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Learn how in franchising, HR goes beyond training, retention


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The crew at one of TEAM Schostak’s restaurants, which participates in the Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces program and hangs banners in the restaurants touting its wins in 2018 and 2019. “I have a truism, that we will not be best on the block until we’re best in the workplace,” said Executive Chairman Mark Schostak.

The titles range from pretentious to cheeky, for people formerly known by the generic “HR” label. The former: Executive Director, Global Talent Acquisition and Employment. The latter: “I call myself the VP of Peeps!” as one dynamic vice president of people said.

But one label—talent development—has edged out many of the rest in the last half-dozen years. Consider the Association for Talent Development, which changed its name in 2014 from American Society for Training & Development.

“Your work is so much broader than training alone,” ATD’s president said at the time. “You take the talents and capabilities of others and develop them to their full potential. As a result, organizations can prosper, and the world does indeed work better.”

At franchise organizations large and small, we found approaches to talent development as varied as the titles themselves.

Step by step

At The Krystal Company, the square-burger chain founded in 1932, Catherine Jefferson led a multi-faceted effort that landed an ATD BEST Award in 2019. As a result of its talent strategy, Krystal improved employee retention, bucking an industry turnover trend.

But the strategy went beyond the basics of retention, the judges said, also driving third-party delivery transactions through targeted training. Through Krystal’s “Care for the Square” program, too, it implemented new processes that improved the taste of Krystal burgers and fries.

Jefferson, Krystal’s people and culture leader, declined to comment on the award, citing changes in top leadership. Paul Macaluso, chief executive there until November, said Krystal focuses on two groups.

“Talent development at the company restaurant level, and that’s everything from how do you grow an hourly employee to all the way up. We called it the future leaders program,” he said. On the corporate side, “it’s the same type of program. If you’re a manager in the marketing department, what are the skills you need to be a director? How do you then develop to become CMO one day? It’s a defined curriculum, it’s a defined plan.”

Boot camps to outside-the-box

Charlye Batten is VP of HR for Jackmont Hospitality, the TGI Fridays franchisee based in Atlanta. She says 90 percent of management teams in the stores are built from internal promotions. “We promote a lot from within,” she said. “And also our current managers refer people.”

A training director manages the entire process with employees. Boot camps are one tactic, where bar managers, for example, learn from experienced GMs every aspect of the job. A contest often follows, such as the one last spring to increase alcohol sales during a certain period. People can show off those new skills learned in boot camp and earn prizes if they win.

For managers, there are specific courses with development coaches inside the company and opportunities outside of it. ”We took a group of ladies from our company to the Women’s Foodservice Forum, a developmental workshop in Atlanta,” she said. “That was something that was great. It was really good to get that exposure, be around other women.”


Krystal's People Experience Team

Krystal’s People Experience Team is recognized at the 2019 Association for Talent Development BEST Awards.


Expanded horizons

Catherine Tan-Gillespie is global chief marketing officer for KFC, who commands a global marketing budget that equals 4 to 6 percent of total annual revenue at the fried chicken giant.

She believes in out-of-the-box places to take KFC’s marketing chiefs when they need to recharge their creative batteries. For three people on her staff, the annual Cannes Lions festival was the place to be last June.

“To a marketer it’s wonderful to get lost in that world for a week. It’s very inspiring. It tells me what’s possible,” said Tan-Gillespie, referring to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which draws attendees from advertising, marketing and branding.

“One of my key agendas in my role is to build marketing muscle,” she said, hence her giveaway of tickets to go to Cannes, making the journey “into a more formal inspiration session.”

One of her inspirations at the festival last year was Apple. “I was blown away by Apple, in terms of a brand that is all about simplicity and creativity,” she said, naming “simplicity” in particular as a quality she is trying to foster at KFC in 2020.

Outside recognition

Mark Schostak, executive chairman of TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants, participates in the Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces program.

“We were named Top Workplace for 2018 and we are now again in 2019. And I’ve got to tell you I am so proud of our organization,” he said. The honor is based on employee feedback gathered through a survey that measured several dynamics of workplace culture, via an independent third party.

“I have a truism, that we will not be best on the block until we’re best in the workplace, and being Top Workplace gets us closer to being best on the block.” The company made banners celebrating both wins and hangs them prominently in restaurants, which helps with retention and hiring.

The company operates 65 Applebee’s, 25 Olga’s Kitchen restaurants, one Olga’s Fresh Grille, 13 MOD Pizza units and eight Del Taco restaurants. In May 2019, TSFR added 56 Wendy’s locations across Michigan.

The family’s fourth generation is now beginning to run the restaurants, and Schostak says things are different today than when he started.

“We’re learning, young people today are more and more concerned about working in the right environment. It matters to them that a company has a good culture. It matters to them that there’s a family atmosphere.”

Passing it on

Macaluso, meanwhile, the former Krystal boss who is now CEO of Another Broken Egg Café, says the mission to develop talent for him is personal. ”I remember my first GM conference at Taco Bell and John Martin was president and CEO,” 25 years ago. “He was on stage, talking about the GM role and how important it was, and he said he had been a GM.

“I said, wait a second, this guy was a GM and he became president? How can I make that happen for myself? That was over 25 years ago. I have a passion for it. Through great programs and a belief in talent development and great mentors, I was able to realize my dream.”

He, like all the talent developers, culture officers and VP of peeps in the mix, wants to pass it on.

The Human Element covers HR management, recruitment and training topics in each issue with a focus on solutions. Send story ideas to Laura Michaels, lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.


Two more talent developers

Make it relevant. Tamra Kennedy, who owns nine Taco John’s restaurants in Minnesota and Iowa, views her role as an employer as a calling. “We teach young people how to enter the workforce,” Kennedy said, adding she believes she’s “in the development business. I turn out superstars in the community,” who know how to greet people properly and take care of their needs. “I want them to say, I learned this at this restaurant.” If they want to be a rapper when they grow up, for instance, she tells them they better learn how to handle money so they won’t get ripped off.

The wider world. The CEO of Wetzel’s Pretzels, Jennifer Schuler, likes to take her team on field trips, such as to a local food fair where they came up with a lemonade bubble tea that was a hit last summer. She’s also been known to scrap her weekly meeting agenda when so inspired, like last year when Megan Rapinoe led the American women’s World Cup soccer team to victory. Instead of the usual topics the team talked about the American team and drew parallels with their own work, which lent inspiration to the everyday.

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