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The Intersection of Employee Training and Operations Execution: 4 Insights for Operators

As critical functions in multi-unit restaurants, training and operations are inherently intertwined. Because operations leaders are focused on creating scalable processes, and helping teams better execute the work they do every day, training is a critical factor for success. With unprecedented turnover, supply-chain disruptions, and bare-bones staffing, leaders are focused on something they can still control: training. 

Another important factor is the younger demographic of employees. The pandemic had a significant impact on team member demographics in the restaurant industry, with a dramatic shift to younger, less experienced employees. With a new employee profile comes with different priorities, and a younger workforce is prompting established brands to reevaluate their approach to training.

“We're utilizing this year as the back to basics year and really, focusing in on training the fundamentals of our brand.”

-Julie Castro, Director of Culinary Operations and Operations Services, California Pizza Kitchen

4 Training-Related Insights for Operations Leaders Going into 2023

  1. With the younger generations now making up more of the workforce, operators need to re-envision the methods and materials they use for training
  2. Historically, operators have relied on seasoned/trained employees to pass down their knowledge – beyond addressing retention, operators need to reduce reliance on those seasoned employees
  3. Training technology, gamification, and other more modern approaches to training need to be utilized to make training more effective
  4. Training is not a once-and-done function – operators should also look for opportunities to provide on-the-spot training to help associates improve their work

“40% of our workforce is now under 21 years old, which is fundamentally different from what it was pre-covid and pre-Brexit. So we have to completely adjust all of our training collateral, all of our tone of voice. Our employee brand proposition has to be completely revamped to attract that market and bring this new generation of people who want to work in hospitality through the doors.”

- Graham Fenwick, Productivity and Change Director, Pizza Express

Stores have found that through the exodus of experienced workers that the pandemic brought, there are less seasoned employees who can provide training and support to new hires. Struggling to offer side-by-side training, brands are instead thinking of creative ways that technology can be used to enhance the training experience.

“So the training environment hasn't been conducive to great training because of those vacancies they're trying to fill. So it is a lot harder to bring those people up to competency in the classic way quicker. We are looking to fully digitalize our journey now, to gamify it, make it more relevant, a more modern approach rather than the old school hands-on needing a super experienced person to do that because they are less and less present in our business.” 

-Graham Fenwick, Productivity and Change Director, Pizza Express

For young employees, traditional training tactics may not be as effective. Now, companies are using technology and gamification to train young employees in a way that is conducive to their interests. When it comes to training “digital natives,” those raised surrounded by technology, will most likely thrive using technology-based training programs. Many companies are embracing the idea of gamifying their training programs, usually turning training materials into game-like tasks, where users are rewarded for reaching specific goals. Brands are using technology in various ways, like photo submissions after completing a task or scannable QR codes that allow employees to have up-to-date information about the station they are working.

“We have positional training, but we also deploy really cool features such as QR codes that we use in each station. So team members can use their restaurant tablet to scan that QR code and find out what station-critical things they need to execute on daily”.

- Karol Monge, Senior Manager of Brand Standards, Wingstop

Brands are also recognizing the importance of training on skills apart from the specific components of the role, such as helping employees develop soft skills like empathy and communication, which can help improve interpersonal relationships and elevate company culture.

“We've pivoted and added in soft skill development classes as well to ensure we're providing the tools and the resources to help our folks be better leaders, motivators, teachers, and inspirers.”

- Mike Saigh, President of Team Murph, Domino’s Pizza

With the additional focus on soft skills, companies also recognize the importance of motivating team members during the training process. By acknowledging small wins throughout the training, employees feel more supported and secure in their ability to succeed in their roles. Finding ways to show team members that they are doing well even before they are fully trained means they may be more confident when it is time for them to work independently.

“We also reinvest in training appreciation programs and celebrating literally every win that was out there.”

- Mike Saigh, President of Team Murph, Domino’s Pizza

The importance of training cannot be overstated, especially during times of staffing shortages. By shifting training practices away from the traditional side-by-side process, businesses will find that they can provide more consistent training without having to rely on experienced team members (if there even are any that shift to rely on). Using technology to gamify training will also prove beneficial, keeping new employees interested and invested in the training process. By including soft skills training, stores can hone better leadership skills in their managers, helping foster a better work environment and better morale, something that can reduce turnover over time.

“When we're in the restaurants, we're present. We are there, shoulder to shoulder with our teams. We're not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get in to be able to teach or learn.”

- Harris Khan, Vice President of Operations Services, Chipotle

The most successful operations will understand that training is an ongoing process, and each day everyone, at every level, will have the opportunity to learn something new that can help them or the business improve. No matter how long someone has been with the company, or how far up in the hierarchy they have progressed, there will always be things to learn from those around them, especially when new ideas and perspectives are brought in.

“Training is key because we need every single team member at every restaurant, in the US and globally, to be executing on those same brand standards, and training is really setting up our team members for success.”

- Karol Monge, Senior Manager of Brand Standards, Wingstop

Training employees is an unending process, but utilizing technology and shifting focuses to match younger employees' interests and expectations can enormously impact an organization's success. Learn more about CrunchTime’s talent development solutions.