No doubt the past 12 months have been full of lessons learned, challenges, speed bumps, and straight-up dead ends. So here we are at the start of a new beginning, there is light at the end of the tunnel but many of us still have miles to go before we feel the sun. The question now is what to do with the time we have. Many organizations are still at some level of the shutdown and/or fluctuating restrictions. It’s taking every resource you’ve got just to manage the day-to-day. So how could this possibly be the right time to take on the challenge of a project like a system-wide training overhaul?
Well, there are a few prevailing reasons out there right now and that is likely why so many companies in the industry have used the pandemic as a time to make some improvements.
Adoption and engagement are high. There is nothing worse than a failed implementation due to low adoption. Many of you have been through this. Months of work and thousands of dollars spent on the next “big thing” only to find your intended audience has little or no interest in what you’ve built. Why does this happen to so many? Well, there are a number of reasons but one of the most common is the old “this is the way we’ve always done it,” put another way “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” We’ve all heard these before and we know that if that philosophy becomes the prevailing way of looking at a new system roll out it can quickly become the kiss of death for said implementation. There is a psychology at play here that we do not have time to dive into, but it is safe to say that 2020 has interrupted that pattern of thinking. It won’t be that way forever but for right now there is a window of opportunity. People are more open to new ideas right now than ever before. This is a time where your team is craving direction, communication, and proof that your organization is taking steps to overcome the challenges we are all facing. The psychological barrier to entry has likely never been lower to implement a solution that helps your team. This includes those veteran managers, owners, and shift leaders who would typically scoff at anything new just because it’s not the way we do it here.
The need is more real than ever. From VHS tapes and DVDs to the advent of the, created in 1999, the idea of providing a consistent and engaging training program is nothing new. For decades trainers have tried to find a way to bypass the game of telephone that has been the go-to model for generations. You know what I mean; an initiative is launched, and Area Managers are trained, Area Manager train General Managers, General Managers train supervisors, and so on. While it is possible for this model to work, we all learned in elementary school that the human variable can create chaos by the time a message is delivered to the final link in the chain. In most cases that final link in your front line. You know, the ones that greet the guests, ensure high-quality service, ensure store cleanliness, make the food, clean the rooms, and sell the product. That is a compelling enough reason to consider moving your training program into some online form. However, there are two new variables that have come out of the last 12 months. The first, the very real reality that a link in your chain of communication could be sequestered for 14 days or more. What happens when your rock star trainer isn’t allowed to train or observe for two weeks? This becomes even more of a challenge if you utilize a team of traveling trainers. The reality is that traveling to new store openings or new hire classes is simply not possible for many organizations. The second new variable is the speed with which our standards and best practices are changing. For most of us, we have never experienced this level of fluctuations in standards that directly impact our team’s day-to-day. This means it is more crucial than ever to be able to quickly communicate and educate our teams on how to comply with ever-changing standards. How many of you had “Mask Training” as part of your standard onboarding package prior to 2020? It’s not just the new limited-time offer or black Friday sale we need to focus on. Now we have to focus on new levels of sanitation, how to do curbside, meeting occupancy standards, are dining rooms opened or closed and the list goes on. So, the businesses that have performed the best in these cases are those that have a well-adopted and nimble system to train and communicate with their entire organization. In some cases, these are literally matters of life or death for the survival of that business. So why leave these crucial elements in the hands of the “telephone game.”
This is your chance to gain an edge. While many organizations are using this time to invest in online training and communications systems (Google Analytics shows searches for LMS nearly doubled in 2020) there are many others that are still doing damage control. They are still reacting and sadly for many of those they don’t have much of a choice. However, if you can find a way to dedicate some resources to a project like this it could be your greatest advantage coming out of a pandemic. There are countless statistics on the impact high quality and consistent training can have on a business. Add in clear and consistent communication from the top of an organization and the impact becomes even greater. It is no doubt that consistency truly separates the winners from the “wanna-be’s” in this world. For most of you reading this you are in the consistency business. We need our customers to get that same feeling each time they visit one of our stores. It shouldn’t matter which employee answered the phone, opened the door, or took the order. So, the brands that create that experience win the long game and the brands that win have almost always made a conscious investment in training all levels of their business. This is especially important in a new employee’s first 3 months on the job. This is the time when they learn “how we do things around here.” Remember that game of telephone? It’s important we make sure these new employees know how we really do things around here, not the way their jaded coworker on his way out the door thinks we do things.
Tell Your Story
Your story makes all the difference in the world. Have you heard the story of the 2 pan Thanksgiving Turkey? The shortened story goes like this; A son notices mom splitting the thanksgiving turkey in two and placing each half in its own pan and then each pan into the oven. The son asks why she’s doing that. The mom replies, “that’s the way my mom always did it.” This goes on year after year until their out-of-town aunt joined them for Thanksgiving one year. She sees this preparation takes place and asks, “why in the world are you doing that?” The reply again, “that’s the way mom always did it.” The aunt laughs and explains, “when we were growing up, we had a tiny oven that wouldn’t hold an entire turkey. That is the only reason she was doing that.” The story here makes all the difference in the world. Context is important, why we do what we do the way we do it matters. More than ever your teams don’t just want to know what to do, they want to know why. Without direct communication with your organization, you lose control of your story. There is tremendous power in a message coming from the CEO directly to the hourly team members that are tasked with executing his/her vision. The ability to blend your story into your training is crucial. Then, after that, your ability to regularly communicate with those team members as that story evolves. Let them be part of the story, give them a peek behind the curtain. Ask any service brand with uncharacteristically low turnover and you will find clear, consistent communication and an authentic story.
At the end of the day, an investment in this type of system should impact your consistency across the board and improve employee morale, engagement, and turnover. On top of that, you will be prepared to re-open faster and with a greater degree of success than your competitors that are still playing the telephone game and handing out printed handbooks.
For those of you that don’t know, World Manager is an online Training and Communications system designed for multi-unit, deskless employees. We work with hundreds of great organizations around the world to solve many of the challenges we have all experienced over the last year. World Manager currently has programs to help brands interested in making an investment in this type of platform while many of their stores are shut down. If you are interested in learning more about our platform or the thoughts and ideas discussed in this article, book a quick call with us. We would love to talk to you!