Q: It seems like our training is not as effective as it should be. How do I make my training investment pay off?
A: There is a clear industry slide downward in service over the last few years. There is likely one culprit—understanding the “why” of hospitality. Effective training needs to focus on understanding—not imparting knowledge. Employees can know a lot about something but not really understand the important reason behind it. Why do you want them to offer appetizers, beverages, special entrees, dessert, a legitimate greeting and a thank you? Why do you want excellent product quality, prepared quickly? Why do you want a sparkling clean facility? People can forget what they know but they never forget what they understand. When was the last time you needed a refresher on tying your shoes or brushing your hair? Obviously, you understand how to do these things and will never have to be taught again. When was the last time you recited a few of the elements from the Periodic Table in chemistry? Likely, you would need to brush up on it. What’s the difference? Tying your shoes and brushing your hair have real meaning and application to your life and are more important to you and you have a high level of understanding. At one point you may have known the Periodic sign for Iron, yet today you may not be able to recall it at all. The most successful companies continually train their people to a level of understanding and where there is understanding there is breakthrough and paradigm shift. Take the time with each training technique to answer the key question of “Why?” Use these techniques to move your training to a culture of understanding:

Be repetitive. 
Every player that enters the NFL is a great player. So why do they practice? Professional coaches explain that amateurs practice in order to get it right, but professionals practice so they don’t get it wrong. Practice the same activity over and over and over. Use a simple technique called the five steps of training: 1) Tell the trainee what you are going to train and be clear on why. 2) Show the trainee how to perform the activity correctly. 3) Have the trainee tell you how he or she is going to perform the activity. 4) Have him or her show you how to do it. 5) Discuss the result after the activity is complete. Check for understanding not just knowledge. This allows for all learning styles to be involved: auditory, visual and kinesthetic.

Use Workshop training. 
This is structured classroom-style learning and one of the most impactful and positive training techniques. Set an agenda to follow a similar format as below:

For a 60 minute session

  • Lecture to include a dynamic presentation on the material or video: 15 minutes
  • Work in small groups on worksheets: 15 minutes
  • Small groups present to the larger group: 15 minutes
  • Recap significant learning points: 15 minutes

Learning is locked in by forcing individuals to discuss the issues, find solutions, then stand in front of their peers and present their findings. Public speaking is a common fear, and fear has a significant influence on creating a presence in the moment. If someone may have to present to the group, he or she is likely to pay close attention and have high recall of the content. The goal is to create a teacher because those who know can do; but those who understand can teach.

Use multimedia. One underutilized training method is video. The younger generation in the workforce is wired for visual learning mainly because they were born with a computer in one hand and a video game in the other. We live in an age where capturing video is easy and inexpensive. Video can also be watched repetitively. But don’t stop there; use slide shows, webinars, voice recordings, presentations and other modes for learning. Use e-learning techniques and programs that require interaction, problem-solving and online testing. The multimedia training must be focused on building understanding on top of knowledge.

Effective training features multiple teaching methods and a solid philosophy behind the training. If training is simply about knowledge it will never take, nor will the team realize its full potential. The goal is a workforce of people that “get it” with a high level of understanding the real meaning of product preparation, hospitality and service.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at [email protected]. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability. He also leads the WRA’s Consulting Network.