Tips on Improving Your Training Program

By Brian Murphy, Foodable Contributor

The methods of training new and existing employees vary as much as the vast types of establishments, from the pseudo-interview and immediate hire to the month-long, corporate-style onboarding program. There can be success in all of these styles, though some are a roll of the dice. Quality training is as important from the top to bottom of the org chart and is one part of the business that can’t be overlooked or taken for granted.

Is Training Really That Important?

Yes. Incredibly important. The risks that come along with handing a new hire a copy of an outdated handbook and setting them up to shadow a trusted employee (or one that happens to be scheduled that day in some instances) are too great to continue that practice.

What are the most important parts of the handbook? Are they being discussed with new hires? People need to know why they should follow the policies that were chosen to be put in place, and opportunities to discuss them, or at least assess, that they are understood at a deep level should happen early and often during the onboarding process.

Policies left to be read by new hires run the risk of being interpreted differently, and a unified vision and understanding of the brand will not be the eventual payoff. Explain what the collective mission is, even if an official mission statement has not been implemented.

Owners and managers have a unique opportunity to filter what is often perceived as “the same old training info” and lead new hires to see it through the brand’s lens. Done well, and consistently, this can be a powerful tool. This strategy requires time and cost upfront, and in an industry that is notorious for high turnover, those are two things that come at a premium.  

Developing the Training Program

Time needs to be spent developing a training program of some sort, and again, the size of the establishment or restaurant group will drive the level of development. The process can be standardized for different parts of the establishment, and a core group of trainers can be deputized to conduct all of the training.

This part of bringing a new hire into the workplace is all about consistency so each employee understands their work and eventual expectations. The process to develop a consistent program takes time, and owners and managers are stretched thin as it is. Making time to develop programs before opening takes a bit of the dire urgency out of the process, but time is money during an open just as much as it is when an establishment has been open for ten years.

Hire a Consultant

The range in getting help to assemble training programs is also vast. Hiring a consultant to focus only on the training program development is a viable option, and perhaps a cost-effective one. The work has likely been done before, and if they are experts in this area, why not leave it in their hands? Packages can be assembled and then handed off to the restaurant to implement or consultants can conduct training themselves.

This approach enlightens managers, staff, and owners alike, and can be just the right solution to correcting an establishment that may be slightly off the rails when it comes to consistency in the training department. Shopping around for the right consultant is key, and while experience is important, often the seasoned veterans come with a premium price tag. A greener consultant who is trying to build business could be a way to go, but interview consultants upfront in order to feel secure with your investment in their hands.

Get Bigger and More Comprehensive Help

There are more robust options for larger establishments that not only help to streamline and standardize the onboarding process, but can provide much needed ongoing quality training. Keeping staff engaged in the eventual goal and continually honing their skills to meet your demands are important to maximize success. The help of e-learning in the training process allows employees the ability to train on a portion of the material at their convenience, freeing up time for managers or trainers.

Programs like Waitrainer afford operators the luxury of improved content, compliance, comprehension, consistency, and communication when a manager can push differentiated content out to all employees at once. Learning Management Systems vary in price and features, of course, and programs like Wisetail LMS offer robust options for rebranding or building brand awareness and consistency with all staff. BJ’s Restaurants found a way to engage 20,000+ team members using the intuitive and customizable software. The change in LMS for BJ’s found rich visuals that kept employees engaged and eager to log back in, and after the change, they saw a 635 percent increase in logins!

Take Training Materials to Higher Levels

Understanding the demographic that is likely going to make up the staff is crucial, especially as the ways people learn evolve with the use of social media and technology. Visuals in the e-learning and training materials are more important than you think. Pick star employees to be in cameos of training videos, and acknowledge them by name in training materials. Creating a sense of trust and faith in the existing staff by asking for their input in the training process engages them and allows them to take ownership of their positions.

Reward those who are proud to represent the brand and showcase them to new hires. Offer visuals in videos and online training that rival imagery and videos that drive social media. Give employees a reason to WANT to log in or engage in training materials, or the opportunity to make information stick and become practice will be squandered.