KFC's new training reality: Technology fit to the global market

| by S.A. Whitehead
KFC's new training reality: Technology fit to the global market

In Russia, KFC is testing AR goggles to teach workers the intracacies of their jobs. Photo: KFC

With 300,000 employees in more than 130 countries, it's safe to say that KFC has its work cut out for it when matching training technologies to the many nations and cultures the brand operates in globally. Workforce demographics vary widely from country to country, along with preferred ways of communication, available technologies and even overall income levels. 

That's why KFC Global Chief Digital Officer Ryan Ostrom said the company works so hard to match the right technology to the needs and characteristics of the cultures in which the chicken chain operates. So, whereas the chain is now testing voice-activated training technologies in U.S. stores, as QSRweb covered Wednesday, in Russia that country's younger workforce needed another solution more in sync with their habits and preferences. Likewise, an entirely different solution is being used in Australia, built around Yammer and designed for the characteristics of that nation's workers.  

"When you train all the employees on the processes the same way, the customer experience improves because the product comes out more consistent."               

- KFC CDO Ryan Ostrom

But the bottom line with all of these solutions is that their high-tech approach is accomplishing training for the brand in a much more efficient, user-friendly manner that is vastly reducing the time it takes employees to reach confident on-the-job performance, Ostrom said. In this second and final part of our interview with him, he shares some of the brand's international training technologies, as well as how they work hand-in-hand with one-on-one mentoring to accomplish a critical daily need in the QSR sector's job-hopping-prone workforce.  

Q: The list of technologies KFC has deployed is a lengthy one, so why has the brand opted to lean so heavily on tech as a solution to this problem so prevalent across the QSR sector? 
A:
With our franchisees, there's lot of concern about turnover and the cost of retraining employees, but what we're seeing with these new tools — including the use of voice (training) in the U.S. — is that our employees are more confident in how they're handling their jobs, and that will help them stay longer and reduce turnover rates.

Q: On an international level then, how is KFC rolling out technology to train specific nation's workforces at your stores?

A:We're in about 130-plus countries, so we're a big global brand that people often don't realize that about and what we do is we test for these (technology based training) solutions around the world. Like Russia is one of our fastest growing markets, and when you look at the average age (of Russian KFC workers), it's anywhere between 16 and 20 years old for the average team member there, so they're young. 

So at end of day, we're trying to figure out newer ways and more modern ways to drive that real-time training, and what we executed and are testing in Russia in all stores is a QR code execution where all their procedures, devices and equipment back-of-house have QR codes attached, and employees can then use their own cell phones to quickly get video content of how that machine works or how the process goes to use that machine. 

Q: What kind of feedback have you received since launching the tests there?
A:
We've been in place over a month now and the feedback has been very similar to that for our voice training (being tested in the U.S. now). It's just easier to use and it's easier to train, and really it's to the point where it's making our product more consistent throughout the country. 

When you train all the employees on the processes the same way, the customer experience improves because the product comes out more consistent. So that legendary original recipe with 11 herbs and spices has been consistent with all our customers throughout Russia as we execute our training. 

Q: Can you provide an example of another country where you're employing an alternate technology based method to train employees?
A:
Australia has done an amazing job, where they're taking Yammer —which has mainly been used as an internal executive tool and cross-market communication tool — down to the store level. ... When you consider that 80 percent of our team members will be millennials by 2020 and you think about their everyday use of social media and how they engage with it, we wanted to really bring that to the store level. And (Australian KFC stores) have executed that approach in everything from things like Friendly Fridays to competitions on speed. 

(Australian stores' use of Yammer) also allows the stores to communicate in real time among themselves to get insight and advice throughout the day and on new products. It has really just transformed the business because before those questions had to go to the corporate level, but now they talk amongst themselves and they're able to learn from each other on a platform that is more modern and easier to use. 

It allows the team members to talk in their own language and learn from each other. We firmly believe that the customer experience cannot exceed the employee experience, so the better we can execute this ongoing training and help them work with each other, the better impact we have with our customers and in all our business. 

"I think the only drawback we really have is the transformation of our business to really want to test more. I think historically within a QSR business, testing has been a very long process, where we test for months and years before we decide to roll something out. But in the modern world of digital technology, it's about speed to market."                                           -Ryan Ostrom

Q: I know there are other initiatives we won't be able to touch on today, but overall, what would you say are the top three benefits KFC is realizing thus far through the use of technology for onboarding, training and even workforce management?

A:Well, one of them is faster experiences. So, if that's with training, what used to take a longer time to educate our employees is now reduced. 

Second is ease of access. Technology allows people to look at information on their own time and they can use mobile devices and other options to do that back-of-house. 

Then finally, the more we're able to introduce technology, I think the more we're able to save money throughout the organization because we're doing things that much faster and employees are able to train themselves better, so turnover should ultimately be reduced at end of day.

Q: How will the company gauge whether these initiatives are working? 
A:
We have different measurement tools we use around the world, but customer satisfaction is ultimately our end goal. So the more that we create that consistent product, the more we make the customers happy and our satisfaction ratings go up. It's really all driven by the employee's ability to create that consistent experience and consistent product. 

Q: Once a particular training technology is in place systemwide, how long does it take to register on the dial that it is or isn't affecting customer satisfaction?
A:
I don't have that answer, but I think that because this space is moving at such speed — technology — it can range, based on the solution. ... The only comparison I really have to make to that is if you look on the customer facing side on delivery impact and ease, those take weeks to show up because they're new streams of business. On employee side, with training, it takes a little bit longer because that has to filter through the organization until that consistency happens and we start seeing results. 

Q: What kinds of drawbacks are there in implementing these technologies to training? 
A:
I think the only drawback we really have is the transformation of our business to really want to test more. I think historically within a QSR business, testing has been a very long process, where we test for months and years before we decide to roll something out. 

But in the modern world of digital technology, it's about speed to market. I think the challenge then really is how do we test faster and roll out more globally with a speed-to-market kind of solution. I think there's opportunity there too with that speed to roll-out in testing. 

Q: Finally, I wonder is there still a place in this high-tech training landscape for one-on-one teaching? 
A:
I think there's always going to be a place for one-to-one training because everyone has mentors and people who continue to help us grow. So that's going to be the place for it — in our stores, in our corporate headquarters, it's in all aspects of our lives. And I think that relationship is who we are at the core of KFC. ...  I think that balance between one-on-one training and using technology to teach faster and quicker — that balance between those is something we're really going to strive for. 

Photos: Provided


Topics: Back Office, Business Strategy and Profitability, Chicken, Communications, Equipment & Supplies, Human Resources, International, Online / Mobile / Social, Staffing & Training, Systems / Technology, Workforce Management



S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.


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