To Train or Not to Train

franchisor offered support

By Marla Rosner, Senior Learning & Development Consultant, MSA Worldwide

Originally published in Franchising World, June 2024

I’m concerned.

At two recent franchise conferences, I heard speakers, round table facilitators, and others convey stark warnings about the risks of co-employment liability related to franchise organizations’ training, in the absence of nuanced discussion. These alarms belie that successful franchise systems are training machines, and could lead emerging franchisors to err by minimizing or eliminating training programs central to the brand’s success.

David W. Oppenheim, franchise attorney at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, asserts that while successful franchisors understand they cannot eliminate the risk of co-employment liability, they become comfortable in this gray area by taking appropriate steps to mitigate it. A workaround he suggests to his clients is to train franchisees’ trainers – whether the franchisee, an operating principal, a multi-unit manager, or a store manager – to train their employees. This approach mitigates co-employment risk while fulfilling the obligation of the franchisor to impart its experience.

Among tactics to mitigate co-employment risk, Oppenheim emphasizes that one of the most critical is to train field staff about the parameters of their role. During store-opening support and on-site visits to franchisee stores, Oppenheim encourages franchisors to have their personnel explain that the franchisee is their employer, that any training is being provided to teach brand standards, and to have trainees execute a form acknowledging they understand who their employer is and the limited purpose of any training.

Wing Snob, an MSA Worldwide client, is an emerging franchise with 44 restaurants open and 88 additional under contract. The new franchise training program MSA developed for Wing Snob, guides new franchisees and their initial managers through hands-on training for all aspects of the back and front-of-house operations. By structuring the program to include “teach back” sessions that press participants to teach what they learn back to the trainer, Wing Snob builds their operators’ skills to train their staff.

To build consistent execution across all markets, MSA also developed eLearning for Wing Snob for use by franchisees with their employees. Brian Shunia, one of Wing Snob’s founders, shares “I’m glad we installed our brand standards training for franchisees’ use with their employees early. New owners adopt it immediately but existing franchisees’ buy-in is less enthusiastic even with substantial incentives.”

Neighborly, the world’s largest home services company with more than 30 brands and 5,500 franchises in six countries, is not shy about helping its franchise owners train their people in brand standards and company culture. Dianna Worthington, Vice President of Training and Education at Neighborly, explains the respective brands have ownership of their training programs; however, all use both eLearning in the form of online classes, as well as live training programs with franchise owners.

Given the system’s substantive use of eLearning, the brands provide specific training to franchise owners and other management-level employees on how to enroll their employees in the appropriate role-based courses on the Learning Management System (LMS). In this manner, the franchisor maintains an arms-length relationship with the franchise owner’s employees mitigating joint employer risk.

Dianna is passionate about ensuring franchise owners understand the inter-relationship between employees’ competence and confidence, and their loyalty to the business. To accomplish this, Neighborly brands regularly provide franchise owners with live training sessions about how to creatively engage their employees in training programs, including varying training methods such as practical skill-building methods and role-playing exercises.

With over 700 locations nationwide, Batteries Plus customers include both retail consumers and commercial businesses. Jason Moss, Vice-President of Store Development and Training Operations, shares that the company, with input from its Franchisee Training Council, is in the process of updating its eLearning programs for a relaunch in July of this year.

The initial training for Batteries Plus franchise owners occurs in two non-consecutive weeks of in-person training focusing exclusively on either the retail or commercial aspects of the business. Because the franchisor recognizes the crucial role training plays in the success of their businesses, franchise owners are invited to repeat these programs as desired and to send their managers, commercial sales staff, and others to the live courses at no charge.

While Batteries Plus provides the tools and support, franchise owners are in full control of their staff training and certification. Not only do they assign their employees to role-specific courses which Batteries Plus creates and posts on the eLearning platform, but franchise owners are also provided the ability to customize their employees’ curricula by selecting and assigning additional courses the franchisor makes available, or by requesting new content.

Lee Plave, co-founder and partner at Plave Koch, a franchise law firm, suggests analyzing decisions about training programs and content in brand standards manuals on a “co-employment risk spectrum” filtering such decisions based on their impact on brand execution. Instead of training franchisees on human resources management, for example, Plave suggests the option of referring franchisees to organizations such as ADP or Paychex, or the Society for Human Resources Management for guidance on labor management. Providing sample job descriptions to franchisees could be considered at the other end of the co-employment risk spectrum according to Plave, since these are core to the structure, operation, and consistent execution of the franchise brand. Risk mitigation includes providing job descriptions without the brand logo, adding “sample” watermarks, and a space noted for the franchisee to input their business entity name.

It’s not about eliminating training – but managing the gray areas.

Marla Rosner is the senior learning and development consultant of MSA Worldwide. MSA Worldwide is the nation’s leading franchise consulting firm providing strategic advice and tactical services to established and emerging franchisors in the United States and internationally. MSA’s services include franchise feasibility analysis, franchise program development, franchise relations strategies, franchise system expansion strategy, operation assessment and support, manuals and training programs, franchise litigation consulting and expert testimony. For more information on MSA, visit, or call us for a complimentary consultation at 860-523-4257.

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