By Marla Rosner, Senior Learning & Development Consultant, MSA Worldwide
Recognizing the key role that on-site management plays in the success of the business, most franchise systems – once they have become mature – make the investment to train Unit Managers. Unit Manager training may involve classroom sessions locally, regionally or at headquarters, and/or video and online learning. As with most training, the investment is only worthwhile if new skills are applied back on the job.
When franchise location Unit Managers receive training delivered by someone other than the Franchisee, the key to whether the Manager applies what they have learned rests in the communication between the Franchisor and Franchisee before and after the training program. In the case of a multi-unit Franchisee, whoever supervises the Manager should receive communication from the corporate office about Manager training, whether that be a General Manager or Director of Operations. If Franchisees or their upper management are only dimly aware of the content provided in Unit Manager training, they are substantively handicapped in effectively following up and ensuring that new skills and behaviors become ingrained. We’ve all heard the adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This speaks specifically to classroom and other training that is not immediately practiced and applied in the work environment.
Following are four tips to set the stage for Unit Managers’ on-the-job application of skills and behaviors learned in training:
Tip #1: Thoroughly Communicate with the Unit Manager’s Supervisor
Provide the Unit Manager’s supervisor, whether Franchisee, General Manager or Director of Operations, with a copy of any pre-training assignments given to the Unit Manager, as well as the agenda for the program. Include with this a cover letter addressed specifically to the supervisor about the importance of sending their Unit Manager prepared for the program.
This letter should also direct the supervisor to ask for any written action plans that the Unit Manager produces in the program.
Tip 2: Unit Managers’ Supervisors Should Observe the Management Training
Invite or require Franchisees, General Managers, and/or Directors of Operations to sit in and observe a Unit Manager training program delivered by the franchisor. While the content of the Unit Manager training program is not geared to upper management development, observing that training can be very eye-opening and grooms those individuals who supervise the Managers to be more effective coaches once their Managers return to their locations.
First, they become well acquainted with the content delivered in the program which requires reinforcement back on the job. Second, they gain the benefit of observing the trainer role-model how to address each topic, providing solid examples and approaches to getting key content across to Managers. This aids upper management during their follow-up coaching to use language and examples that echo content from the training program.
Note: When inviting or requiring Franchisees’ upper management attendance in these programs, it is important to emphasize the objective of their participation. They should be briefed beforehand that they should not answer questions posed to the class except if they have something additional to contribute once the Unit Managers have exhausted their comments. They are there primarily to observe, not fully participate, although a modicum of remarks from their perspective can be very useful.
Tip #3: Unit Managers Should Leave Training with an Action Plan
There is simply no more effective way to achieving goals than to begin by writing them down.
Require that Unit Managers self-assess at the end of any training program, and identify what areas they need to work on. Every Unit Manager should leave the program with a written action plan which they share with their direct supervisor that includes areas they wish to work on, goals they have for their location, and steps that they will be taking to achieve those goals. This provides a solid platform for supervisor/manager dialogue and alignment on business goals.
Tip #4: Provide a Follow-Up Report to the Unit Manager’s Supervisor and the Field Consultant
In addition to the Unit Manager identifying development areas and communicating them to their supervisor, the trainer should also communicate to Franchisees, GMs or Directors of Operations, the Unit Manager’s developmental areas that require follow-up coaching. While that may seem like a daunting task from the trainer’s point of view, it needn’t be. With a checklist in hand which ties to the class learning objectives, for each participant, a trainer should be able to check off poor, good and excellent proficiency observed. This should then be provided to the Unit Manager’s supervisor as well as the Field Consultant, who can follow up and confirm that weak areas have been addressed.
The investment in Unit Manager training includes the Franchisor’s investment in the development of the training program, training the trainer, the training materials, and possibly trainer travel and e-learning components. The investment for the Franchisee includes paying for additional coverage at the location while the Unit Manager is participating in training, plus the Manager’s salary and travel expenses. Last, the Unit Manager is committing a good deal of his or her time; serious examination of how the Manager is supported to apply what they have learned in training makes those investments worthwhile. Conversely, the absence of that support is likely to produce disappointing results.