Do fast casual franchisors need to rethink employee training under the NLRB cloud?

| by Tim Tang
Do fast casual franchisors need to rethink employee training under the NLRB cloud?

Fast casual restaurant franchisors and franchisees are trying to figure out how to deal with employee training in light of the National Labor Relations Board’s ) joint-employer ruling. The ruling has introduced a legal risk for franchisors regarding training, which is impacting their ability to deliver a consistent brand experience.  

The ruling made to reduce risk exposure for franchisors is causing these franchisors to pull back on their employee training mandates. Employee training has a profound impact on the brand image that franchisors need to protect, and the restaurant experience that customers expect, therefore reducing these training mandates could be detrimental.

One reason that franchisors are moving toward loosening their control on training is to avoid joint liability for employees with the franchisee. In order to cover themselves, they are utilizing third-party trainers for necessary certified training like ADA compliance or food handling safety, trusting that the franchisee will comply with all other training requirements on their own.

The cost of creating distance between franchisors and their employees comes with potential for erosion of a franchisor’s brand equity. Employees who are improperly trained can damage the brand experience profoundly with a single incident. And in this age of social media sharing, visibility of that incident can travel rapidly.  The setbacks of this ‘hands-off’ approach creates inconsistency.

The good news is that social technologies can also offer a solution. A new model for employee training is emerging in which franchisors can continue to drive training, without the liability exposure. Some progressive franchisors are creating training content and resources, that appeals to employees. The new training material is fun, compelling and easy to consume.

The model relies heavily on the latest social, mobile and networking technologies that millennial employees have come to expect. It’s largely powered by social engagement and micro-content.

Fast casual franchisors can boost engagement with this gamified approach to training.  Posted leaderboards may reward employees with special recognition and/or privileges.  In addition, automated virtual assistants, and social media channels, may link employees with each other as well as coaches and mentors. Social media also provides an effective platform for group discussions where employees can brainstorm collectively. User-generated content has demonstrated a powerful influence on employee behavior.

As fast casual restaurants are increasingly turning to fast wireless networks, mobile apps and digital tools to attract customers to their restaurants, the importance of a modernized employee training experience with dynamic rich media, creates for uniformity and stabilization.

Restaurants can also utilize live web polls over their WiFi networks, presenting a customer service scenario or other training simulation and then prompting the employees with answer choices on their mobile devices. Interactive quizzes can make testing enjoyable. As employees are rewarded digitally, self-directed learning can build confidence and self-esteem.

Technology, such as mobile devices, allows employees to spearhead their own training regimen by consuming on-demand video and interactive training content, when it works best for them. Employees feel more empowered because they are in control and the device platform is a modernized and easy-to-use.  

The new training model replaces long hours spent reading manuals and giving employees tests with semi-engaging content.  The key to driving employee performance is higher frequency exposure to shorter training assets.  

This new digital model also helps management by making it easier to track an employee’s participation, ensure compliance with corporate mandates, and communicate with employees in a more casual, online environment.

The NLRB ruling has created a false choice between franchisor liability and brand experience. Using a new networked, digitally driven, consumer model for employee training can turn employees into eager directors of their own professional development, without the risk imposed by the NLRB joint-ownership rules.

Topics: Staffing & Training

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