On-The-Job Training During a Pandemic
Director of Innovation, Recruiting and Training for Ivar’s Restaurants
Past CHART President
On-the-job training (OJT) has traditionally been a very common method of teaching new skills in the hospitality industry. How common is it? According to the results of 2019 Training Trends in the Hospitality Industry survey conducted by CHART and Black Box Intelligence, it ranked as the #1 method in every scenario asked about, and it was anywhere from two to four times more common than each of the second place methods.
Hotel and restaurant companies rely on on-the-job training for many reasons: it’s much easier to schedule than classroom training, as it’s conducted right at the employee’s work stations, and it allows for immediate feedback and guidance from the trainers leading the session, which can help improve trainee competence and confidence faster than other types of training.
But in the hospitality industry during and after COVID-19, how will things change when it comes to on-the-job training? What will trainers need to consider before leading a one-on-one session to ensure the safety of the participants?
Here are five factors I believe managers should keep in mind as they reopen their businesses and restart their OJT.
Continue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Use
Eventually we will reach a point where coronavirus personal protective equipment is no longer required to be worn by every staff member. Because on-the-job training typically requires the trainer and the trainee to be in close quarters for extended stretches (sometimes for entire shifts), having masks and gloves available for an extended period will help ensure that the only thing transmitted from one employee to another during these sessions is knowledge.
One of the biggest challenges for many OJT situations is a lack of space. It can often prove difficult, especially in smaller restaurants or crowded kitchens, for trainers to position themselves next to trainees because the work areas simply aren’t big enough. But that problem could be an advantage in a world with COVID-19. Instead of trying to figure out ways to get the trainers as close as possible, look for innovative ways for the trainers to position themselves at least six feet away but still be involved. Is it possible to rearrange workstations or tables so they are farther apart but still offer a line of sight? Or could you set up a webcam that would allow trainers to watch a live feed on their phone or a tablet (from a safe distance) and still be able to provide live feedback? If neither of these ideas are possible, could you insert a plexiglass shield in front of where the trainers typically stand, or set up a portable one that could be used for different training sessions? Looking for new approaches to create these workarounds will certainly help with this potential issue.
Buy More Supplies
Shortness of time is another threat that can often derail on-the-job training. Even with careful planning by the unit manager, sometimes an unexpected rush appears, and a session will need to be cut short to serve arriving guests. To help save a little time and prevent this derailment, instead of forcing both the trainer and trainee to use the same smallwares or supplies (or whatever is needed to conduct the session), consider purchasing separate items to eliminate the need to clean and sanitize everything between uses.
Record a Video
The first step for many on-the-job trainers when beginning a session is Tell (as in Tell, Show, Do, and Review). It’s here where they present the topic to the trainees, provide real-life examples, and discuss training expectations. Instead of doing this face-to-face, however, trainers could cut down on the amount of time they need to stand next to trainees by pre-recording this essential information. If you have a tablet available to trainers in your hotel or restaurant, allow them to use it to record their Tells so that trainees can watch prior to the in-person session starting.
Even though on-the-job training is often the most inexpensive form of training, especially when you consider the equipment needs for classroom or video set-ups, the four factors mentioned above will inevitably increase its cost to some degree. As budgets are updated for the remainder of 2020, and once the process begins for 2021, managers will need to keep in mind that precautions needed for successful and safe OJT will add to their expenses.
Even as we move forward past the lockdowns, we know that many of our guests are going to have different expectations than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Their definition of “great hospitality” will have permanently expanded from just the traditional elements (smiles, graciousness, personal touches, etc.) to now include visual proof of personal safety and sanitation during each visit. Similarly, with many of our employees, their definition of a “great workplace” will have expanded to include these same precautions during each shift. To meet these needs and ensure that our teams can feel safe, we will need to be diligent, be innovative, and be willing to commit the necessary resources, especially when they are engaged in close proximity activities such as on-the-job training.