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Training in the foodservice industry: why it is important and how to integrate it throughout the winter

By: Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Due to the problematic lack of skilled workers in most commercial kitchens, regular training for employees is an inevitable task for restaurateurs. Here are some tips for how hospitality businesses can continue to integrate training, even during the busy and challenging winter period.

“Train. Assess, Track” is the website strapline for training and learning management software provider (LMS), Cloud Assess. Offering solution tailor-made for frontline workers, its CEO Rob Bright believes that, while the winter period brings challenges to multiple sectors, it is problematic for the foodservice and hospitality sector if operators overlook critical training during this busy period. The net result of that? An impact on job satisfaction, while new ‘temp’ staff are improperly trained, affecting business performance.

Bright advocates addressing this through effective training and upskilling – something employers should be prioritizing – while training can be seamlessly integrated into employee processes, ensuring businesses can train new employees and upskill existing staff without sacrificing the business’ available workforce.

Training new employees and upskill existing staff is very important

Image: AdobeStock | DPVUE .IMAGES

Has training been neglected?

On the question of whether the hospitality industry has lost sight of how important regular and/or recurring training is for their back of house/front of house teams, Rob Bright states, “the fact is, businesses that aren’t paid to do training directly will always have priorities conflicting between training and their core business, particularly in hard times. If a business is short-staffed for a day, it’s easier to cancel training rather than provide overtime to get all the priorities for the day completed (including training). This may not have a measurable impact after one or two occasions, however, continued de-prioritization of training will only worsen business performance when employees call in sick or are unable to work. It’s crucial, therefore, that a buffer of employees with multiple skills are trained to fill unexpected gaps”.

He also points out, that it’s important to remember that most businesses have a talent pipeline of employees progressively becoming more capable and reaping the rewards for this with increased compensation, benefits, and status. “If this pipeline is not tracked with a skills matrix or similar, making team skills visible or measurable, then decisions to defer training cannot be identified until the symptoms of these problems are already apparent in the business. Continued investment in the development of skills for a team is a leading indicator for future business health. It may not be the most urgent task compared to serving customers, but it is incredibly important for continued business health”.

It is important to train employees with multiple skills who are able to fill unexpected gaps

Image: AdobeStock | fizkes

The importance of training and continued learning and development

According to Bright, training is a vital part of a productive hospitality business, especially as so many hospitality services are facing skill shortages with a huge fight for talent within the sector. “Restaurants are having to get creative to attract talent, including signing-on bonuses and hiring students before even graduating. Not only this, but keeping existing employees engaged is now more important than ever in the face of the hiring crisis”, he says.

“Inevitably, investing in your talent pipeline may involve directing a minor amount of resource away from customers. However, those employers that demonstrate a heightened commitment to existing staff, will not only help boost employee loyalty, but also reduce the risk of staff turnover. It has been proven that those who feel that they have a clear career path stay at a company for longer. Not only this but many specialized roles within hospitality, such as chefs, need to have comprehensive training to excel in these roles. With this in mind, businesses must have a clear and effective onboarding process from the outset”, says Bright.

chefs, need to have comprehensive training to excel in specialized roles

Image: AdobeStock | Goinyk

Foodservice equipment supplier RATIONAL has also recognized the industry’s need and offers solutions such as application trainings or a training around the subject of finishing.

Integrating training in busy times

Winter and the festive season is an especially busy time for hospitality businesses and many foodservice businesses ask how they can continue to integrate critical training, even during such a busy period. It is therefore common sense that truly effective training is delivered little and often, meaning that workers have time to integrate worthwhile training, even in busy periods. If training is conducted all year round, when busy periods do arise, employees are prepared. Bright says, “short, bite-sized learning, also known as ‘micro-learning’” has huge practical advantages “for those who work in fast-paced, deskless industries”. Because of the short nature of these sessions, “they can be easily incorporated alongside an employee’s daily duties, as opposed to longer training sessions which require large chunks of time away from the shop floor. The benefit of spacing training in this manner also improves the retention of information by up to 30 %”, he says.

But training doesn’t always have to be face to face. “A digital approach to training, measurement, and assessment, makes it easier to integrate training as the time spent on admin tasks is reduced. With this additional time, resources can be utilized more effectively, for example, to deliver vital in-person training”, says Bright. This is, he suggests especially relevant over the busy Christmas period when employees are often busier and under considerably more time pressure.

Slipping training may impact efficiency, quality, and performance

So, what are the consequences of not focusing on training during this period? Bright offers a clear opinion on this key question. “The winter season is the busiest time of the year for most hospitality establishments and if employees are improperly trained, it puts unnecessary stress on their colleagues and themselves. This is extremely important in the hiring of temp staff during the winter period. Often untrained and inexperienced, the business’ onboarding process needs to be seamless, efficient, and comprehensive.

If employees are not properly trained, it means unnecessary stress for their colleagues and for themselves.

Image: AdobeStock | Prostock-studio

The additional challenge, therefore, is ensuring the available training is not only effective, but consistent across the entire business during a hiring period. A failure to do so, can result in a drop in business efficiency and performance, and even risk the health of the business’ workforce and overall compliance”.

The long-term effect this has on staff is significant. In fact, Mercer found that staff who feel undertrained are less satisfied in their role, which will lead to a high staff turnover and employees who are less engaged in their various roles.

Integrating training seamlessly

While training and continuous development is so imperative in this sector, one big question remains: how can training be seamlessly integrated into employee processes without sacrificing the business’ available workforce?

For Bright, recognizing training as a leading indicator for business health and prioritizing it every day alongside direct revenue-generating activities is essential. But he remarks that ultimately, effective training will require resource. “It may be possible to transfer knowledge remotely, but in an industry that depends on practical skills, it is virtually impossible to conduct effective training without having an impact on resource availability. Nonetheless, hospitality businesses can significantly improve the available resource by tailoring their training to their deskless workforce. Micro-learning is a great solution to avoid sacrificing a business’ available workforce as it offers spacing benefits and will reduce the need for long, time-consuming training sessions”, he says.

A further possibility is to integrate YouTube into the daily learning / training sessions of, for example, how to perfectly smoke meat in a combi-steamer.

In summary, training and skill development needs to be a part of everyone’s role. Once competency is achieved in any one skill, buddy system cultures can encourage a broader team in upskilling and generate higher employee engagement. It’s crucial to remember though that skills need to be tracked and visible, so even with buddy systems, all activity must be recorded and measured so the skills pipeline can be effectively managed.


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