We Are (Not) The Champions
January 30, 2018 | 2400 Views
Your training department can deservedly feel an immense amount of satisfaction and accomplishment after completing the development of a new training program. When the objectives are crystal clear, the text passes spellcheck with flying colors, and the bullet points are perfectly lined up, all that remains is to hit the appropriate button (send/upload/print), and then it’s Miller time, right?
Or in the case of the fish taco biz in San Diego, it’s Corona time!
But just because you have handed it off to your counterparts in operations for implementation doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story for your department. Even if the training module is practically perfect in every way and contains all the necessary tools for employees to learn and improve, you still have one more task: activating “champions” in your hotels or restaurants to ensure the program will achieve its objectives.
What do I mean by champions? Well, as I’m sure all of you are aware, the daily routine in hospitality can be quite chaotic as each day brings new challenges for unit managers. On Monday they might have to find replacements for two employees who suddenly quit, prepare for a last-minute banquet request, and deal with a faulty toilet. And then on Tuesday, they might have to deal with an unexpected busload of tourists, a visit from the health inspector, and a lengthy phone call from the payroll administrator to review last week’s timecards.
As a result of these consistent variations to a manager’s standard routine, even the most fantastic new training program – one that might help bring some needed stability – can get lost in the shuffle. And that’s when champions come into play. The program will need supporters, protectors, and cheerleaders out in the field who can cut through the noise and make sure that the target audiences are aware the module has been launched, understand its importance (to the company and to the trainee), and will want to work hard to complete it. Training champions will also help monitor employee usage, track desired improvements in operational metrics, and celebrate successes with your hotel or restaurant teams.
I’m sure you’re wondering: can we in the training department serve as our own champions in operations? Since we developed the program, wouldn’t it be best if we went out to the field and performed the required champion tasks? As much as I’d like to say yes, the actual answer is no: we are not the champions. Anyone from the training team visiting the field would be just that – a visitor – and not someone who has a lasting presence or could have repeated follow-up conversations with managers. Additionally, members of the training department are typically outside the chain of command for operations, and in order for a champion to make a real difference, it will help if they have authority over and responsibility for the intended users (especially if a particular team is not meeting specific benchmarks) and an insider’s understanding of the operations at your particular company.
So I’m sure you’ve figured out it by now: the best champions will be the leadership team that oversees the hotels or restaurants. This team could include a director or vice president of operations, regional managers, multi-unit managers, area coaches, or whatever terms used in your firm. More than anyone else, it will be these people at the top of the division who can ensure the optimal performance of the program, and they are the ones you will need on your side.
How do you get there and create these champions? It takes three steps:
- Network – First, trainers should reach out as much as possible to get to know the operational leaders at the company (and not through email, but face-to-face). When time permits, go see them in the field and tour their properties. Invite them to lunch when they’re at the office, or go out after work and get a beer. If your budget allows, travel with them to the National Restaurant Association show or the HX: The Hotel Experience so you can stroll the aisles together, check out different vendors, and discuss potential solutions for the challenges they might be experiencing. The more effort you invest in these relationships, the more it will eventually pay off in program impact.
- Include – Next, as your training team works on the development of new training, invite your new buddies in operations leadership to participate in the process. Ask them questions, get their opinions, and use their subject matter expertise to ensure your included activities will feel timely and relevant to the staff and that the lingo/jargon used in the materials match up with the terms actually used in the hotels or restaurants. This level of collaboration will not only strengthen the connections you made during the networking phase, but also help you to create the most effective programs possible.
- Teach – The final step is the most critical because it’s when the champions you’ve been cultivating will be activated: before launching your program to the masses, the training department needs to train the operations leadership on it first. We often assume that these very smart executives will basically learn how to use all the tools themselves, but that’s a huge assumption to make. Instead, remember that it’s your duty as trainers to flip that switch for them and turn on their champion abilities by taking them through the entire module as if they were any other student. Trust me, there are no shortcuts here. If you want your operation leaders to make time to successfully promote and execute your training in the field, you need to make time to teach them all the proper steps for each new program.
Developing a strong partnership between training leadership and operations leadership does take time, of course, but it’s definitely one worth pursuing so that your team’s hard work (and your celebratory Coronas) aren’t for nothing.
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This makes perfect sense and is very relevant to a process we'll be implementing this year by having "Market Trainers" and deploying more training restaurants for manager training. We all would love to do it ourselves - that way we know it's been done the way we want it. But delegation as well as having the most relevant person delivering the message means it will be received better! Thanks for the great article.
Gabe, This is spot on! AND a great example to use in the upcoming discussion at CHART - San Diego in the Communication and Influence Competency Session. Thanks!
Gabe: What a thoughtful, thorough and insightful piece. Couldn't agree with you more, and you nailed the disconnect that routinely occurs between Training and Operations. Great job!