Evolution of Training

May 15, 2024 | 245 Views

Evolution of Training

Audrey Benet

Director of Training | GuestCounts Hospitality

Another manager quit yesterday, in our most stable restaurant. He is 28 years old and lasted three years. He wants to be a bartender again. Sadly, I do not think this is a story you haven’t already heard. In fact, I am certain most of us are living this reality. We groan about staffing and the endless revolving door of training new team members. The issue is significantly worse when we consider that the shelf-life of a hotel or restaurant manager seems to be shorter and shorter.

Exit Sign

We can sit in a room and continue to gripe about the changing times. We have all heard, and possibly made, the statements of comparison:

Besides the slight notion of hazing those statements might give off, it is simply another way we do not allow for evolution. For the record, I have made each of those statements. No, I am not proud, but I have grown out of that.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Isn’t that what we are as L&D professionals? Adaptable. We plan for every contingency on an opening and bend when none of them apply. We allow the chaos of rollouts and LTO’s to determine our schedules and somehow still come up with incredible training when the ops team tells us they need a solution to a problem.

I have bad news for all of us. We are a part of this restaurant manager shelf-life problem. 

It is time we adapt in a different way, create our own Galapagos Island of training. An uninterrupted place where we create and test for evolution. One that is unencumbered by the sudden demands that distract us from the big picture. A closed-off place where the ONLY thing discussed is how we can train, develop, and retain leadership talent. Here, looking backward only to review exit interviews and turnover trends. The rest is about evolution.

Galapagos Islands

I think we are all suffering from similar trends, so I will share what I believe to be at the heart of our manager shelf-life issue:

Push for Authenticity in Exit Interviews

Unless disgruntled, they are not as willing to share in exit interviews. As a generalization, these individuals are not apt to even know or analyze why they are actually leaving. They will attribute their departure to work-life balance, salary value perception, or quality of life. While there is merit to those statements, we all know they often come with unrealistic comparisons. In the example of our manager, he’s thinking about the finances of in-season pay, but the off-season will hit him hard. We might need to dig deeper and work harder at reading between the lines; perhaps even asking questions more directly.

Make Changes More Frequently

I believe that part of our evolution is our notion of time, and our changing patience. This is not generational; it is all of us. Every second is accounted for, and technological advances have changed us. We can doom scroll for hours and it feels like minutes. We can have the beverage program or rooms as our area of responsibility for years, but feel unchallenged and bored by the sixth month (or less). Assign new responsibilities or duties and make changes more often. We need to teach the skill of delegation much better. Stats in the past have said that stability in leadership ensures success. I would say that is only partly true today. The leaders will stay if they feel challenged, and challenge comes from change and evolution to their roles. It is a cycle. Stability needs change. 

Road Map

It Is Time To Hold Hands

I used to keep maps in my glove box. I would drive somewhere, and if I got lost, I pulled out a map. I accounted for time to destination as a general construct and added minutes so that I would not be late, accounting for possibly getting lost. Today, I set the GPS, before I even exit the house, to know my exact route. I allow that phone to tell me when to leave the house and the route to take, even though I could get to my destination from memory. I know we are talking about training leaders and that holding someone’s hand through the process feels counter intuitive. What we are doing now is not working. We keep manager training programs to a two- to six-month time period (depending on the operation), and expect these trainees to learn all of it in that time. What if, instead, we showed our scaffolded hand. Trained them on the first rung and let them master it before showcasing the next one. It is flipping this need for more and faster by giving the trainee a bite-sized piece. With bite-sized chunks, they might feel more accomplished and beg for more. We can make a case for salaries to start lower and increase as they learn a new skill. We’ve been told those coming into the workforce want more development. What if we manufacture it?

Those three trend items would be posters in my Galapagos Island of training; reminders for why I need to change things. What do you think? What items do you see in the trend of the manager shelf-life issue?

Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” That is no longer true. If we continue to allow the distractions of everyday training woes: the LTO’s, rollouts, menu changes; then I fear something far worse will happen. If we don’t focus on this manager shelf-life issue, we won’t have anyone to worry about anymore.

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