In Part 1 of this three-part blog, I talked about where to start with your training plan, and the oft-overlooked step of setting simple goals. Here, I’ll discuss scheduling, common training methods, and documentation.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
If you are in the restaurant business, you already know how important it is to track inventory and cost, and promote good usage to get the most out of your ingredients— you wouldn’t rely on guesswork to figure how much you’re spending on Chanterelles each week— why should you be any less efficient with your time than your money? Since employee overhead is one of the largest costs in the service industry, you should be managing it as efficiently as possible. This means setting time aside for training and ensuring the schedule is adhered to.
This is an extension of setting clear goals— it’s also much easier said than done. Many restaurateurs rely solely on a “learn-as-you-go” sink-or-swim style strategy— this approach often results in high turnover and makes it difficult to determine employee progress or pain points, wasting both time and money if an employee doesn’t make it on their own. With clear goals and a solid schedule, you can track progress much more effectively and determine where to focus the training or tell if an employee isn’t going to make it much sooner.
For each job position goal, set a training time. Build this time into the employee’s schedule. You might devote an entire day to group training, or devote a set amount of time each shift to training tasks. No matter how you break it up, make sure you are consistent and realistic. After some time, you should be familiar with how long it takes on average for a new employee to absorb a given task. Get suggestions from the employees who will provide the actual training.
Since the needs of every restaurant and its staff are unique, it is impossible to recommend a specific mix of training methods that will work best, though the most successful training programs usually rely on a variety of techniques to ensure interest and retention. It can be particularly useful to repeat the same information in a different way, for instance having the employee first receive either verbal or written instruction, then a demonstration, followed by the employee performing the task themselves. This is commonly referred to as the “Tell-Show-Do” method of learning and has proven to be highly effective in training.
Here are listed a number of training methods used in the restaurant industry— you may already use most or all of these, or have adapted your own.
Instruction & Demonstration
Instruction can be verbal, written, or in video or audio format. With the advent of cheap hand-held video cameras and free online hosting services such as YouTube and Vimeo, video training is gaining a lot of traction in restaurant training, but written material is still essential. Instruction is often the first step in making employees prepared learners, as it gives them information to access while they are receiving hands-on training later.
This method involves the trainee accompanying a more experienced employee and observing them as they perform their duties. This method has the advantage of exposing the trainee to real-world scenarios on the job, but can be a hassle for the person assigned to mentor, particularly if the mentor is overwhelmed with other responsibilities. Many restaurants use slow nights for this type of training.
Hands-on with Supervision
The reverse of the job shadow, this method has the trainee performing the work under supervision, allowing the mentor to instruct and correct on the fly. This is usually the final training method employed before the trainee is deemed competent enough to handle tasks on their own.
You will need some way to document the training process as you go. Traditionally you would do this with paper records, but many restaurants often find these difficult and expensive to maintain. Thankfully there now exist a number web-based resources that are easy to edit and distribute. These solutions can be as simple as a shared online document, or as complex as an entire online training system. There are numerous generic training materials online that can be easily adapted to your particular business. And Waitrainer online restaurant training provides a web-based system for your training that tracks employee progress and eases dissemination of information.
That said, record everything. Not only will this help with setting clear expectations, but it gives you a record for each employee so you can monitor progress, refer back as you evaluate and revise your plan, and protect yourself from lawsuits.
Again, document everything. This is important. Your materials should be clear and concise, in plain, easy to follow language. Write out step-by-step instructions for every task, no matter how insignificant it may seem. The erasure of ambiguity is the ultimate goal. This will be tedious at first, but will get easier with time.
In the final segment of this 3-part series I’ll discuss revising and evaluating your training plan.
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