Tech-forward training techniques

Catering to staffers with modern, tech-forward practices.
vhs tape

Not long ago, restaurants onboarded staffers with VHS tapes and heavy tomes. But to stay relevant and help ensure information resonates, operators are modernizing training with new technology.

“It’s important that we’re providing content in the same ways that our restaurant employees are consuming all other content,” says Tami Skillingstad, VP of training and leadership development for Arby’s. To keep its 70,000 team members up to date, it uses multiple methods, including online training modules, e-newsletters targeting specific groups such as franchisees, “RBTube” instructional videos and more. Here, Arby’s and other operators tell what works now.

Make content snackable. “We’re in an era of information overload for everyone, so workers of all generations will appreciate more streamlined materials,” says Michele Lange, director of training and development for The Habit Burger Grill. The fast-casual chain is working to film all relevant operational processes. “You want them to be short and to the point, without filler,” she says. “If a video about a function on the POS can be seven seconds, make it seven seconds.”

Still, some training modules need more time, she says. Longer videos need to be lively, using language that reflects how people speak today, Lange says.

Modernize in-store devices. All Habit Burger locations have at least two tablets in-house that are shared for viewing videos and documenting training. Arby’s is testing adding monitors back-of-house that “will serve as a rally point for team huddles,” Skillingstad says.

Incorporate fun. Arby’s has built  entertainment into its training platform, using gamification to boost engagement. It includes, for example, a “Sandwich Build” meal-making game and a “Management Path” module that lets a participant virtually walk around a store.
Habit Burger uses a decidedly lighter tone to make information more digestible. And beyond strictly business, its “What’s Grillin’” e-newsletter also highlights store anecdotes, such as a customer in Utah who baked cookies for her local store’s employees.

Monitor trackable results. Lange used to perform training audits in each store by reviewing certification documents, but she often felt people were signing documents the day before, saying employees were trained in one day. Now, Habit’s online system can bar managers from signing off on a staffer’s test for 72 hours after they have been marked as trained.

For Habit, whose managers are paid a quarterly training bonus based on scores, moving training online has made the score-auditing process much more accurate. Habit performs automated virtual audits based on stores’ training reports and chooses one store in each district to spot-
audit in person. In the last quarter of 2014, before implementing its online training system, the gap between the automated score and the spot-audit score was an average of 22%. That figure narrowed to just 4% in the first quarter of 2016. 

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