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When Franchise Training Needs a Makeover

changes training program

Marla Rosner, Senior Training Consultant, MSA Worldwide

Commitment to continuous improvement is essential to business success. In the area of training new franchisees, while it’s easy to “fix” a slide here or a handout there, a periodic examination of the whole program is important to support new franchisees’ launch. But how do you know when it’s time?

Consider the rapidity of your system’s evolution. If you have announced multiple new processes, procedures, or programs to your existing franchisees, it will be critical to modify content for new franchisee training. That is the easy part. What can be more challenging is uncovering ways in which the system training either overloads franchisees with information they can’t absorb in the timeframe and manner provided, or fails to use the best training methods for particular content.

Whether you have already made a commitment to revamp your program, or whether you are only beginning to analyze whether the time is ripe to do so, don’t analyze from the ivory tower. Consider the following approaches to getting a 360-degree perspective on what needs improvement:

1. Call Franchisees

Call up franchisees who have completed training in the last six to twelve months. Plan out questions to ask about what they struggled with when they launched their location. Ask specific questions about how particular training topics were handled, e.g., “How effective was the role playing of sales calls?” or “How did the POS training serve you?” as well as broader, more open-ended questions such as “What suggestions do you have to improve the training program for future franchisees?” Expect that franchisees who have “graduated” from training more than a couple months prior may not remember details without prompting. Have the training schedule and topics in hand to prompt their memory.

If you suspect franchisees may be reluctant to share negative comments for fear of hurting feelings or ruffling feathers, consider having a third party make the calls. Alternatively, send a survey to franchisees with your questions. Know, however, that survey responses may be less timely and may be ignored unless there are compelling incentives to participate.

2. Involve Field Staff

As your eyes and ears in the field, and boots on the ground during a location’s opening, field staff are especially valuable sources of feedback about the training that has preceded their opening assistance. They are often required to backfill knowledge or skill development that was either missed during prior training or that didn’t sink in. Debriefing with each field trainer who provides on-site assistance during location openings should provide very useful information about what is and isn’t working about training leading up to the launch of a new location.

3. Avoid Classic Pitfalls

Pitfall #1: Cramming

Typical complaints about franchise training relate to the volume of information crammed into a series of days at the company office. If your program days are overly packed and lecture-oriented, expect issues with retention and application when the location opens. Ask not “Did we cover everything?” but “Did we cover crucial information that was ‘consumable’ by the franchisee?” You can feed people a banquet, but if they are full after the initial salad, soup and appetizer, how will they digest the main course?

Solutions: Best practices in franchise training include both pre- and post-training modules. These can range from simple – such  as conference calls – to complex, such as a fully-developed eLearning curricula. Consider which topics truly require face-to-face or on-site learning? If a topic isn’t on that list, ask yourself how else it can be conveyed, and how much instructor/ learner interaction needs to take place.

While system manuals are required reading, examine how such reading is assigned. If franchisees are required to read a 200-page manual before coming to training, the likelihood of their retaining the material isn’t great. If, on the other hand, “bite sized” reading assignments are associated with online webinars, eLearning and quizzes, as well as relevant in-store and hands-on training, the material is far more likely to sink in.

Pitfall #2: PowerPoint Poisoning

 Though not a new concept, “PowerPoint poisoning” is still quite common. Too many presenters have come to think of “slides” as the main output for a classroom presentation; their verbal points reiterated on screen and printed as training material for participants to view later. Often, thinking “more is better,” presenters jam the screen with excessive content that can barely be made out by learners. These types of presentations undermine knowledge absorption by franchisees.

Solution: While bullet points have their place (no more than 7 to a slide), presenters in training programs should enliven and professionalize their PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations with photos, illustrations, charts, etc., to illustrate their verbal points, not simply reiterate them. Two great books on this topic are Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo.

Pitfall #3: Your subject matter expert isn’t a great presenter

It’s common to bring in multiple presenters in a franchise training program, in order to address a variety of topics including different aspects of operations, marketing, and financial management. When listening to presenters who lack a coherent presentation or who have a lackluster style, learners become confused or “check out.”

If you don’t have skilled trainers on your staff who can conduct presentation skills training, send the individual to a program to learn these skills. Alternatively, if there are multiple people on your team who need to polish their presentation skills, bring a trainer into your office and have several people trained at once. This is a great investment not only for franchise training, but also for conventions, discovery days, and board presentations.

Summary

The best franchise training programs utilize multiple training methods, spread out the delivery of training topics over time, provide clear and easy-to-consume material, and utilize engaging presenters. The benefits of improved franchisee launches and performance make a commitment to regular training program tune-ups crucial to a successful franchise system.