India, January 2023: The Retailers Association of India (RAI) recently concluded its annual Retail Learning & Development Summit 2023, which was held in Mumbai and attended by top retail L&D leaders and experts to deliberate on the Future of L&D in retail.
Attendees networked and were part of several conversations where they discussed the future of training and how to shake things up in the industry. They delved into the latest and greatest technology, like AI, predictive analytics, and VR, that is revolutionising the way we train employees. It was a true feast for the mind, as everyone left the conference feeling inspired and ready to take on the future of L&D in retail.
Setting the context of the summit, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, of the Retailers Association of India (RAI) said, “This year, we’re diving deep into how retailers are rethinking their approach to learning and development for their workforce. One big change we’re seeing is the rise of “phygital” shopping, where consumers are blending online and in-store experiences. This has forced retailers to rethink how they do business and the summit is the perfect opportunity for them to come together and share ideas on how to stay ahead of the curve”
Kumar Rajagopalan added: “Service consistency is becoming a problem. It’s either very good or bad; there is no middle ground. COVID-19 created a void in the service industry across sectors, retail included that needs to be filled.”
While addressing the way the industry evolved in the past three years, Kumar Rajagopalan also spoke on how the marketing term ‘segmentation’ had evolved and there was a greater focus on personalisation. “PAFE – Personalised, Accurate, Fast, Everywhere, is the new way to look at how every aspect of retail operates. It is therefore important to add PAFE to the learning & development of the workforce.”
The highlight of the RAI Learning & Development Summit 2023 was a keynote address by Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, Serial Entrepreneur & CEO, of Great Place to Work® India (Culture, AI, and M&A). During her keynote, Yeshasvini said, “To overcome global uncertainty organisations must build a workplace culture for their employees that help them to be the best version of themselves. The year 2022 was a year of sustainability for workplaces in India. Between 2017 and 2022, India has moved to become a more impartial, collaborative, fair, and caring place to work when compared to workplace culture globally. The focus for the year 2023 will be on fairness in the workplace, equality, and credibility of management, among other aspects. Future workplaces will be more inclusive.”
Thought-provoking panel discussions had retail CHROs and CLOs deliberating on the many aspects of Learning & Development in the context of reimagining, reinventing, and re-evaluating methods of learning, skill training, and organisation culture. Topics discussed at the summit were ‘Reimagine: Learning strategies for an evolving future’; ‘Reinvent: Learning culture – A solution for inclusion’; ‘Re-evaluate: Leadership Development – It Starts From the Top’; among others.
During the panel discussion on reimagining learning strategies, while speaking about the challenges faced when personalising learning for each individual in the frontline workforce, Nirav Jagad, Chief People Officer, SUGAR Cosmetics, said, “Cookie cutter approach is easy, but it doesn’t move the needle. For high-impact learning, initiatives ask what the associate wants. Figure out how we can provide the solution in the way they want. It sounds idealistic, but there is no other way to do that.”
Speaking on eliminating unconscious biases during the discussion on reinventing organisation culture to drive inclusion, Tanaz Mulla, Head – of Corporate HR, Trent Ltd said, “It is not just about how we look at the L&D program but also about how we look at the HR processes we have in the organisation. In the induction programs or every employee touchpoint initiative, the introduction should be based on experience and not on who we are and where we come from.”
Roundtable discussions at the summit were themed on ‘Next Gen Retail Workforce: Building a strong culture for every retail employee’ and ‘Adapting to a New L&D Reality in the post-pandemic era: skills-stack, performance, & learning pathways’.
Leaders participating at the summit included Anjali Goel, Head – HR, V-Mart Retail; Bidisha Banerjee, Group Senior VP Learning, Culture, and Employer Branding, Welspun Group; Gauri Dalal, Associate Vice President – Learning & Development, Nykaa; Jeeva Balakrishnan, Chief Talent Officer, Reliance Retail Ltd.; Nandini Mehta, CHRO, Metro Brands Ltd.; Nirav Jagad, Chief People Officer, SUGAR Cosmetics; Neelam Ahluwalia, Vice President – L&D, Bigbasket; Robin Sharma, Head – L&D, Croma – Infiniti Retail Ltd.; Seema Arora, Head HR – India Business, Lenskart.com; Tanaz Mulla, Head – Corporate HR, Trent Ltd.; among many others.
The summit concluded by recognising retail organisations that demonstrated enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development through L&D interventions. The award for ‘Best Learning & Development Strategy’ was given to Reliance Retail (Netmeds), while Celio Future Fashion Pvt. Ltd. was recognised as the First Runner Up and Raymond Ltd.- Lifestyle Business as the Second Runners Up.
Recognising the young dynamic talent in the L&D functions within retail companies who have made a huge impact on L&D functions in their respective organizations, the ‘Learning Champ’ award was given to Tanya Arora, Reliance Retail (Fashion & Lifestyle). While, Ronit Hassanwalia, V Mart Retail Ltd. was recognised as the First Runner-up, and Anju Verma, Croma-Infiniti Retail Ltd. as the Second Runner Up in the award category.