Faster than the speed of retail: 7 key takeaways (Ep15)

How can you support the fast pace of change in retail L&D? How can you empower people to become experts? What are the skills your workforce needs for the future? We’ve pulled out 7 key takeaways from Simon’s conversation with Miguel Premoli, Vice President of HR at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

miguel premoli speed of retail L&D

About Miguel

As VP of HR, Miguel oversees two of the five divisions within the organizations. The first division is international retail, which covers all retail operations outside of the UK and US – in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The second division is global brands; which oversees brands such as No. 7, Liz Earle, Botanics, and Sleek. With over 20 years of experience in HR, and has worked with some of the world’s biggest organizations, including Pepsico, Walmart and Revlon.

Hear what Miguel had to say about retail L&D on the Learning at Large Podcast:

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Here are 7 key takeaways:

  1. Merging the digital with physical experience keeps consumers engaged.

I think retail is going through systemic changes, like any other industry going through rapid change due to the technology evolution and emergence of ecommerce, but now looking at multi channel offerings to our consumers. And the way shoppers behave, it’s completely different. They might see a post on social media, react to it, get informed, then maybe go to the store and buy it in the physical store. Or, they might want to buy it online. So, I would say that the whole consumer or shopper journey has changed dramatically in the last ten years. And, of course, we’re adapting to those changes in consumer and shopper behaviors – providing the best experience we can, in all the channels and all the contacts that we have with the consumers and shoppers.”

“When you go to a shop, you go to experience it – everything that’s related to beauty. You want to touch the product, you want to see how it looks on you. What are the benefits of the product? You want to try it out, test it. What we offer in the retail environment is the role of the beauty advisor. So, beauty advisors are people who are there to support you, understand the product features – how it works, the technology behind the products – and also do makeup on you and test those products on your skin and your face so you can have a complete immersion into the product experience.”

“I think the customer wants something else from the physical experience in the store. Rather than just going and paying for the product to a cashier. Especially in our type of stores – specialized stores – I think more and more the consumer and the shopper want advice. They want to try things, test them, have an experience that’s rewarding to them. So I think not only our staff but even the physical stores are being shaped to provide the consumer with that more integrating experience, and our people become advisors to those consumers to help them make the right choices and they go into the physical store. “ 

  1.     Balance digital learning with face-to-face coaching and mentorship to see the best on-the-job learning results.

 “So, a key challenge for us is how we keep these beauty advisors well-informed, not only in how to provide the service, but also in terms of product knowledge, innovation that is coming to the market, what we call the “how-to’s” – you know, how to put on the makeup, how to put on the skincare products, etc. And we need to provide this learning and this content at a very fast pace to many, many different locations separated geographically. And it needs to be the right content at the right time and at the right moment, because they’re doing their job and they need to be able to do it with more information and as quickly as they can. “

“So we have very dedicated teams that interact with our beauty advisors on a daily basis – and not just digitally. There’s an ongoing conversation with them. So, I think there would be two or three ways we engage with the beauty advisor. One is providing them content, whether through our own applications or specific interactions on their mobile phones or tablets. We provide the right content.”

  1.     Social sharing of information can complement curated learning, providing a personalized interaction within decentralized content.

We personalize the content, in terms of the role that the advisor has in specific products, specific brands. You know, the level of seniority and experience they have, both in terms of their “how-to’s” and from a makeup, beauty perspective. So, it’s quite a personalized approach of delivering content on one side.”

“On the second side there’s a social element in terms of engaging with them in their dialogue, not only in the company of the beauty advisors, but also the beauty advisors come forward themselves in sharing best practices of things that they’ve done with a product or things they’ve learned about a product. So I think there’s a push of content that’s very personalized, but then there’s sharing of best practices among beauty advisors in the organization in terms of continued learning. And that also enables us to have and use our creative content that they can share amongst their group.”

“And again, it’s across multiple markets, so you have the complexity of the language capability, and of course different products tailored to different markets, etc. So, it’s a complex and highly personalized offering that we give our beauty advisors.”

Modern learning for retail: 2020 toolkit

  1.     Increasing complexity gradually provides a progressive ladder that learners appreciate – and strive to complete.

“Just to add to that, I think they also appreciate the increased complexity of the content they’ve been exposed to. So, initially you’d be exposed to product knowledge or characterist approach. But then, as you become more senior or experienced, you learn more about beauty – about beauty trends, what’s happening in the industry. You learn more about how to do makeup for our customers, how to apply the different products. So let’s say it’s the increased complexity of training we provide to our beauty advisors, and they appreciate this ladder of knowledge that they go through. And we recognize that as well. 

And again, I think it’s more related to the consumer experience, so I would say that’s very different from a company where you are not selling to a final consumer, but to a retailer. I think the services directly provided by our employees to the consumer… keeping the workforce engaged, keeping them up-to-date, having the right manager, and skillbuilding they require is vital for the consumer experience.”

  1.     Rather than controlling every aspect of on-the-job training, have faith in the ability of managers and coaches to impart information.

 “I think it’s very simple to say the right content to the right individual at the right moment. So, to do that, you have to let go. In the store, you don’t have much time to do lots of training and face-to-face training, etc. It needs to be training that is critical for you to do the job, and also to provide the right advice. So, you need to provide the microlearning or learning nudges so they’re also very engaging and really engage the learner. It’s critical. 

So, I think it’s personalized, very tailored, short snippets of training, video – that’s what lets you be successful. And of course, you need to let go – it’s impossible without that. 

But then the orientation is also a more personal one, this needs to be done by the manager to give the skills to do a proper job. And I think there’s a third element, which is understanding the culture and the nuances of the culture – we can have all these rules, but also the manager needs to bring these to them. So, those three different areas – one can clearly be quickly leveraged through technology, but the other two require the coaching and mentoring from the manager, for sure. “

“There’s so much you can put on black and white, but there’s so much you can’t. Of course, you can describe the culture and describe certain things, but I think the key thing is all the subtleness of the things that are not said but that have become part of the culture – you need proper coaching from leaders. “

  1.     Analytics combined with user feedback can help define future deficiencies, capabilities, and aspects that need to be fixed.

“I think data analytics is going to play a key role in HR. HR professionals tend to be a bit shy on data, but because my background is in economics, I have it in my blood. I think there’s a lot of data that we have about our workforce that is now more readily available. We have more systems and we can read data and draw conclusions on different levels of data and how to better manage our teams and talent. 

But I think the sweet spot is when you combine business data with talent data, and you can have correlations of talent information with business output. And then understand which are, the best  complies, the best teams, the best ways to organize to create better business results.

So, I think that we as a company are moving into this area of linking business with talent data, and developing an analysis that allows you to better control your capital and business results.”

“Different companies have different worries about assessing potential. But I think one of the keys words is potential for ‘what?’. So the first piece is, okay, let’s understand what are the roles of the future, what are the capabilities of the future? Because the future is evolving very quickly. What’s going to happen in the next years is very hard to predict. So basically, when you’re looking at your talent, you have to say, “Okay, potential for what?” what are going to be their the roles of the future, what are going to be the capabilities that we’ll need in the future? And the talent that we currently have, are they going to be able to acquire those skills and fill those roles in the future, based on how quickly they learn and adapt to different circumstances? “

  1.     Coping with ambiguity, being flexible, and staying up-to-date with the digital are the pillars to an effective learning leader.

“I think two or three are pretty critical. I think one is how you deal with ambiguity. I think more and more things are going to be confusing and all of that. So how you deal with ambiguity and be able to plan that quickly and react to changes in the environment, it’s a critical skill. 

I would say together with that is flexibility and how you are able to see things from different lenses and also flex your views to make the right decisions in an ever-changing environment. And then digital savviness is another one. A whole array of new companies and business models are being changed and transformed due to digital technology. So, the ability to cope with ambiguity, flexibility, and digital savviness, I think those will give you capabilities for the future.”

Miguel’s Book Recommendations

The Post-Capitalist Society, Peter Drucker

” I will mention a book that’s been around for probably more than 20 something years, but it’s still very relevant and was very visionary at the moment. I think it’s still a book that really opened my eyes – it is a book from Peter Drucker, called The Post-Capitalist Society. I think it’s a brilliant book – not only for learning managers, but in general it’s a book on economics and capital and policy. But he talks about the knowledge economy, and what are the changes and what are the different models and structures that need to change as we go through the knowledge economy. I think it was written more than 20 something years ago, and it’s impressive how relevant it is today and will be in the future. “

Contact Miguel

“I have my own blog – I don’t write very often, but once in a while I put out a couple of articles. It’s just my name and last name, dot com.”

Join the conversation!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email me at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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