Should franchisors rethink employee training under the NLRB cloud?

| by Tim Tang
Should franchisors 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, which was created 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 using 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 the 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 create 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 appeal 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.

Franchisors can boost engagement with this gamified approach to training. Posted leader-boards can reward employees with special recognition or privileges, while automated virtual assistants and social media channels can 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 restaurants increasingly turn to fast wireless networks, mobile apps and digital tools to attract customers, the importance of a modernized employee training experience with dynamic rich media, creates uniformity and stabilization.

Restaurants can also use live web polls over their WiFi networks to present customer service scenarios or other training simulations and then prompt employees to answer questions about the scenarios from their mobile devices. Interactive quizzes can make testing fun and employees can be rewarded digitally. Self-directed learning can also build confidence and self-esteem.

Technology, like that availalbe via mobile device, allows employees to spearhead their own training regimen by consuming on-demand video and interactive training content at the times that work best for them. Employees feel more empowered through this venue because they are in control and the device platform is 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, while ensuring compliance with corporate mandates, and communicating 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: Human Resources, Staffing & Training, Systems / Technology

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