What separates good restaurants from the outstanding ones is the quality of their training. Do you have a training culture or a learning culture? Not sure what you have?
Answer this question: Do you train only when people join the team (the on-boarding phase) and maybe a few training "sessions" throughout the year or do you have training scheduled consistently all year long?
An outstanding restaurant understands that school is never out for the true professional. If you want your restaurant to stand out in your market, you need to become obsessed with training. Many people look at the word “obsession,” as a bad thing. But if you want to be at the top of your game, obsession over training is required.
The problem is most restaurant training systems are just generic “out of the box” manuals or templates that have been downloaded from some website. It’s the standard yada yada yada that gives most training systems the bad reputation of being boring.
Think about it this way, you spend a lot of money and time recruiting people to come work for your restaurant. During that process, you make it sound like you have an incredible place to work at. The new team member is excited and cannot wait to start. But on their first day, they are handed a training manual that looks like every other training manual they have seen. If you take a look in their eyes, you will see that excitement start to fade away.
How do you fix that?
By taking three easy steps to ensure your training system stands out to match the energy of your brand. You want your training system to be like the Fourth of July in a big city, not just a package of sparklers that you light up in your driveway.
1. Make it Integrated
The common mistake most training systems make is that they focus purely on hard skills. While technical training for a job position is an integral part of any training program, it cannot be the primary focus.
Although the standards, policies, procedures, and expectations need to be conveyed in your training materials, don’t miss out on those soft skills which are often overlooked.
Things like– communication, time management, conflict resolution, influence skills, how to set goals, how to break habits, personal accountability, and state/energy management. These people skills are needed to elevate the team past the point where only hard skills alone will take them. Hard skills are important. But when combined in synergy with the soft skills, they do allow people to maximize their potential.
The biggest thing to remember is that as the leader, you need to set the example for the soft skills. Leadership only works when the leader actually follows their own standards and expectations. The old cliché of “do as I say, not as I do” is a surefire recipe for failure in any training system. Human beings have something called mirror neurons in their brains. Their primary function is to help us learn faster and create social connections. If you are walking down the street and smiled at someone who makes eye contact with you, chances are they would smile back. That’s your mirror neurons firing off.
When you’re sending out mixed messages (like saying one thing and doing another), your team has a hard time getting those mirror neurons to fire. Having an integrated training system is not about training people to do their job. It’s about developing people to be better human beings.
2. Use different learning styles
Most restaurants still handout a manual and instruct a new employee to follow someone on the team for a few days to learn the position. Although it is effective on some level, it still misses the boat for many people. This does not take into consideration different learning styles.
There are basically four primary learning styles: visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic. People learn using a variety of all four. However, everyone has one that is their primary.
Visual learners: they tend to be fast talkers, exhibit impatience, use words that build visual images, and learned by seeing. For these people a picture truly is worth 1000 words.
Auditory learners: they tend to speak slowly, are great listeners, process in a linear manner, prefer to have things explained verbally over written down, and learn by listening and verbalizing. For these people you want to incorporate lots of conversation and feedback.
Read-write learners: they tend to prefer information in a written format and like taking notes. These people want to make sure you have detailed lists and a notebook available. They like to write out their own interpretations of what is being taught.
Kinesthetic learners: these people tend to be the slowest talkers, take longer to process decisions, learned and approach things with a hands-on mindset. They like to roll their sleeves up and participate in training activities.
As you can see, if you’re training system does not incorporate each learning style you will quickly lose people’s interest and attention. Having a variety of different training activities, is the best way to keep them engaged. Use traditional printed materials, training videos, hands-on sessions, and demonstrations by people on your team who have honed their skills to high levels. The last thing you want to do is have someone who has only been working for you for a week, training the new staff.
3. Make it easy to access
If you are still relying on Xerox copies of your training materials, maybe it’s time to up your game to the next level. Granted, printed materials are usually needed for training systems, just make them to be the only vehicle for learning. Training videos can be easily created with your smartphone or tablet. Interactive quizzes and tests can be created using online resources like Survey Monkey.
As restaurants embrace more Millennials coming into the workplace and even Gen Z, they will have to do a better job of delivering training content in multiple formats that are mobile compatible.
As discussed earlier, people have different learning styles. They also have different rates for how they process information. Some people need more time and if you only have your training materials available during a limited window– you are missing out on the big picture. Make it easy for your team to learn. Stimulate their different learning styles by providing multiple formats.
If you truly want to develop a learning culture, then you need to make learning a priority. Give your team access to e-books, reports, and links to blog posts. Share videos from YouTube.
Restaurants truly get better when the people in them become better people. That starts with you wanting to become your best. That starts with you, setting the example.