Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Evaluation of Sales Force Training in Retail Organizations: A Test of Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Model

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Evaluation of Sales Force Training in Retail Organizations: A Test of Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Model

Article excerpt

With the economic downturn in recent years, US retailers have learned to place their retail personnel selling skills as an essential contributor to both business success and survival. They know that their business is now defined by customer relationships and value-adding provided by their sales force. For their sales personnel to become successful in their jobs, sales training for these individuals has become necessary and essential. Despite spending thousands of dollars training their sales force every year, retail organizations often fail to follow through in evaluating the effectiveness of their training programs, thereby not allowing corrective actions to improve to take root. Without evaluating sales training effectiveness, retailers would not be able to make the necessary revision and renewal efforts to their sales training programs so that training can continuously be effective, accountable and significant to their organizations. Failing to evaluate, retail organizations could be spending considerable amount of time and resources continually on ineffective training programs perpetuating unimpressive sales force performances and contribution to their organizations. As such, this article investigates (1) the application and scope of sales training evaluations, (2) types of evaluation methods commonly used to measure the effectiveness of sales training programs, (3) and the remedial actions undertaken to improve training effectiveness. This study essentially utilized Kirkpatrick's Four-Level Training Evaluation Model (Donald Kirkpatrick, 1994) to examine whether the interrelationships among its four levels of training evaluation (reaction, learning, behavior change, and organizational outcomes) are applied in determining training effectiveness. A survey of over 150 retail organizations was undertaken showed significant training evaluation neglect and indifference amongst retail organizations with little support for using all 4 levels of Kirkpatrick's Model for training evaluation. Implications of our study are discussed that may help retail organizations better evaluate training solutions while developing more effective and accountable sales training efforts that will increase overall sales force productivity.

Introduction

Not only does the retail industry dominate other industries in the U.S., retail organizations that are based in the U.S. also dominate the global retail arena. Nearly one-third of the world's largest 250 retail organizations are based here (Global Powers of Retailing 20 1 1 , Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, 2011). Based on sales turnover, 30 of the world's largest retailers are from the U.S., and 82 of the retailers on the entire Global Powers list of top 250 retailers call U.S. their home (Global Powers of Retailing, 2011).

The retail industry is a vital sector of the U.S economy. In 2010, the total amount of sales generated from the retail industry was $4.13 trillion. With two-thirds of the nation's Gross Domestic Product arising from retail consumption (approximately 8% of our GDP comes from retailing) the retail industry is a significant sector of our economy (Farfan, 201 1). There are approximately 1, 122,703 retail establishments with a total of 14.2 billion square feet of retail space while 6% of U.S. work force is employed as retail personnel (2011 U.S. Retail Industry Store Closings and Liquidations Roundup, 2011) with sales and customer service oriented responsibilities being their primary vocations. Given the global economic downturn in the last 3 years, US retailers have learned to place their retail personnel selling skills as an essential contributor to both business success and survival.

US retailers also know that business is now defined by customer relationships and valueadding. Over the last decade, the role and philosophy of professional selling has evolved and shifted from information provider to that of a problem solver and relationship builder (Manning, Reece and Ahearne, 2011). …

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