When SchoolFood decided to switch to a system of individual unit P&Ls run by local managers, Executive Director David Berkowitz called on Training Coordinator Ed Jacobsen.
"As with any new initiative, its important to position it on a grassroots level," says Jacobsen. "The buy-in depends on the positioning.
With the P&L roll out, all the management teams came to SchoolFood headquarters."We reviewed the applications. We explained what the numbers were, why they were important, and how managers could have an impact on them," explains Jacobsen."Once they understood the principles they were able to take the information back to their teams."
According to Jacobsen, it's the mangers who drive change in an organization as big as SchoolFood. "We train our managers to focus on communication," he says. "We want to develop an integrated group. Our managers will lead the team by being part of the team."
Jacobsen wants them to be more focused on future planning and the switch to P&L management has in part helped them to rework their outlook. It also provides them with a great sense of accomplishment.
"Managers look at the numbers to determine how well they are doing their jobs," he says. "It took them a while to understand what the numbers mean to them."
Once past the learning curve, "managers understand what a P&L is and they are using the numbers as a management tool to help them be more successful."
SchoolFood has a number of training courses for employees that "will help them at various points in their career paths with us," says Jacobsen. "The programs are designed to demystify SchoolFood."
The manager training program, for example, consists of six weeks of training. For the first two weeks, the manager is in a designated training site. They work side by side with the front line and back of the house employees in order to get a feel for the day-to-day operations.
Next, manager trainees go through five days of classroom training where they talk through 'real life' situations. They are then asked to dissect problems and issues and work together as a class to find solutions. After the classroom portion is complete, manager trainees have three weeks to shadow a veteran manager before they are sent out on their own.
"Experiencing all parts of an operation is important in understanding SchoolFood and the mission of the organization," says Jacobsen.
The Road Ahead
Over the past few years, SchoolFood has made considerable changes structurally, philosophically, nutritionally, culinarily and financially; it is a more focused institution with higher goals and the means to measure its success.
In the future Jacobsen hopes to "expand leadership training programs," he says. "We also want to develop a cross training platform so that managers from one region can learn about and implement best practices from another region in their schools." He also wants to develop more ways to keep managers motivated.
"If we look at what we do day-to-day, it's easy to get bogged down; that's why our training programs encourage employees to look at the big picture and to focus on the road ahead."