Training that rekindles purpose, ignites passion

The notion of employee training evokes images of yawn-inducing lectures that team members are obliged to attend. In fact, the opposite can hold true: training has the potential to be interactive, dynamic, and yes, even transformational. It can allow employees to connect with their roles and improve a company’s bottom line.

Contributed by Mary D’Argenis-Fernandez, MDA Hospitality Solutions, Miami Beach, Florida

In a post-pandemic, companies are welcoming back employees after two years, and whether this staff is returning to the same job or they’re new hires, training is more paramount today than ever before.

The following five pieces of advice are a result of feedback from these very employees have been key in rekindling their purpose and igniting their passion.

  1. Unpack It!

I was one of those kids (still am) who opens a box and throws away the instructions before assembling. If it doesn’t look right when finished, that’s when the reading begins. Learners fall into one of three categories: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. When creating training content, connect with your learner on each of these levels. Let them choose the messaging platform that allows them to learn.

How does this apply to a training concept? Simple. Take an idea and break it down into its individual components. An example from the restaurant world is a menu item. An interesting activity called “Ingredient Vocab” is where components of the dish are identified, and employees search for the definition on their smartphones. This exercise evolved when restaurant teams shared that they didn’t fully understand the ingredients used in some of the dishes.

There are several variations of a seemingly simple item. So, knowing the ingredient is not enough.

Let’s take avocado toast. At one property, Haas was the avocado of choice. The team discovered the varietal originated from a mother tree in California – it’s an interesting tidbit to have on hand.

  1. Re-build

Chefs are artists who create masterpieces on plates. Servers are entrusted with delivering that artistic message to their guests. Now that the ingredients are known, we can speak about them.

“Sell It to Me!” is a menu spiel activity whereby servers rebuild deconstructed dishes in their own words.

This activity involves writing a few sentences about the item and talking about it to a colleague. The expectation is for the listening partner to provide substantive feedback on clarity, enunciation, word choices and enthusiasm. Once they have practiced in small groups, the last step comes when a volunteer has 20 seconds to sell that dish to the team. Have fun with your teams as they actively listen to one another and learn how to be more descriptive. They may pick up on tips they can use on their own.

If you want to take it to the next level, encourage your team to do the same with a family member or friend – someone who is more critical. If your friends and family understand what you are selling, your guests will be excited about that masterpiece, too.

At a restaurant in California, the concept was to take a tour around the state without ever leaving your seat. That team then tied their menu items to this theme. Rather than simply selling a burger, the story shared with guests is how it plays off of an In & Out Burger. Much more appealing.

  1. Connect

When we “connect” we are simply repeating the learning from a previous teaching. In training settings, we connect as soon as the day begins. What did we learn yesterday? Ask questions. Allow employees time to think. Have fun.

During a hotel reopening, one of the servers was a singer. We learned Moody Bleu Cheese came from a cow.  During our next day’s Connect, when asked from which animal does this cheese come, this server sang the response emphasizing “moo!” I don’t think anyone in the room forgot that answer.

Connecting can be achieved in an operational setting by inviting team members to share the daily special (versus the chef) or staying on the same topic for a week. Training in bite-size pieces is easier to retain and less overwhelming.

  1. Personalize

How many of us like listening to something we already know? I can’t see you, but I’m sure not many hands are going up.

One way to personalize training is by pre-assessing teams on the content about to be trained. If the team scores high, we know we need to dig deeper into that content. If the scores are low, we may need to go back to basics. Understanding your audience makes the time spent with them meaningful.

This activity began inadvertently when a team expressed that they had worked the job for a decade and had the know-how to do it well. The end of the program was to be an assessment of their menu, cocktails and wine. With their comments, we decided to start with the end in mind and assessed the team in advance.

The result, which has been a common thread, is an average of 60% competency. We learned this was an excellent means to understand what the team knows and focus on skills that could use a brush-up.

  1. Technology

Technology has not only been a game-changer for guests ordering food from their phone or self-checkouts, it has also been instrumental in training.

QR codes ushered in virtual training. Properties are introducing a training topic each week whereby the QR code houses the training material, along with weekly assessments. As leaders, you can view where each employee is in their progress and action next steps.

We worked with a property that wanted a sustainable training program. For each training, metrics were set to verify the outcomes were achieved. In this case, it was a targeted guest service score. Within a short period of weekly training topics with assessments, this team exceeded its goal.

Keeping it simple, meeting the employee where he or she wants to be met, and stimulating interesting discussions transform the employer and employee relationship, and the workplace. Are you in?