Harvesting the retail wisdom – establishing best practice via action learning

Action Learning Associates is currently working on an exciting application of action learning with L’Oréal.  While we always talk about action learning being a great place to share and disseminate best practice, it is comparatively rare to deliver programmes where that is the main objective.

L’Oréal gave us that opportunity.  We ran a series of action learning sets in the UK (face to face) and in Canada, Korea and Spain – these were virtual sets and in Spanish and Korean languages. The sets were made of those working directly in retail in L’Oréal’s four divisions; Luxe – exciting brands like Georgio Armani, ACD – the specialist skin care markets, PPD professional hairdressing and retailer The Body Shop.

Bringing together managers from these four divisions created the first layer of learning. In any global business with many distribution channels (for L’Oréal this includes their own stores, department store concessions, and airport franchises, online, specialist professional salons and clinics) there is real learning to be gained about the business, the practices and the needs of the different markets. The process revealed that more tools and approaches can be shared or adapted in each other’s business areas than a busy and strongly divisionalised (and therefore siloed) company had realised.

Further learning arose from looking in detail at how the retail experts responded to the different opportunities they faced. The action learning sets had the mandate to capture in depth, the real detail of the best practice in their retail situation. A complex area with customer needs varying according to profile, market culture, and of course the purchasing situation – anything from a department store to beautician visit.  We framed this approach as “harvesting the retail wisdom” in the company and found the sharing to be rich and extremely powerful, so much so that even the exact language used by participants was of real value.

L’Oreal is now working on the best ways to use this valuable learning to reach as many of their retail employees as possible. We found the methodology was really welcomed and can be easily repeated in the field.

To find out more about virtual action learning, listen to our webinar – What’s in a voice? The art of listening.

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