Insider tips from nineteen years of experience with defining and designing training programs.
Brian Gracon, Ph.D., Founder and President, Brian Gracon & Associates, Inc.
Political candidates have debates. So do franchise owners and their staffs. Which side of the following debate are you on? Are operational and sales training programs a good investment, or a waste of time?
As with many debates, there are two sides to the issue. (Even the August 2015 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision involving Browning-Ferris Industries of California was a split decision, 3-2!)
So, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to training. First the bad news.
There are plenty of reasons to dislike training. Here are a few of my favorite bad experiences:
- I once listened to a vendor rep do a “sales training.” In a monotone voice, he read a book to the sales staff for 2.5 hours straight. Ugh!
- A training program would have been a good program except that the materials were out of date, so the procedures didn’t work back on the job.
- A veteran (and very good) salesman got nothing from a training program because it didn’t include any advanced techniques or ask him to share his experience and techniques with the rest of the team.
- The training was a “one and done” event. No follow-up, no reinforcement, no coaching, no results.
You can probably add many training horror stories to this list, but they’re likely to have similar themes to these examples.
On the other hand, there can be good news. I’ve seen training programs that:
- Raised gross margins 5 points because salespeople learned and practiced alternatives to price-cutting to make a sale.
- Included tools that the franchise owner could use to monitor her staff and continually improve performance.
- Helped a business revamp its sales process and paperwork after a training class on problem-solving.
- Made a new salesperson the top seller on a staff because her sales went up 60% after a training program.
These programs trump the bad experiences above. You might be developing a franchise system and training program, or be a franchisor thinking about revamping a training program. You might be a franchise using (and supplementing) the training provided by the franchisor. Whatever your perspective, you probably have the following question: “What can you do to make sure your training programs deliver a good return on your time and financial investments?”
Getting even more pragmatic:
- What training do you need most?
- Can you evaluate training programs before you use them or design them?
- What should a complete training program include?
(For additional information, see Phases of Franchise Training.)
Because the design of communications, in general, and training, in particular, should start with the audience, the rest of this article will take a franchisee’s point of view. The strategies, however, can be applied equally well to franchisors as they design or redesign their training programs.
Based on my nineteen years of experience defining and designing training programs, I propose the following 3 insider tips. The use of Taglines, The Seven R’s, and Technology Tools will help you answer these questions and get the best return on your training effort and investment.
Walmart has “Save Money. Live Better.® ” Coca-Cola has “Open Happiness®.” McDonald’s has “I’m lovin’ it®.” Sports Clips uses “It’s good to be a guy®” Windows 10 uses “a more human way to do”.
These are all taglines, i.e., short phrases or marketing slogans that are closely associated with an offering. Taglines seek to be memorable and motivate customers to seek their associated goods and services.
What’s your franchise’s tagline, or the tagline of the franchisor you are considering? Better yet, what does the tagline mean to your customers and your staff?
One business invested heavily in developing and marketing a new tagline. When I asked the salespeople what the new tagline meant, or what customers thought about it, I got blank stares or any one of a variety of answers.
When I asked what the tagline probably meant to customers, the stars got even blanker. That spelled big trouble because the staff didn’t know what customers would expect from the in-store experience. The new tagline was supposed to increase sales and profits, but sales didn’t increase as expected. Shocker!
But, why am I describing taglines in an article about training? I’m doing so because your staff’s understanding of your tagline can give you insights into their training needs. Here’s how.
Many leaders try to figure out a training plan by asking their staff what’s needed. The staff usually says they don’t need training because you can’t admit that to the boss! (And, they’ve been through a lot of ineffective training before.)
Instead, I think the first question when developing a training plan should be “Does my staff know what we’re selling and why customers should buy from us?” Your staff needs to understand your offering and be able to explain it to customers in just a few words. That is, they should understand and be able to explain your tagline.
Ask each member of your staff to explain your tagline and what they think it means to your typical customers. Do this in private, to find out what they really think. Then, identify the gaps vs. what you want them to know. You’ll probably discover a starting point for choosing training that will fill this “our offering is…” gaps. Your training plan can then add the necessary selling, customer service, and operational skills.
2. The Seven R’s
A tagline review will give you a starting point for training decisions. However, you may still have several options for training at this point. For example, you can use the training provided by the franchisor, training available on the open market (from sources like Lynda.com and bizlibrary.com), or develop custom training. How do you choose the right training programs? Can you evaluate and choose training programs before you’ve taken them?
My contention is that there is a way to evaluate training programs before you invest time or money in them.
Use The Seven R’s of training:
- Results – What results have businesses like yours gotten from the training? Asking about expected results, in advance, helps to make sure the training focuses on your business and will generate an impact. The better the historical results, the more interested you should be in the training. If the training provider doesn’t have any results to discuss, consider a different provider (when possible).
- Right Training – What exactly will your people be able to do because of the training? Is this what you/they need? Refer to the tagline tip described above, and then go a step further. Analyze your customer base to determine their needs and wants when they think about your goods and services and shopping experience. This analysis will tell you the skills your staff needs to serve these customers. Then, analyze your staff, one by one, to determine their skill gaps versus this list. The result will be a comprehensive, detailed, prioritized list of your business’s training needs. Then, select training programs aimed at the items on this list.
- Really Training – Is it training (complete with skill development, practice, and feedback), or just another lecture? The word “dollar” starts with the word “do”. Business results depend on what your staff does, not just what they know. (Phases of Franchise Training) Training should develop skills, not just convey knowledge. Your staff needs to do things to satisfy customers and generate sales. Make sure the training programs you are considering include the application of new knowledge and a chance to practice what is being learned. After all, it’s far better to practice on one another during training than to practice on (potentially) paying customers. And, there’s a training adage that goes “Don’t expect people to do anything after the training that you haven’t seen them do during the training.”
- Right Method – Training comes in several shapes and sizes, from videos to self-study and live computer-based training; from instructor-led sessions to manuals. The training objectives and design should define the training method, taking participant learning styles into account. Make sure the training method fits your business objectives and the learning styles of your staff. (For additional information, see Does Training Method Matter in Franchising? and Whether and How To Train Franchise Employees.)
- Right Now – Can the training be applied right now in your business? Without immediate application, training fades and won’t deliver results. Therefore, a training program that relies heavily on participants doing reading assignments, developing action plans, or completing assignments after the training program will probably lose a lot of its punch. Make sure the training program enables your staff to use the skills immediately.
- Reinforcement – Two types of reinforcement are needed. Reinforcement for the facilitators of the training, and reinforcement for managers and owners who will serve as coaches after the training. What train-the-trainer and coaching tools and methods do the program include, for maximum impact and sustainable behavior change? If the program doesn’t include these types of tools, ask for them, because they’re critical for successful training and results. To enable coaching, it’s also critical that managers and owners participate in the training so they know what people should be doing because of the training. Then the managers and owners can confirm or correct the behaviors and skills taught during the training. (See Does Training Method Matter in Franchising? and the additional reinforcement techniques below in the Technology Tools section.)
- Revisit – After the training, review the results from the training and compare them to the expected results. Based on this review, revisit the training program and develop plans with the training provider to correct deficiencies the next time you use this program.
Talk with the training provider or designer about these topics and make sure they can deliver a program that will meet your needs. Or, find different training.
3. Technology Tools
In the 1980s, we were asking ourselves, “Do we need computers?” In the 1990s, people were watching Jerry Springer on TV and asking, “Do we need cell phones?” Came the new Millennium, we had a Starbucks® on every corner, became very concerned about security, and the question was “Do we need online shopping?” Now the question is, “Do I have to engage in social media and content marketing?”
Now you have to consider mobility, social media, and empowered customers. How should you capitalize on the latest technologies to reinforce your training?
Here are a few “technology” tips you and your staff can use right now:
- Ask your staff to spend time looking at your website and social media presence. Then have each person take you on a tour of these sites (to be certain they know what’s on the sites)! You might even ask them to present at least part of their tour to one another in a staff meeting, including how they would use that information or that part of the site with customers. (When they do these presentations, reinforce their use of the other skills learned during your training programs.)
- Search for your business on Google and consumer review sites (like yelp.com and complaints.com). Act on the specific complaints you find about your business and fix the things that bother your customers. Leverage you’re training programs when deciding how to respond to these situations.
- Search for your competitors on consumer review sites too. See what their flaws are, and make sure you don’t have the same flaws. What training programs would help you avoid similar problems?
- Ask your staff members to video themselves explaining your tagline as they would explain it to a customer. (They can do as many “takes” as they like.) Use these videos in sales meetings to cross-train your staff. Use the best of the videos on your sites to market your offering to customers!
What’s the bottom line? Your use of Taglines, The Seven R’s and Technology Tools will help you target, assess and design training programs to make sure you maximize the return on your time and investment. Franchisors will add value to their offerings, and unit operators will get better results from their franchises.
About the Author
Brian Gracon is Founder and President of Brian Gracon & Associates, Inc. Brian has nineteen years of experience helping clients grow via development of training and marketing strategies and programs that deliver sustainable results. Brian has received corporate and international awards for the impact from and creativity of his business solutions. Learn more about Brian at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hirebriangracon.
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