A huge amount of attention is dedicated to getting franchisees up to speed but how should their own staff be trained?
Regardless of how you look at it, effective training is absolutely essential when it comes to ensuring a company remains commercially viable. “If you’ve got someone representing your business and they’re not doing it properly, that risks everything,” says Richard Dancy, senior marketing manager at Barking Mad, the dog-boarding franchise. But whilst this can cause problems for any business, it has much wider ramifications for a franchise. As they’re operating under the same brand, substandard training of one franchisee’s staff can actually negatively impact the livelihoods of all members of the network. “If a consumer forms their opinion on a bad experience they have in one location then in their eyes that’ll tarnish the brand across the rest of the country,” he says.
In light of this, it’s hardly surprising that many franchisors take an active interest in the training of franchisees’ staff. “We try to undertake induction training for franchisees’ staff at a head-office level so we get all of the basics absolutely right,” says Rik Hellewell, managing director of Ovenu, the oven-cleaning franchise. Not only does this allow the franchisor to ensure its franchisees’ employees are given comprehensive training on how to carry out their day-to-day responsibilities but it also guarantees franchisees and their staff are singing from the same hymn sheet. “The training is absolutely identical to what a franchisee would receive,” he continues. “That means that when the contractor returns to their territory, the franchisee knows that they’ve gone through exactly the same process as they themselves did a few years before.”
Head-office training isn’t the only resource available to franchisees when looking to train new staff. “Often the training has already been given to the franchisee, so it will be outlined in the operations manual,” says Dancy. “How that’s used is a whole different question however.” Given that the operations manual can often be a rather hefty tome, simply sitting employees down to read it from cover to cover is hardly likely to lead to a effectively trained workforce. “The skill is how to communicate it in the best way to ensure things run as smoothly as possible: that means you actively need to train people, rather than just getting them to refer to the operations manual,” he says.
But while face-to-face and paper-based processes have their place, it’s important to remember that these analogue tools aren’t the only way for franchises to train frontline staff. “It’s the modern age,” says Luke Hutchings, employment solicitor and partner at Taylor Rose TTKW, the specialists in commercial, finance and business law. “The days where people need to physically come and visit are over.”
Whether it’s conducting sessions via Skype or running refresher courses through their websites, increasing numbers of franchisors are embracing tech to help bolster the training of franchisees’ staff. For example, Ovenu has an internal CRM that allows all its stakeholders to gain access to any training materials they may require. “It’s all a cloud-based system where the contractors and the franchisees can find the relevant help, support and ongoing training,” Hellewell says.
One last factor that can help ensure that employees are trained consistently is the judicious use of accreditations – Ovenu for example trains all staff to the ISO 9001:2008 standard that governs quality management systems. “Having accreditations like the ISO in place teaches franchisors and franchisees how to run, manage and administer systems to make sure that everything is getting done in a truly uniform way,” says Hellewell. Ensuring things are being handled in both a consistent and compliant manner network-wide can certainly give franchisors some peace of mind, especially when operating in sectors like food preparation or cleaning where having exacting standards plays an important role in protecting consumers. “Although these accreditations might have a nominal reaccreditation fee every year of a few hundred pounds, you should see that as money well spent,” he says.
With the franchisor providing so many resources for their franchisees, one might be forgiven for thinking that setting the agenda for staff training is solely the domain of the franchisor. But in reality things aren’t quite this straightforward. For example, while Ovenu has a very prescriptive approach for frontline staff carrying out valeting work, when it comes to other business functions franchisees are more able to stamp their own mark on the training they provide their staff. “When it comes to things like advertising, marketing, promotions and PR, we give franchisees a little more free reign to put their own personality into the business,” says Hellewell.
In fact, it’s worth remembering that many franchisees will be bringing with them a whole host of supplementary skills from other sectors. “Some people who decide to open a franchised business are very experienced and have had long careers in other fields,” Hutchings says. This means that wherever possible franchisors should be looking to embrace the innovations franchisees have hit upon for training staff and roll them out across the network. “The most successful franchises are going to be the ones that really see the value in the individual franchisees and actually use what they say,” he says. “They will adapt and try to get the best out of these ideas for the future.”
But this doesn’t mean that franchisees should just be given carte blanche to train staff without any oversight. In fact, it’s vital that franchisors introduce some checks and balances to ensure that staff training is up to snuff. “There’s a good deal of flexibility in how these are put in place,” says Hellewell. Whether they rely on mystery shoppers, online satisfaction surveys, self-reporting or social-media analysis, there are plenty of ways for franchisors to ensure front-line staff are appropriately trained. “The most important thing is to make sure you’re doing something,” Hellewall says.
And if franchisors identify areas where frontline staff don’t quite meet their expectations, Hutchings recommends this is first addressed in the regular meetings they have with the franchisee. “The next step would be perhaps informally offering mentoring or guidance,” he says. “Experienced people can coach junior people and get them to start good habits.” In cases where there are more severe or chronic issues, he believes that franchisors should take things down a more formal route and utilise their existing performance-management process. “A franchisor and franchisee should have a procedure by which they can set improvment targets that are bespoke to each individual,” he says.
Ultimately, perhaps the most important thing is to view the training of staff as an ongoing commitment, rather than as a patch and fix. “Franchisee staff training should be made available by the franchisor regularly,” says Dancy. While this may result in higher costs for both parties, ensuring all staff across a franchise are operating at their best is worth the investment. “You might not see the return immediately but making sure that you’re not cutting corners on staff is really important,” he concludes.