Why Sephora’s Recent Training Misstep is a Great Lesson in Learning Retention

Sephora’s recent training issues related to diversity and inclusion are a big reminder not just of the importance of training, but the value behind creating learning programs that stick. In the retail market, this can be a challenge. Faced with sometimes chaotic environments and high-turnover, it can be difficult to use traditional practices to ensure that company training is retained and actively used by employees.

While Sephora’s move to close all stores for a one-hour training workshop helps to ensure each employee is receiving the same information, it doesn’t ensure that the employee will retain that information in the next month, or that they will share accurate information with new colleagues. It’s more important that companies build programs that foster more continuous learning so that trainings are retained and put into practice.

So how should a retailer get started?


It starts with building the right learning culture.

Top-down learning is simply not effective in today’s workforce. Relying solely on lecture-style training means the conversation only ever moves in one direction, treating the employee more like a sponge than a person. The best way to ensure employees retain trainings is through practice, and this starts with building learning conversations that engage employees and invite them to react and respond to learning content.

Especially in the case of inclusion or diversity training, it’s important that employees feel comfortable asking questions and offering different opinions in order to understand the code of conduct. While it isn’t always possible to shut down stores to have everyone in the same room for this conversation, new tech tools can encourage employees to connect with training leaders and their peers in a message board-style setting. This not only provides a space to have open conversations, but also creates a record of discussions that can be shared for future employees – both setting the example of what an open-learning culture looks like, while also providing valuable information (without needing to recreate materials).


There needs to be a focus on peer-to-peer learning. 

Fitting a more open learning culture, all learning shouldn’t come from executives and upper management. In many cases, these people aren’t in the day-to-day trenches and don’t have any understanding of the types of situations employees may be faced with. Peer-to-peer learning has the opportunity to fill this gap. By empowering employees to lead a training or discussion on topics such as diversity and inclusion, there is an opportunity to offer more relatable content to the workforce and encourage greater retention.

Social tools are a great way to empower more peer-to-peer learning. By creating discussion groups where employees can pose questions or share experiences, employers are able to support valuable conversations and create more informal training moments. Peer-to-peer learning also gives your employees more responsibility when it comes to training, empowering them to mentor new hires or note when they might see a potential issue. This helps with learning retention, especially in cases where managers can’t always be present, such as on an especially busy shopping day.


Training needs to be accessible, 24/7.

Training can’t just be an hour-long workshop or a simple training video. When an employee is hired, training needs to be a continual process that is provided at the convenience of the learner. Giving employees the space to learn when and where they want to helps to take the pressure off of training, and in many cases, can allow the employee to more effectively absorb the material.

This is where mobile learning tools are key. We reach everything on our phones, so we should be able to reach our training materials tool. This could mean a commute becomes an opportunity to review certain materials from an earlier training, or downtime on a particularly slow day at the store doesn’t go to waste. It can also help social learning opportunities to feel less forced, offering a similar convenience of a Facebook or other social media sites. For employees that are considered top talent, it can also provide them with the opportunity to grow in their role without feeling like they have to work overtime to achieve recognition.

Closing stores for a company-wide training is a good start to ensuring employees have the right tools, but this shouldn’t be the only strategy. It’s important that employees build learning programs that foster learning retention by creating continuous opportunities for learning and review.


Contributed by Sarah Casteel, Events Development Representative at Docebo.

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