E-Learning in Retail


As Head of E-Learning and Knowledge Management at the German supermarket chain real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH, Olaf Bursian is responsible for implementing an e-learning project for 50,000 employees in more than 280 locations. In a pre-conference workshop, Bursian will share his experiences, present best practice cases and show how the difficulties of implementing e-learning in retail can be overcome.

OEB: Mr Bursian, how many people are involved in creating and implementing an e-learning project for 50,000 employees? How have you organised the project?


Olaf Bursian: We are a team of four, but subject matter experts from all departments of the company support us with their knowledge and experience. In every store we have a so-called e-learning partner who acts as a link between us, the employees and the store management. Additionally, we have created a good support and communication network with reports, meetings, internal communication initiatives etc.


Looking back, the project has proved to be an immense amount of work. However, we were able to implement it very successfully. The interest in learning at store level has grown tremendously these last few years and the need for new tailored courses is very high. Over the past three years, there have been 120,000 enrolments on around 35 different courses – a huge number for a retail company. On average, every employee at real,- Germany has taken two courses.


real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH is a supermarket chain and member of the METRO Group. real,- Germany was founded in 1992 as a result of a merger of 13 different German hypermarket companies. It offers approximately 80,000 different food and non-food items – everything from groceries to electrical appliances to clothing on a total sales area of 2.32 million m². Under the umbrella of real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH, the company manages 343 hypermarkets in Germany, as well as another 96 in Poland, Romania, Russia and Turkey. In 2008, the company reached a net sales figure of 11.6 billion euros. More information is available at www.real.de and www.metrogroup.de.



OEB: Generally speaking, what makes e-learning in retail and point of sale a special case?


Olaf Bursian: E-Learning in these areas is quite a challenge. On the one hand, it seems to be a suitable training method for a personnel-intensive business and given the clear-cut organisational structures found in retail, e-learning allows organisations to train a large amount of employees in a time-flexible manner and independent of location. On the other hand, however, time and place are not so much selling points, rather two huge obstacles e-learning has to face: how can an employee in a call centre, on a check-out or in a mobile phone shop take time out for learning, when productivity is measured in seconds? Staff taking study breaks could interrupt the daily business. With regard to space, where can the learning equipment be placed if there is no space for PCs in the store? Moreover, you might have to deal with personnel who usually conduct their work without using a PC and who lack basic computer skills. These people in particular have to be motivated to participate in an e-learning course.

OEB: How is e-learning integrated into everyday business at real,- now?


Olaf Bursian: Nowadays, e-learning is commonplace at real,-. Since the launch of the initiative in 2007, 40,000 courses are successfully passed every year by our employees. We offer courses in several topics, including internal processes, product knowledge and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
For a hypermarket company like real,- with an assortment of more than 80,000 different products, e-learning allows us to educate our employees about products in order to help them to help customers on the shop floor. With respect to increasingly complex and diverse entertainment devices, they learn, for example, the difference between a plasma and a TFT screen and are then able to advise the customers accordingly.


At real, – we have shop sizes of up to 14,000 sqm and a back office structure. Thus, space was never an issue for us: the employees are able to learn on PCs in these back offices. However, thinking ahead, mobile learning could also be a trend at real,- and in retail organisations in general.

OEB: How are you developing e-learning further at real,-?


Olaf Bursian: We are doing a project called “E-Learning on Modern Devices” to really take e-learning to the next level. It’s challenging and new, but we see big potential in developing e-learning in our business.

OEB: What can participants expect to learn from your presentation “E-Learning at Point of Sale at real,- SB Warenhaus Future Store” at OEB 2009?


Olaf Bursian: The presentation will featuresome best practice examples in retail and at point of sale and will include initiatives for retail-based content and fresh ideas.

OEB: Thank you very much for you time, Mr Bursian.


At OEB 2009, Olaf Bursian will present “E-Learning at Point of Sale at real,- SB Warenhaus Future Store” as part of the session “E-Learning at Point of Sale and in Retail Organisations” which will take place on Friday, December 4 from 16:30–18:00.

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