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By: Dr. John T. Self

Training New Employees

Do you remember how important training was to your first management position? Was it a rigorous, whirlwind process? Do remember what it felt like to be "anointed" as an assistant manager for the first time, feeling the full weight of responsibility on your shoulders?

The same is true of new employees. For many it will be their first job, their first independent earnings, the first time their parents can't be there to help them. This is a huge step for many young people.

Since training really determines the level of service and quality standards of the restaurant, there are a number of important issues that you need to consider:

  • Training must be the "real deal". Service is like software; and just like the old saying "garbage in, garbage out", the same is true for training. If your training is bad, your employees will be bad. Take a hard look at your trainers. Not just at the people themselves, but at their training techniques. Are they teaching the correct way, or are they training the way it "actually works"? If the way it "actually works" is the best way, why not make that the way it is trained? Otherwise, get your trainers back to the right way.

  • Training is a time to be very Zen. All trainees, including manager trainees - especially manager trainees - should begin training with an "empty" mind. Too many trainees go into training trying to impress their trainers and managers with answers. They must go into it with the mindset that they will learn, not that they already know everything. They'll be amazed what they'll pick or remember. If all else fails, tell them this--This is the ONLY time in their careers that they are NOT expected to have the answers. Encourage them to ask questions.

  • New managers especially must be empathetic to high school or college students who are getting their first jobs. If they've never held a job before, they have no way of knowing what the expectations are in your workplace. Be patient. Train them thoroughly from the start, and you'll get excellent employees with great attitudes who will be there for years to come.

  • Don't forget to follow-up your training sessions to make sure your training "sticks". Avoid being punitive with your follow-ups: "Punishing" employees can backfire, encouraging them to hide their behavior from you if they can. Correct in a positive way. Remember that no one goes to work to try and do a bad job.
Your training sets the standard for excellence or mediocrity. Which will it be for your employees?

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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