The value of training
Know how to feed the pipeline
Gene Baldwin is a partner
It is a fact that cannot be denied—companies with formal and ongoing employee training programs perform better than those that do not. Let’s examine how these programs can be used for different types of store employees.
The simplest way to instill a culture of ongoing training with one of the lowest-paid jobs in the company—the waitress in a restaurant or the salesperson in a retail store—is with the pre-shift meeting. These meetings are critical to good customer service. Topics to cover include:
• Specials being promoted that day;
• How customer complaints were handled from the previous day and what can be learned from the response;
• How to up-sell more efficiently; and
• Any great behavior that can be applauded from the previous day.
I know it’s hard to insist on having these meetings every day, but they are essential and should take less than 15 minutes. Longer-term, hourly employees will find these sessions boring. So, let them run pre-shift meetings and help teach newer employees the way your company does business. If you can teach these front-line people to be friendly, helpful and courteous to customers, you will be far ahead of the competition. If they remember the names of frequent customers—you have won the battle.
These employees must begin to learn management skills to be promoted. Most employees in this category have had some success in their store and usually want to learn and grow with the company. They should be taught the standards for success in that job and be put on a path to be “certified” in that job function. The certification process is extremely important. It sets these employees apart. The award ceremony should be public and the employee should be given some tangible acknowledgement of their achievement (lapel pin, patch, etc.). Assistant managers must also start the process of understanding the basics of the business and the keys to managing to a successful store. They must become adept at skills such as labor scheduling, inventory management and ordering. Certainly these skills can be learned by OJT (on-the-job training), but they are better learned in a classroom-type setting where their full attention can be focused on learning.
One key reason that training is important for this group is that you are constantly searching for store manager candidates. Without a good pipeline of general manager candidates, operational issues will plague your company. Part of the education process for assistant managers should be rotation among several store locations. Subjecting assistant managers to a number of qualified and successful general managers accelerates the learning process.
The general manager is the backbone of the multi-unit organization and should also receive training time and dollars. Most of their training will center on the business aspects of their job and people-management skills. When training on business issues, review the monthly income statement on an area or regional basis, without fail, each month. By not reviewing financial results each month, executive management effectively teaches the general manager that operating results are not important to your company. These sessions educate the general manager on how key policies and procedures of the company affect the bottom line.
In people-management skills, start by encouraging the general manager to be personally more efficient and effective. Next, center training on managing their crew. Hiring, firing and retaining employees are critical skills from both operating and legal perspectives.
Excellent companies make training a priority, and have a pipeline of qualified candidates to move up the organization. And having that pipeline is beneficial when the inevitable turnover of key employees happens.