Wellread Books was established as a single bookshop in Hyde Park, Gauteng, in 2005. It has since grown rapidly and has expanded to 46 bookshops which are located in malls across South Africa. Up until 2015, Wellread served only the book market, but following the appointment of a new chief executive, the company increasingly diversified into a number of ‘related’ areas such as gifts and stationery. These areas have grown to represent a substantial part of each store. Furthermore, larger Wellread stores now have cafés where customers are encouraged to browse books before they buy.

Up until 2020, Wellread experienced strong growth and increasing market share in the book retailing sector. Since then, however, growth has slowed considerably, even when accounting for a decrease in consumer spending during the recent economic downturn. More worryingly, its market share has begun to recede and Wellread is losing out to its competitors – larger retailers who sell bestsellers at marked-down prices and online book sellers. To understand the deeper reasons for this decline, Wellread commissioned market research to explore consumers’ perceptions of their stores and what shoppers wanted from a book retailer. The results were mixed. The research found that Wellread rated highly on the following criteria: friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. Moreover, the annual customer surveys show that customer service was rated highly among regular shoppers at Wellread, many reporting that they know staff by name and often drop by for coffee and to browse the books. The market research also found, however, that Wellread was rated worse than its competitors on staff knowledge (particularly in the areas of gifts and stationery) and speed of service. Of particular concern to the company is the fact that the high levels of ‘footfall’ at Wellread stores appear to translate into comparatively low sales volumes.

The company also recently conducted its first ever employee attitude survey which asked for employee opinion on a wide range of issues, including the company itself, their jobs, why they chose to work for Wellread and what they felt they brought to the company. The survey showed that a core of employees in each store had been with Wellread for a number of years, albeit alongside a quite substantial transient workforce. These long-term employees appeared to be knowledgeable and passionate about books, were committed and often highly qualified. Many were concerned, however, about developmental opportunities within the company. Morale among staff appeared to be high, although this was largely explained by an apparent loyalty to their colleagues and to their store manager. One respondent commented: “I don’t really see myself as a Wellread employee, just an employee of this particular store”.
In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere that the company seeks to develop within its stores, it advocates a paternalist approach to employee management. Commensurately, the company allows a fair degree of autonomy to store managers in how staff are managed at a local level, and whilst it promotes regular performance appraisals it is aware that some managers take this process less seriously than others. Where they are conducted, they are generally informal meetings used for employees to raise concerns or to make suggestions. Typically, no formal records are kept regarding appraisals.

Wellread has always recognised that business success relies on good customer service and the focus of employee induction has been to instil in employees the importance of creating an accessible shopping environment which runs counter to the popular perception of bookshops as ‘stuffy’ places and booksellers as ‘snobby and condescending’. New employee induction is, however, typically brief and conducted by the store manager, often involving little more than a chat as they ‘walk the shop’. The only demarcation of staff on the shopfloor is between café and store workers. Store workers typically work wherever needed in response to demand. Following induction, training activity for customer service advisors is limited. All shop staff are trained in the use of the point-of-sale technology and given a brief tutorial in the shelving system. Staff are trained as and when necessary if new technology is introduced into the store. Café staff are given training in using the coffee machine and in basic health and safety.

Drawing on all the information gathered in the review process, Wellread has devised a five-year growth strategy focused on increasing sales and efficiency, improving customer perception and awareness of the brand and differentiating itself in the marketplace.

QUESTION 1 (25 Marks)
“Needs assessment forms the foundation and starting point for any HRD effort in an organisation.” (Krishnaveni, 2008)
Critically discuss how Wellread Books should go about conducting a needs assessment within the organisation.

QUESTION 2 (25 Marks)
“Wellread has devised a five-year growth strategy focused on increasing sales and efficiency, improving customer perception and awareness of the brand and differentiating itself in the marketplace.”
You are a HRD Specialist who has been contacted by Wellread Books to assist them with the design and development of training interventions which will support the implementation of the five-year growth strategy.
As your first task in your role as HR Specialist, write an email to the Management Committee in which you identify and discuss the training delivery methods that would be most effective in developing the competencies that are necessary for the customer service advisors and store managers to support the implementation of the focus areas of the five-year growth strategy.

QUESTION 3 (25 Marks)
“The Lewin Change Model is probably the most widely applied changed model because of both its simplicity to understand as well as the fact that it provides a ready applicable model for managers to apply.” (Ellis, 2023).
Critically discuss the extent to which Lewin’s Change Model is evident in the case study.

QUESTION 4 (25 Marks)
Drawing on Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Framework, critically discuss the measures which you would recommend Wellread use to assess the impact of its training and development interventions. Provide examples relevant to the case study to illustrate your answer.

Answers to Above Questions on Wellread Books

Answer 1: Need assessment is highly essential in every type of organisation requiring strategic decisions. In the given scenario of Wellread Books, it is important to conduct a need assessment because it helps in identifying the gaps in knowledge skills and attitude within its employees. The ways in which the need analysis can be carried out includes identifying objectives and goals, engaging stakeholders, reviewing performance data, competency assessment, survey of employees and ….

Get completed answers on the questions above on Wellread Books from the experts of Student Life Saviour South Africa.

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