Nine tactics for successful staff training


#1: People learn best when fresh.

Trainees are much more able and willing to learn when they are both mentally and physically fresh. So, create training sessions first thing in the morning when everyone is bright and chirpy.

Avoid scheduling training at the end of a shift, or after the trainee has worked a busy period. If necessary, schedule a trainee to begin an hour earlier than the traditional starting time, and let them know they will be paid for their time.

#2: People learn best in a non-threatening climate.

Thinking of adopting the 'good cop, bad cop' routine with your new staff? Maybe think again. While some people think that keeping trainees thoroughly intimidated will make them pay attention, quite the opposite is true.

Stress inhibits learning. You should attempt to keep trainees as relaxed as possible - after all, learning a new job or skill creates enough stress by itself. Be kind and patient, and your new team will feel more comfortable to ask questions.

#3: People learn better when the purpose of the skill or task is known.

There’s nothing more distracting when you’re trying to learn, and all you can think is: what’s the point of this?

So, if you want to make sure your staff are paying attention, provide the ‘end use’ of the function. Describe the ultimate result. For example, preface safety procedures with worse case scenarios, or particular food assemblage with why it doesn’t work otherwise. Failing to inform trainees of this purpose allows their minds to wander during the process.

If you want the trainee to flip the tortilla from the grill at a certain time, you should tell him or her what to look for that would indicate it is time to flip or remove the tortilla. Also, explain how the tortilla will look if it is flipped too soon or too late - now they can visualise the consequences!

#4: People learn faster when they are given feedback.

Feedback is what helps people grow as they learn; otherwise, it’s up to them to gauge their successes or failings, and that’s rarely accurate.

As a trainer, you must give your trainees a response to their efforts. Responses can be verbal or non-verbal - so, nods of the head, an "okay" or "that's it" are simple, yet effective, examples of keeping the trainees on track and positive in attitude.

A more formal type of feedback is the final critiquing step in the training process, where you can point out what they need to focus on moving forward.

#5: Be positive!

Our tendency frequently is to tell trainees what not to do. After all, we’ve done it ourselves so many times the first things we notice is when they make a mistake. However, this can be counterintuitive to their progress if they become discouraged that they’re always doing the wrong thing.

Emphasis what they are to do in the task and avoid using negative responses; alternatively, point out when they do the right thing as opposed to the wrong things.

#6: Work from the known to the unknown.

Trainees can accept training faster if the new idea, task, or concept is connected with an established one.

For example: "Okay, today starts a new coupon promotion. You ring them in just the way you normally do, but now you hit the appropriate coupon key afterward."

This technique sometimes referred to as "bridging" allows us to move quickly from point to point to reach our objective rather than trying to jump the canyon.

#7: Don't talk a foreign language.

As managers or business owners, we forget that our little businesses might have a vernacular quite unlike other venues.

Buzzwords are words we in our industry, our business, or our restaurant use and understand but which are unknown to the general public. The list can be endless - you may even want to ask trainees to make a list to avoid!

This is particular relevant for chain venues that may have unique product descriptors - think of Starbucks and their ‘Venti’ size coffees! If you must use a word, first define it, then use it.

#8: Break down complex tasks into basic tasks.

A banquet is best eaten in bites, rather than one continuous gulp - and a lot of hospitality tasks involve myriad steps.

Take a complicated task of many steps and break it into several tasks of fewer steps. Then train the employee on each task separately until the entire complicated task has been mastered.

#9: Doing tasks are best learned by doing.

There isn’t a huge amount of ‘theory work’ in hospitality - it’s a physical job, and therefore most of what you will be teaching new staff is going to be actually doing said tasks.

This means doing it over and over and over - because we not only learn fastest by doing we retain the skill longer by repeating it.

Training can be an intimidating task. You will be dealing with lots of different personality types from varied backgrounds, so knowing how to reach all of them in an efficient and successful manner is difficult.

Be kind, patient, and always remember - you were new once upon a time, too!