BigHospitality puts one reader's question about staff training to Jane Sunley, chief executive of Learn Purple, in our new bi-monthly advice feature Ask the Experts.
Problem: I own a mid-market restaurant, which is popular for the simple but well prepared meals, the relaxed atmosphere and the low prices. We can’t afford to pay the higher salaries for well-trained front-of-house staff, so we train our employees – many of whom are foreigners – ourselves, and also send them on regular training courses. But all the courses we’ve tried have taught them nothing new – they simply hand out certificates for what our staff already know. How can I choose the best courses to know that my investment is worthwhile, and that the staff will learn things that will improve the service we offer and benefit our business?
Solution: There is evidence that today’s worker considers learning and development to be a key motivator so it’s important to make sure this is in place and working well for both the business and the individual. Progression through development is an important contributor to employee engagement and retention. It also goes a long way in ensuring that your customers receive consistently good service.
Here are my top 10 tips for engaging, developing and retaining talented people on a budget:
- Don’t automatically rely on training courses. You need a range of solutions to draw on such as: Work shadowing, job swaps and on-job training; Projects, reading and self study; Mentoring, buddying and coaching; E-learning (especially for statutory requirements such as food hygiene training) and supplier led sessions and experiences.
- Recruit for attitude and not necessarily for skill, identifying at interview stage where the skills gaps are and how you’ll be able to fill them
- Take the time to design a really comprehensive induction for new people to get them up to standard on ‘how things are done around here’. Involve the team; you’ll find team members will enjoy helping to develop their new colleagues and will develop themselves from being tasked to come up with up with creative and workable solutions. Ask new people to share their knowledge with others.
- People have different skill and experience levels so play to their strengths. Treat them as individuals when it comes to learning rather than ‘sheep dipping’ them onto standard courses. This way you will receive maximum benefit from your investment.
- Make sure you have regular reviews in place to manage performance, track progress, manage aspirations and consult with your people.
- There will be times when it’s necessary to supplement your in-house development culture with outside help. Look for short, sharp value-for- money sessions, rather than taking people out of the business for long periods.
- Make sure managers are properly trained. Leadership development is one area really worth investing in. Talk to a provider about the return on investment you’re likely to achieve. They the emphasis should be on practical solutions that will benefit your business immediately, backed up with appropriate amounts of theory.
- Make sure that the trainer is pre-briefed and agrees on what the desired outcomes are for individual and business. Then de-brief to make sure it happened and agree what happens next.
- Celebrate successes and achievements to encourage a culture of continuous improvement and learning.
- Overall, keep it simple and practical and plan and manage it well. All of the above takes time but you’ll find it is well worth the effort. Good luck!
Jane Sunley is chief executive of Learn Purple