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Challenges and measuring training impacts in the FMCG sector

Posted by: Sean Gilligan
Category: Industry insights

The Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market is one of the largest in terms of spending per head in both training and elearning.

This spend can be linked to concerns with:

  • falling sales
  • the apprenticeship levy
  • competition

Retail Sales Index: showing the slump in sales

According to the Retail Sales Index, sales are declining.

We saw the recent slump in Next’s sales in 2017 adversely affecting their profit and cited a “combination of economic, cyclical and internal factors working against us”.

Also, we saw John Lewis slash staff bonuses to the lowest level in over 63 years to protect their future.


Source: Telegraph.co.uk | Data: ONS



Another factor affecting this change is competition from online sales. In grocery for example, companies like Acado in the UK are providing more and more reasons to buy online, with new entrants such as Amazon building on their current business model to now deliver food produce.

Increasingly, competitors are entering this crowded and aggressive marketplace where:

  • the product range is wide (i.e. home cleaning items, personal hygiene goods and foodstuffs, such as crisps and ready meals); and
  • margins are low.

In order to compete for retail shelf space, customer facing employees need to know exact information about products at a given time.

The apprenticeship levy

Another criticism in the training industry has been how the apprenticeship levy has been introduced.

Retailers feel that this is an unnecessary tax on their revenues given that most of them are already running training and graduate programmes.

As the size of the retail sector is approximately £3bn they will pay around £235m for the levy this year.

How can we measure training impact as a return on investment?

Here are several tips on how to measure the impact of training in your FMCG business

Sales revenues

Running product sales training, or coaching is a simple win.  When you are releasing a new product, why not link the Learning and Development team with the Sales and Marketing team to produce supporting training materials.  As sales increases, you can demonstrate through learning assessment how this effected knowledge of individuals and therefore sales results.

Customer net promoter

Some businesses ask you to fill out a net promoter score at the bottom of your receipt.  There may be in some cases a cash prize or holiday if you win.   If you are rolling out a customer service training programme, you can assess the its results by the customer net promoter score.

For example, how many customers are filling out the feedback via net promoter, low number means your employees are not doing their job.  If they are feeding back, how good is this feedback, is it positive?  You can then link in the customer service training programme results to your net promoter.

Employee engagement

Most businesses send out an employee engagement survey, this is to ‘check in’ and for the head office to understand where people are feeling engaged or not.  This would be on top of the one to one’s with managers.  Typically more engaged workforces have a learning culture, you can evidence how many effective training programmes have been rolled out over a specific period and link this data to increases in employee engagement, then you can evidence the impact training is having.

Learner feedback

From training courses that you run, whether they are face to face, or blended, you can always ask for feedback.  You can use the ‘happy sheet’ to gain this, but most organisations are now using their online learning portal to gain this feedback, which means it’s much easier to aggregate and analyse the data.

Mystery shopping

FMCG businesses outsource their mystery shopping to other businesses who specialise in this area.  You can use this feedback to understand the impact of your training programme.

For example, you may run a training programme about management of aggressive behaviour in store.  You could ask the mystery shopper to approach several stores to raise complaint and potentially use aggressive behaviours.  Following your training programme, you can ask the mystery shopper for independent feedback on how this was handled.

Therefore, with these challenges in the FMCG sector training has become more important than ever.  We need to leverage our skills in our teams to bridge the challenges in sales decline.

The benefits of training

In our experience, we are seeing that these employees have benefitted from training on:

  • Product knowledge
  • Professional selling skills
  • Bespoke sales training
  • And much more …

Once trained, they are far more effective in negotiating shelf space with retailers to increase distribution and sales.

For more information about how other FMCG corporates are approaching learning programmes, you can read more about: