draws on data from Towards Maturity’s 2015-16 Industry Benchmark Report, Embracing Change. Over 600 leaders in learning and development completed the Towards Maturity Benchmark™ review between June and August 2015. 11% of these were from businesses in the retail sector – 39 participants received Personalised Benchmark Reports™ to help them with their strategic planning in 2015.
In this report, we focus on the responses from those in wholesale and retail trade to inform leaders in learning and development in this sector by:
  • Reviewing the learning and development approaches delivered within this sector
  • Analysing these in the context of the sector and its drivers for change
  • Comparing against the best practice of the top learning companies
  • Identifying actions for the learning and development teams within this sector
As expected, 50% of retail businesses are listed in the top two quartiles. However, the fact that not a single business is ranked in the top decile reveals that those organisations classified in the top quartile are at the lower end of that range. Those in the Top Deck (those in the top decile for the TMI) are consistently high performers and can offer insights into the practical steps that L&D can take to accelerate their performance.

Fast Facts

40 businesses from the wholesale and retail trade sector took part in the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study during 2015. 63% of these are multi-national organisations. Their responses form part of the wider sample reported in Embracing Change.  Compared with the average across the 600+ organisations that took part in the 2014 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study, retail organisations are investing more heavily in learning technologies:
  • 47% have increased their training budget in the last two years (38%) and predict further increase in the next two years (36%)
  • 79% will increase the proportion of training budget spent on technology (71%)
The retail sector suffers from the same ‘performance gap’ as other sectors between the drivers for investing in modernisation of their learning strategy and the benefits it manages to achieve, but they are especially struggling to improve productivity and customer satisfaction through learning and development:
  • 13% of those seeking to improve productivity have been able to demonstrate this benefit (38% average)
  • 14% have seen an improvement in customer satisfaction (38%)
Across the whole sample of different industry sectors, cost is cited as the top barrier to enabling learning through technology. For retail, overcoming line manager reluctance is causing the most problems:
  • 75% report a reluctance amongst line managers to encourage new ways of learning (75% average)
  • 71% report a lack of skills amongst employees to manage their own learning (63%)

Budgets and Barriers

In the retail sector, nearly half (47%) of the responding organisations report an increase in learning budgets over the last two years and expect this trend to continue over the next two years. This compares with our sample average of 38%. Most retail respondents (79%) have seen an increase in the budgets for technology-enabled learning and nearly half (47%) have experienced increases in team size, mainly in content development and instructional design. The retail sector is expanding its learning team size at a rate 50% greater than the overall sample and twice as fast as the top companies in the TM Benchmark (22%).
Despite this investment, the retail sector reports a number of barriers to implementation of technology-enabled learning and development.
  • Reluctance by line managers to encourage new ways of learning (75%)
  • Lack of skills amongst employees to manage own learning (71%)

Impact and Efficiency

Given the level of barriers restricting the implementation of digital learning strategies, it is not surprising to see that the major benefits sought from learning are not being realised. However, despite this, improvements within this sector have been reported as:
  • Improve the quality of learning (39%)
  • Increase ongoing sharing of good practice
Find out more about how retail businesses can continue to embrace change, by downloading your copy of this Sector Benchmark Report below.


This report is free to download thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s AmbassadorKallidus.

Please note, you need to be logged in /registered to download your copy – the download link will take you to our registration page if you are not logged in. By downloading this report, you agree for your email address to also be shared with Kallidus (Please contact us directly for a copy if you do not wish for your address to be shared).

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About the Benchmark

The Towards Maturity Benchmark Study is an internationally recognised longitudinal study on the effective implementation of learning innovation based on the input of 5,000+ participants and 25,000 learners gathered since 2003. Towards Maturity continuously surveys and studies how people learn at work and the impact this has on organisational performance. By turning data into insights and insights into action, this research is used to help L&D leaders assess and improve the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of their learning provision.

Research methodology

There are three main sources of data for this report:

  • The Towards Maturity 2016 Benchmark Review with over 600 participants taking part between September 2015 and August 2016, summarised in Figure 5
  • A sample of over 4,700 learners that took part in a learning landscape survey during the same period, described in detail in Learner Voice 3
  • Secondary research referencing senior business leaders from the C-suite


Get started with your own Benchmark

Our confidential Benchmark is free to utilise and takes 60 minutes to complete (just 20 minutes to update if you have completed it previously). Start your benchmark 



The Towards Maturity Benchmark has been made available for free thanks to the support of our strategic partner CIPD, our publishing parter Emerald Group Publishing and our Ambassadors, who share our passion for ensuring that great independent research is freely available to all.

Find out more about our Ambassadors at: www.towardsmaturity.org/ambassadors

Towards Maturity Supporters: The 2016 study remains current and vendor neutral thanks to the independent experts, industry communities and membership bodies who kindly offer Towards Maturity their support. Find out more at: www.towardsmaturity.org/supporters

Research team: Laura Overton and Dr Genny Dixon
Publisher: Emerald Global Publishing Group Ltd


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Create an account or sign in to download this report and get instant access to:

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