Information Systems and Technology in Workplace-based Education and Training for Salespersons Working With Point of Purchase at Checkout

Year: 2018

Author: Arkenback, Charlotte

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Vocational education is often criticised for not closely reflecting the requirements of industries and digitalisation, and intense development of technology intensifies the long-standing debate on how to bridge the gap between school and the labour market. The retail sector is one of the business sectors that both affects, and is deeply affected by, digitalisation. It not only alters how retailers do business and how customers shop, but it also transforms the work and organisation of physical stores. For some time, the work of salespersons has been regarded as work that does not require any specific educational qualifications or previous experience. The digital development in retail raises the question: How do the implementation and use of information technology in physical stores affect salespersons' work and education of salespersons? This study addresses workplace-based education and training of salespersons for work with point of purchase. It demonstrates how the development of information systems and technology over time has changed and continues to change checkout practices in physical stores, at the same time as the education of salespersons has not changed to match the digital and technological development.
The empirical material comes from two different studies. The first is a study of mathematics containing activities in adult retail apprenticeships within the Swedish adult education, conducted between 2014-2015. The data were produced through ethnographic methods that include observations, interviews, photos and field- and logbook notes from workplace-based learning at checkouts. The second is a study of educational videos for cashiers and salespersons involving activities with cash registers and point of sale (POS) systems. The videos were produced between 1925 – 2018 and were retrieved from the Internet. The study was supplemented with interviews with salespersons and observations of digitalised checkout practices (e.g. clothing, shoes, street market) during 2018. By applying the theory of practice architectures as an analytical lens, the paper provides an explanation for why the work of salespersons and cashiers is regarded as unqualified work. However, when workplaces introduce modern mobile POS systems, another picture emerges. Technology is no longer merely a tool; it requires interpretation, understanding and interaction along with the traditional tasks at checkouts.One of the findings is that the technology and POS systems, from as long ago as 1925, is presented as so easy to learn that it is not included in the education and training of salespersons. Education focuses on customer service, sales work, communication and working methods.