If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. So here are six strategies to consider relative to achieving your year’s numbers, and how your training program will be the key tactic to get—or fail to get—you there.
Bait the hook well. The fish will bite”
This quote from Christopher Marlowe offers the perfect antidote to Teflon Training. Like a computer, your training program gets stale, outdated, and over-performed. It should be revised annually and completely replaced every three years. Your training team and a small group of new and veteran employees should question the relevancy of all of your current training materials. Do your videos, print and electronic materials result in the new employee leaving orientation with an incentive to learn, or a feeling of “having had to train”? Which perspective favors employee retention? Which one contributes to more self-motivated learning? What are you waiting for? Create rewards/incentives for crew members to achieve new levels of learning. Fun and energy help to draw people to learning, too. See the next point.
Stop “training” and focus instead on making it fun to learn
Make your learning moments energetic, random and inspired. The key is not so much that every employee should be taught, but that every one should be given the desire to learn. What we learn with pleasure we rarely forget. The Enlightened Manager is always training before and during the shift. She is learning every day. School is never out for the pro. Recognize that every thing from a small conversation, an e-mail, or a “formal” staff meeting that you have with associates is full of potential learning opportunities.
“When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son”
If you’re a restaurant GM and your store is open 7 days a week, you’re personally supervising about six shifts each week, tops. That means your less-experienced managers are running the other 8 to 15 shifts, depending on the number of day parts you serve. That’s 8 to 15 shifts when you’re not there that directly affect both your short-term and long-term future. Hopefully, you’ve figured out that the Enlightened GM puts a premium on developing and growing the skill sets of their assistant managers every shift. They know how to use the precious minutes of the weekly GM meeting to lead, coach, motivate, inspire and develop bench strength of their management team. They ask their assistants: “What are you working on?” “What’s coming up that we need to be focusing on?” “What do our customers need that we’re not giving them?” It’s been said that you’re hired by the people you report to, but fired by the people who report to you. Owners and franchisees should invest in training their GMs to learn how to teach as well as manage a budget. We owe it to ourselves and our businesses to teach our junior managers to become standard-bearers for the next generation. The test of a true leader is succession, and having a GM who’s a better communicator is reflected in your retention numbers, guest counts and P&L.
Team members are always ready to learn, but they don’t always like being taught
This is as true of our children in school as it is our associates in our restaurants. Pick your opportunities, but make learning a part of every shift. Training should be carefully doled out in chunks, not fire-hosed on the overwhelmed trainee at a marathon orientation or semi-annual training session. In other words, think I-V Drip Learning, not fire-hose training. Phase it in in chunks and make sure that you build upon what they’ve learned before. Training is like a line on a paper (a linear process that goes from point A to point B). Learning is more like the blooming of a rose. Learning takes more time than training, but it generates better results. What would make you a better tennis player: one 5-hour session or ten 30-minute lessons spread over a month? Design and deliver knowledge slowly, chunked, pegged for memory and designed for the needs of the cultural gumbo of a staff that we supervise. Don’t over-train; aim for “just-in-time” not just-in-case. The best knowledge managers design their training programs to aim first for timeliness, then content and finally, execution. And by the way: actions speak louder than rules.
At the end of the day, it’s still about the anthropology, not the technology
High Touch beats High Tech every time, but we’re foolish if we don’t realize that we need both. The difference is that the high tech stuff in a restaurant is practically invisible, and, like Batman; always hidden in the background and vaguely threatening. The high touch stuff is usually highly visible, since its how we acquire and maintain both internal and external customers. If you’re ever trying to determine the priority, it’s wise to remember that it’s the high-touch stuff that pays for the high-tech stuff. Continuous improvement of people is as important as continuous improvement of systems.
In summary, a foodservice company steeped in the culture of learning has one other key advantage over its competitors: a dogged determination to enrich the lives of both its employees and customers through values, self-esteem and a keen sense of what matters most. I’ll always remember the cross-stitch tapestry in Pappy Sullivan’s living room said: “
Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.”