For Online Retailers Navigating COVID-19, Staff Training is Essential

With many nonessential businesses shuttered, social distancing directives in place, and shoppers fearful of risking trips to their local markets for crucial needs, it should come as no surprise that shopping online has spiked since the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the COVID-19 Commerce Insight tracker, online revenues at pure ecommerce sites in the US and Canada have increased 60% year-over-year in the first half of April. For primarily physical retailers, online activity increased 73% during that period. Meanwhile, US grocery business consultancy Brick Meets Click reports that online grocery sales for the month of March were up 233% compared to August 2019, a more typical month.

Online retail warehouse worker in safety gear

Unfolding like a natural disaster with little warning, the current state of emergency has companies scrambling to adjust. As anxious customers increasingly turn to online retailers to buy essential items, storage and delivery networks are being put to the test. A primary challenge is to continue delivering quality service while assuring the health and safety of the supply chain—from frontline workers to delivery partners to customers. One important component of protecting staff and ensuring business continuity is robust training for employees on safety—but also for functions like upskilling, leadership, employee induction, and conflict resolution.

Health and safety

For most organizations, safety is a top priority. Effective training solutions are needed quickly to reinforce sanitary and social distancing protocols at storage facilities and corporate offices, to teach preventative measures during customer deliveries, and to enact emergency procedures in case an employee shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. As leaders in the Learning Industry, KnowledgeWorks Global Ltd. is ready with a number of proven strategic solutions such as interactive micro-learning, gamified activities, and scenario-based learning to train employees on sanitization, staggered shifts or contact tracing. But there are other training needs brought about by the current situation to consider.


During the pandemic, some employees may have to be quarantined due to symptoms, while others may be out of commission due to personal or family situations. In such cases, critical business functions that these employees handle may need to be covered by others. Employees skilled at handling multiple job functions can help online retailers remain competitive through uncertain times. In fact, cross-training programs can also serve as opportunities for employees to broaden their skillsets and boost their morale.

Virtual coaching

Managers are familiar with the practice of coaching team members during meetings and group discussions at the workplace. However, since many employees may be working remotely, managers may need to mentor their teams using web-based services, such as video conferencing. Managers should be trained in virtual coaching so they are prepared to communicate effectively, provide constructive feedback and performance evaluations, and motivate their teams to enhance performance and collaboration.


As the demand for online shopping increases, retailers may be under-staffed and need to expedite the hiring process. However, new employees also have to be quickly trained to follow specific safety practices to protect themselves and others under the current circumstances. Additionally, HR and hiring managers will need training on virtual tools and new cultural protocols to be successful in communicating with new hires.

Managing conflict

The health crisis has implications for not only the business productivity of online retailers, but also the mental wellbeing of their employees. For example, the increased burden on delivery networks of such companies can result in high levels of stress and anxiety among desk employees as well as delivery associates, which can lead to workplace conflict. Managers can be trained to find ways to prevent, control, and resolve such conflicts effectively, keeping their teams motivated during challenging times.

Online retailers have a critical role to play in the coming months. With all the logistical, financial, and wellness challenges these companies face, they should not cut corners on properly training their staff to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

To find out more about rapid development of training solutions and how KnowledgeWorks Global Ltd. can help you maintain your business continuity and productivity, please contact: