The little I know, I owe to my ignorance, but this much is certain: the fundamental skills of training aren’t hard to understand, they’re just hard to do.
I will presume that you’re hoping to improve your people, performance and profits over the next 12 months. And since “hope” is not a strategy, I will further presume that crew member and manager education plays a critical role in how you plan to achieve that measurable performance growth in your team this year. So let’s discuss some basic training techniques that can help you get there.
The “Excellence Reflex” is a Learned Behavior
Applebee’s President and COO Dave Goebel speaks energetically about an athlete’s Muscle Memory as a metaphor for foodservice training excellence. “Think of how a professional baseball player takes dozens or hundreds of perfect practice swings before every game, repeating key behaviors like hips open, shoulders square, eyes on the ball,” Goelbels says. “Their muscles eventually memorize the necessary movement, and the response becomes automatic during the game. The same is true for managers who train their crew how to be brilliant at the basics every day, via the pre-shift meeting and shift coaching.” Eventually the crew’s “muscle memory” is trained to respond with excellence, executing the ‘little’ things correctly over and over again. This notion of habitual consistency is the cornerstone of any effective training regime and curriculum. After all, it’s not what you know, but what you do with what you know, which leads us to the next point.
Execution is Everything
It’s been said that we don’t think our way into a new way of acting, but rather act our way into a new way of thinking. Sometimes training sessions are either too brief or one-dimensional to leave much chance of recall and execution in the real world. So when you’re planning a training session, be sure to factor in a three-to-one learning ratio. This means that for every specific objective you want to accomplish training-wise, attach three different activities that can help the learner execute on and accomplish that objective. For example, if you want trainees to learn an appetizer or dessert menu, choose three different ways to educate them, perhaps by studying photos and ingredients, taste-testing, plus a written quiz. If you want managers to get better at conflict resolution, training options could include case studies, group discussion, and role-playing. Adding multi-sensory and groupthink opportunities go much further to educate than relying solely on a manual, or a quiz, or a shadow shift”. And your mother was right: actions do speak louder than words. Remember: one training objective, three learning activities to support it.
One More “Rule of Three”
Advertising people, film directors, coaches and even marksmen have long known the power of stringing together a trio of phrases or words to encourage recall and retention. Consider these classics: “reduce, re-use, recycle”, “the few, the proud, the Marines,” “Lights! Camera! Action!”, “Ready!, Aim! Fire!”, or “On your Mark! Get Set! Go!” So when you’re looking for a memorable catch phrase or memory peg for your culture or concept, think three.
Spaced Repetition is the Mother of All Learning
Have you ever watched a stonecutter at work? They will hammer away methodically at a rock as many as a hundred times without a crack showing in it. Then, at the 101st blow, it will split in two. It is not the final blow alone that accomplished the result, but the100 others that preceded it as well. So it is with learning and retention as well. Teach key concepts repeatedly, but with enough space in between to allow for reflection, discussion, trial, error, understanding, and eventually, comfort and assimilation. What would make you a better tennis player if you’d never played before? One five hour lesson, or five one hour lessons spread over five weeks?
After reading all this you may come to the conclusion that training is just too difficult. So if you want to reduce a significant amount of training responsibility, concentrate instead on just hiring nice people. “
Because training people to be nice,” Grandpa Sullivan used to say, “
is tougher than a woodpecker’s lips.”