Using Talent Development to Drive Manager Engagement
According to a study conducted by Gallup and TDn2K, only 27% of restaurant general managers are engaged. Even worse, 18% are actively disengaged. When manager engagement is low, employees are more likely to leave, disengage themselves, or be less productive. That said, you can have a tremendous impact on performance and culture overall by focusing on driving manager engagement at the unit level.
During a recent CHART webinar, we had the opportunity to speak with a panel of executives from three restaurant chains to discover how they use talent development to promote manager engagement. We also discussed how training initiatives can influence each of their unique cultures. The panel included:
- John Aiken, Senior Director of Learning and Development for Golden Corral
- Chad Chmielowicz, Director of Training for Naf Naf Grill
- Jason Lechner, Director of Training and Development for Pizza Ranch
Here’s a recap of our discussion about the best practices for engaging managers.
What challenges do you see in terms of manager or franchisee engagement, and what are you doing from a training perspective to address that?
Golden Corral works collaboratively with our Franchise Advisory Council (FAC). We ask them to weigh in on any number of topics, issues and/or changes, including those that affect training. We are in the process of working to add a number of soft skills courses to our current offerings, geared at providing managers with personal and professional development as well as education that goes beyond running a restaurant. This provides them with skills to help them “run” the people part of the business more effectively. We believe providing managers with skills that also help them engage employees may help us reduce turnover.
At Naf Naf Grill, challenges for MGs are turnover, labor pressure, and retention. They can feel trapped in this cycle. Naf Naf Grill addresses that with tools that are easy to use and allow for learner-driven training. We offer video and print materials that are “always on” so anyone can access these. We also make training an area of responsibility for AMs, SLs, and team trainers. This helps spread these responsibilities across the team so that training is always happening. Getting people trained efficiently lets managers focus on all the other things they need to do to grow sales and take care of guests. Lastly, there is no substitute for daily coaching. We have daily topics to help managers engage their teams on initiatives and fundamentals.
Pizza Ranch’s biggest challenge with engagement is turnover and retention. We engage with our franchisees by listening to our Franchise Advisory Committee, our legacy franchisees, and our newest franchisees. We polled our general managers to ask them what during their first year as a GM was difficult or caused them to disengage. Many of the responses led us to understand that we needed to do a better job of equipping our people with the proper soft skills and hard skills to be successful, which in turn increased engagement.
One of the ways to improve engagement is by providing opportunities for personal development and career growth. Can you describe what steps you are taking to manage talent development in your organization?
Golden Corral primarily focuses on improving their ability to run shifts, but we’re now going to focus on leadership skills as well. We make assumptions that people who have been promoted know all the skills they need to successfully run a restaurant, but many do not. We must provide that education. Most do things tactically very well, but they need development around people skills; those that allow them to understand the people dynamic of the business, engage coworkers more fully, and as a result, reduce turnover. We also plan to provide leadership skills for those that support our managers and franchisees like our DMs, FBCs, and those in the Support Center so they can more fully engage and support our managers and franchisees.
Naf Naf Grill revamped our MIT programming, and we’re focusing on bite-sized development goals. We set these goals with our DMs and GMs and these goals are targeted to the needs of the individual and the store/district. We focus both on practices managers need (e.g. learning how to order effectively) as well as softer skills like leadership, marketing, and communication. So rather than one or two overreaching goals for a year, these are quicker and they reset as soon as a goal is finished. As a growing concept, development is kind of built in. We’ve made lots of improvements over the last year – kebabs, app, delivery, revamped catering, back-of-house systems, among others. The launches are hard, but they’ve given our teams more skills, more ways to drive their sales, and more ways to monitor and improve their business. Seeing our managers compete for kebabs sales or catering sales gets everyone involved.
Pizza Ranch can’t manage it if we can’t track it, so we’re re-focusing on managing development with our learning management system (LMS). We also created a Training Advisory Panel, made up of managers, owners, Franchise Business Consultants, and the training department to work on updating our core training programs. In July, we launched an updated MIT training and hourly team member skill position training. With these programs, there is ongoing development or “next step” development built into the programs. When they’ve completed one program, their next steps are right in front of them for development.
Can you share an initiative you have implemented or are planning to implement to improve engagement through learning and development?
We revamped our coworker curriculum to a microlearning format as well as incorporating a blended learning approach. Golden Corral is constantly striving to ensure our franchisees and managers recognize the value of training, both e-learning and on-the-job. It’s difficult to get some GMs and franchisees to see training as an investment versus an expense. In an organization that’s 92% franchised, many times it’s a paradigm shift to get them to think of training as an investment.
Naf Naf Grill revamped MIT training by talking with operations leadership, training GMs, and people who’ve been through training. This way the training reflects what the teams are telling us they need, not the other way around. It is easier for GMs to run this program than before, using Naf U for e-learning, quizzes, and to track one-on-one sessions with their trainer.
Going back to the previous question, I would recommend anybody out there who hasn’t created a Training Advisory Panel to do so, especially if you’re in a franchised system.
How do you leverage the training department or LMS as part of your franchisee/location communication efforts? What roles does the training department play in carrying through the culture of your brand?
Maintaining culture in a heavily franchised system is a constant effort. Golden Corral has our 5 Fundamentals of Excellence and our 10 to Win program, and those things require constant reinforcement to ensure we are always elevating the experience for our guests. Our CEO and the leadership team have a laser focus on culture and recognize the importance that a good culture plays in the success of our business. In many ways, our Franchise Advisory Council is an excellent conduit for driving culture. We’re reaching a point where everyone in the franchise community, no matter how big or small, is starting to feel heard. It requires constant evolution and a whole lot of listening.
Naf Naf Grill’s culture is about being guides for our guests, and we take that seriously when we’re training our teams as well. As trainers, we’re their guides and we’re going to get them to their destination safely. We’re training the managers on how to run a Naf Naf Grill but also how to train at a Naf Naf Grill. Assistant managers and staff leads are driving the training during the NSO process. This way, managers are immediately positioned as trainers and coaches and ambassadors for the culture. Additionally, all our materials and training programs are developed to support and grow our culture.
Pizza Ranch utilizes our LMS to launch all new LTO campaigns, and we’re using it to properly and quickly track all training and development progress. We have a unique culture at Pizza Ranch, and the role training plays in that is part of their initial training; all new franchisees first go through a very robust interview and discovery process. Once they’re signed and have managers hired for their restaurant, they attend a four-day culture and core training program in Orange City, Iowa called “Foundations of Pizza Ranch.” The class teaches P&L management, relationship building between franchisees and the RSC, as well as leadership courses and the culture building-blocks that make up our foundation.
What was the most difficult obstacle to get your GMs and franchisees to invest in their people and how did you overcome it?
In many ways, Golden Corral is still working to overcome it. We’re working diligently to help change the mindset from training being a cost to training being an investment. This isn’t easy as labor costs continue to rise, but we’re making headway. Also, when potential franchisees express an interest in opening a restaurant, we discuss with them very early on what the training requirements and investments are for opening their restaurant as well as ongoing costs to ensure their coworkers and managers have all the knowledge they need to succeed in their positions.
The training tools at Naf Naf Grill make it as easy as possible. With everything else they need to do, we want the training process to be simple and require as little time as possible. We have some intensive processes like baking and shawarma. If you don’t invest in people for those, you’re going to struggle, but through training and operations innovations (shaver), we’ve reduced time-to-competency for those positions. Our dedication to training and operations simplicity makes it easier for franchisees to invest in their people too. Our franchisee tools (Hub) give them great support. They can find anything and everything they need there.
By listening to our managers and franchisees, Pizza Ranch has been able to overcome some obstacles. They asked for training to be quick, nimble, updated, scalable, and built with a strong framework, but also to have freedom within the framework, so that’s what we did. We did things like updating the MIT and hourly team member training programs and launching an MIT program that is available to all our locations for training their own supervisors.