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How a retail firm skilled 16000+ distributed workforce and experienced 2x growth

Retail is evolving with changing customer preferences and relentless digital acceleration. Frontline employees are the engine that keeps the retail business moving in the challenging landscape. Just like an engine needs regular fuel, the frontline workers need continuous upskilling for delivering optimum performance. One of the leading food and grocery retail in India understood this. So, they armed their frontline staff with the right learning opportunities and tools to upskill and make them future-ready. 

The head HR, corporate function, and retail learning of the retail firm shared in a webcast how they skilled their frontline talent and addressed the hurdles that came their way due to COVID-19. The webcast was on “ Upskilling frontline teams for business growth”, conducted by People Matters in association with disprz. 

Read on to explore the retail company’s initiatives to empower its frontline staff and thrive on disruption. 

How COVID-19 changed the game for the retail firm’s frontline workers

The COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc in the retail industry. With quarantine and lockdown, the challenges escalated for the retail business. Most employees had the flexibility to work from home. However, the frontline workers were on the field like brave warriors due to essential business continuity. 

The frontline workforce had to pivot to the new normal and adapt to the changing business environments. The retail firm was quite agile in listening and acting upon the needs of the frontline workforce and the customers.  The retail firm provided the infrastructure needed to deliver a cohesive experience and address the unprecedented disruption caused due to pandemic. 

The retail firm moved from a physical store to being an Omni player 

To ensure a frictionless shopping experience, the retail firm embraced the omnichannel strategy. They explored various mediums to reach their customers. For instance, the customer couldn’t go to the supermarket due to COVID restrictions, so the retail firm started selling online and even accepted orders on WhatsApp. 

To ensure timely delivery and a great buying experience, they cultivated a culture of continuous learning. 

Preparing frontline employees to enhance the customer experience  in a digital-first world 

Due to the pandemic, the retail industry witnessed digital acceleration at an incredible pace. There were several innovations in this industry to meet customer expectations and provide delightful experiences. From touchless interactions to leveraging algorithmic approaches, many advancements took place in the retail landscape. 

However, frontline employees found this transformation overwhelming as most of them were pretty comfortable with the conventional operations. The retail firm acted in real-time and responded to the digital disruption by equipping its frontline workforce with the right technology and skilling. They focused on providing valuable learning experiences for their employee growth. 

Challenges faced by the retail firm and how they solved it with disprz 

The evolution of the omnichannel environment in retail propelled the expansion of roles and responsibilities. 

Kuljit Chadha, the Co-founder and COO of disprz, rightly stated in the webcast that The presence of omnichannel ensured that you don’t look at the channel and specialize, you change your perspective and think from the customer angle and provide a seamless experience on a Phone, WhatsApp or a Store. That’s only possible if you move away from specialization and become a generalist who can manage all the channels.

The retail firm was aligned with the need of the hour. They took the necessary steps to help frontline employees deliver the omnichannel experience. 

Below are the challenges that they addressed with the help of an all-in-one skilling suite. 

Upskilling 16000+ workforce

Challenge: The retail firm had 16000+ distributed workforce spread across different parts of the country. So upskilling and reskilling all of them together was a challenge for them.

Solution: With disprz, they could bring all their 16000 employees on a single platform. They could train everybody together regardless of their location. They could focus on foundational skills as well as develop new skills simultaneously. This had a positive impact on employee performance. 

Head Hr of the retail firm shared – 

“ From upskilling and reskilling priorities, we looked at this entire agenda  in two ways:

  1. We will continue to invest in core skills for our frontline, but we will change how we will impart these skills. Our business thrives on fresh fruits, vegetables and groceries. So those knowledge and content skills are very important. We consolidated that content and made it available. We are still on that journey, further refining the content. For instance, basic skills like how a cashier deals with customers in a supermarket store to deliver the right customer experience. We will continue to focus on such foundational skills but in a new format. 
  2. Then with changing times, we are focusing on new skills like building Omni. For instance, we know that a certain percentage of sales would come from omnichannel in our hypermarket stores. We need the right resources to ensure that the orders are served in a certain amount of time. We used the disprz platform to impart those skills. Now Omni as training is available to anyone whom we want to upskill in the store. “ 

Onboarding the frontline workforce 

Challenge: The retail store had rapid expansion and growth. To open new stores, they needed efficient people who could manage the stores. So they needed a quick onboarding process in place to help the new hires hit the ground running. 

Solution: The retail store could build an effective onboarding process and provide a consistent onboarding experience across different stores with disprz. It helped them create a perfect blend of on-the-job training with skills they would need to acquire for performing efficiently. They could even reduce time-to-productivity and get employees up to speed quickly. 

Head Hr of the retail firm shared – 

“We created a pack of 8 days of new hire training which was a combination of on-the-job training along with skills they would acquire via the disprz platform.  So whenever a new hire is made in any store, whether it is in Orissa, Bombay or Delhi, they get the same experience of the fundamental skill set needed to be in the store. “

Continuous growth and assessment of frontline workers 

Challenge: The retail store being an employee-centric organization, wanted to keep track of the employee progress. However, their career development programs used to happen through multiple excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations, which was very time-consuming. 

Solution: disprz helped them track whether the employees are progressing to take up higher roles. It helped them comprise everything in an agile format. The frontline could take real-time assessments to track their proficiency level. 

Head Hr of the retail firm shared – 

“For us to continuously grow, we need to grow our talent along with us. After 12 months, 18 months, we need to constantly assess the employees to see whether they are growing to take higher roles within the store. Not just in their store but in other stores as well. 

The challenge thrown to us by the CEO of the supermarket network is that he said, “can you make spark like a GRE module?”. 

Every three months, when an associate in a store wants to go and apply, they should be able to apply. We are talking about new generation smarter associates who want to grow. So we are working with disprz to have platforms where people can self-nominate, and we move them to the journey of development. Then have assessments by their managers to certify that they are ready for the next level. So, completely moving to an agile framework.

Engaging users 

Challenge: Engaging frontline and propelling them to complete courses. 

Solution: The retail firm didn’t force its frontline employees to consume a particular content. With disprz, they provided anytime content that the frontline employees could access at their convenient time. The pull-based learning flexibility resulted in better adoption of the content. 

As per research conducted by disprz, completions for self-enrolled courses were 82% compared to 34% for assigned courses for all learners. 

Head Hr of the retail firm shared

Data is power. We saw that the lot of adoption of the platform increased on the modules that people wanted to go. For instance, simple things like how to write an email, improving decision making etc. This helped us have employees on the platform. The secret ingredient for this success recipe is that when you introduce people to change, don’t only force them to do what you want them to do but also give them options. I think Netflix and Amazon are good examples. When you give the content the user wants, you will see the difference in adoption.”


By integrating the learning roadmap with the business road map, the retail firm could lead its frontline employees in the right direction. A complete skilling solution like disprz helped the retail firm build effective onboarding processes, create personalized learning journeys, reskill the frontline employees, and assess their progress. This advanced skilling suite can be a valuable tool for your organization too. See a preview of how disprz can help in upskilling and reskilling your frontline employees to help them win in the digital-first world. 

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