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How To Make Staff Training Stick

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A well trained staff is the key to a successful and sustainable business model. From dishwashers to line cooks, from cashiers to managers, every employee needs to understand not only what their job is but how it fits into the bigger picture of your business.

Good training programs take time,  significant effort and resources invested in each new employee. At the same time, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard operators say that training dollars are nonexistent, that many training efforts just don’t “stick,” and that the best training is “on the job,” anyway.

Heck. I used to say those things myself. Then I’d wonder why we had trouble providing a consistent product or why employees seemed confused and frustrated at their jobs. It became apparent we had to change our paradigm to more effectively achieve the outcomes we wanted.

Tell, Show, Do and Review

Finally, I gathered our management team for a two-day retreat and asked them to bring examples of what they considered the best training models. After much spirited discussion, we settled on a model we called “Tell, Show, Do, and Review.” That describes the four key steps we decided were necessary to make training initiatives effective. In short, they are:

Tell. This is the first step and the briefer it is, the better. Simply state the purpose of a particular task, summarizing how it is to be performed and emphasizing the quality expected. Solicit questions, and ask the new employee to summarize key points.

Show. Demonstrate the activity to be learned, explaining key execution points and emphasizing how quality of execution is evaluated. Think the steps through in advance and always present in an organized manner. Remember that a trainee will imitate what you demonstrate.

Do. Ask the trainee to perform the task you’ve demonstrated. Be patient, providing feedback that avoids embarrassment,  but which redirects the trainee as necessary to perform the task correctly.

Remember most people learn from their mistakes.

Review. Finally, orally review the task a trainee has just completed in a positive manner, again providing constructive feedback as necessary. Ask questions that will reinforce learning. Review areas of concern to ensure that the trainee is clear about the desired outcome and procedure.

A Peer-to-Peer Model

This model is built on peer-to-peer training, using an employee who has the best knowledge of the job to train a new employee in that job. It follows adult learning principles emphasizing hands-on training and acknowledges multiple learning styles. Both are critical, particularly in a diverse populations.

At BC dining, peer trainers are recruited from staff based on demonstrated job proficiency communication skills. They are then trained to become “certified peer trainers” across campus operations. The outcome of this model has been extremely positive. New employees are less anxious in their new roles and better prepared to meet the standards and expectations of the job. This allows them to be more productive team members over a shorter period of time, strengthens the overall capability of the operation to deliver consistent services, and increases employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Helen Wechsler is Director of Dining Services at Boston College and earlier was an instructor at the New England Culinary Institute. She leads a multi-faceted operation that serves 14,500 students, offers full service catering and manages concessions for a 44,000-seat athletic complex.

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