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How to Create an Effective Online Training Program In Your Restaurant

Moving all your training from in-person to a combination of in-person and online might seem like a pretty demanding job. And in the beginning, it might be. But with the right plan in place, the time and energy you spend developing and implementing your restaurant training program will almost certainly save you even more time, […]

Moving all your training from in-person to a combination of in-person and online might seem like a pretty demanding job. And in the beginning, it might be. But with the right plan in place, the time and energy you spend developing and implementing your restaurant training program will almost certainly save you even more time, energy and money over the long-term.

Design Training for the Long-Term

Restaurants put a lot of emphasis on their hiring and on-boarding training. But after the first 90 days, regular training (outside of regular certifications) usually gets put on the backburner. If training in the first few months helps employees perform their duties and deliver great customer service, why stop?

An effective online training program keeps everyone in the organization – from brand new hires, to your most tenured employees – engaged in continuous learning. We find that successful restaurants tend to put their training eggs into a five main buckets:

    1. On-boarding
    2. Ongoing Training
    3. Certifications
    4. Career Development
    5. Succession Planning

 

Take an Audit of Your Training Content

Most restaurants already have company-wide hiring, on-boarding and training handbooks. You might already have video too. As you start to build out your training program, take an inventory of everything you have – even if you aren’t actively using it.

The easiest way to do this is with a Training Content Audit Template, which you can download below.

Download the HotSchedules Training Content Audit Template

Once you get your training pieces tallied up, assign it to one of the buckets we listed earlier. As you go through this exercise, you might notice that some pieces fall into multiple buckets. That’s awesome! Reusing and repurposing content is a wonderful, time-saving thing.

There are a couple of other things you should do while you’re auditing

    1. Make a note on content that needs to be updated
    2. Make a note where you think you have content training gaps
    3. Make a note of important annual dates for things like re-certifications
    4. Leverage other people’s content! Most e-learning systems partner with content creators to create video that restaurants can purchase. HotSchedules Train, for instance, provides 20 free restaurant training courses for customers from day one.

Identify the Skills You Want to Manage

From your servers to your sous chef – everyone in the restaurant has to obtain and master a basic set of skills to be successful at their job. These basic skills, like how to greet a table or taking regular inventory, are pretty static over time.

What restaurants are missing is the ability to measure performance on these skill sets. Online learning management systems know this and include pre-determined skill sets that help managers measure employee performance over the long-term. Clarifi Talent Development, for instance, comes with more than 300 job-based skill sets, with the ability to delete or add more at any time. Developing a system around succession planning gives owners and managers an objective means of measuring top performers.

Create Short, Engaging Content

Employees have short attention spans. Blame YouTube, blame Snapchat … blame Steve Jobs and his iPhones! The bottom line is, the days of traditional, sit-in-your seat for five hours going through a handbook are numbered. Today’s employees want to engage with your training, but they want it in short bursts, in video on their computer or mobile device.

When you go back to your content audit spreadsheet, think about how you can slice and dice the content into shorter bits of information. Here are some more timing tips:

Student engagement levels drop sharply after six minutes. Try breaking up your lectures into six minute or less segments to keep engagement high. For tutorial videos, the Khan-style video format , where the instructor draws on the screen and narrates, was found to engage students more effectively than screencasts.

Test Skill Level Using Courses and Exams

Not all employees are created equal. While one employee might excel at Serving 101, another one might need extra studying. Traditional systems put everyone through the same training at the same time, which leaves the more skilled employees waiting around for the less-skilled employees to catch up.

With an online learning management system, however, you can create courses and exams that test your employees’ basic skill levels and only let’s them move through the training once they’ve passed.

As you look through your Training Content Audit, identify opportunities to test your team’s skills. There are the obvious ones, Server training, menu testing, regular certifications, etc … but here are some others we’ve seen:

    1. Safe Food Handling
    2. Cross Contamination
    3. Menu Abbreviation for Servers
    4. Internal Food Temperature Standard
    5. Scheduling Standards
    6. Regular Operational/Business Rules
    7. History of the Restaurant
    8. The list can go on and on depending on your restaurant!

Create Paths for Development and Promotion

Employees who are actively engaged tend to stay in their jobs longer. Those who aren’t engaged, typically leave. In fact, 25 percent of employees leave their jobs because there aren’t enough training opportunities.

If you’re a restaurant manager, you’ve already got a lot going on. One way to save yourself some time and keep your people engaged in their job is helping them develop their careers. When you have a development path already in place, you don’t have to recreate the training wheel every time.

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman in Hawaii used Clarifi Talent Development powered by Schoox to create a branded academy that houses all of their locations’ training and development materials. It keep employees “always perfecting their craft,” says Christie Snopko, director of human resources.

“We assign the appropriate Train courses and ask them to go study. It’s a systematic way for us to see if they’re up for the challenge and an opportunity for that employee to show us that they’re serious.”

– Christie Snopko, Director of HR, Monkeypod by Merriman

When there is a change to the menu, wine list or prep sheet, the edit only has to be made once. When it’s updated, Snopko can easily create a course to test specific team members, a process that is automated because Schoox and HotSchedules are integrated. “Schoox feeds off the job codes in HotSchedules so you don’t have to manually assign employees.”

If the single sign-on with HotSchedules wasn’t enough, Snopko says the focus on constant improvement is helping their retention goals. “Our turnover has decreased significantly. The first year it was 130 and in year two it was 77 at the Ko Olina location. We’re slashing these numbers as we get comfortable and hit our stride.”

Of course, there are always people in transition. If an employee is a little rusty, they’ll ask them to go and take some refresher courses in Clarifi Talent Development. The same goes for employees who want to move into a different department or into a position with more responsibility.

“We assign the appropriate Train courses and ask them to go study. It’s a systematic way for us to see if they’re up for the challenge and an opportunity for that employee to show us that they’re serious.”

Austin’s ELM Group uses a similar approach. Lindsey McCalmont, director of operations set up a program to help develop their talent from inside the organization. “We are really committed to helping each individual grow and create an environment that fosters them. There are well-defined roles and ranking within the restaurant and then really clear paths to get there. All of our GMs have been promoted up. In fact, our GM at Easy Tiger started at 24 Diner when I did. I’m really proud to say that our retention rate is very high.”

Motivate and Encourage – Offline and On

Communication is a two-way street. Your employees want to be engaged with your brand and they want you to be engaged in their success.

While a lot of it this encouragement can take place during pre-shift meetings, on the line or after all the guests have gone home, it doesn’t have to stop there. The cool thing about an online learning management system is that you can take those in-person training activities back online:

    1. Use badges to reward employees as they complete on-the-floor training.
    2. Keep your training certificates in the system and updated to the latest version.
    3. Encourage sharing of ideas, tips and tricks through the portal.
    4. Create regular contests and encourage people to get back in the system to record their progress or congratulate other employees.

At the end of the day, implementing an online employee training program can either be a worthwhile investment or a total waste of money. It’s all in your approach.

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