In industries with traditionally high turnover rates, such as quick-service restaurants and retail, it is exceptionally important for companies to prioritize their employee development initiatives and to guide employees towards management and growth tracks. Companies that make employee development an inherent part of their brand message to their employees often reap the benefits of reduced turnover and increased employee motivation. After all, giving employees the opportunity to improve their skills and move up in the company increases both their confidence and loyalty. This increased focus on developing and promoting employee training programs is rapidly becoming a standard in many industries; in fact, according to a 2014 Restaurant Briefing report, 69 percent of QSRs planned to devote more resources to training that year.1 It's vital that companies make these retention programs a major part of their HR strategy, effectively communicate the benefits of these program, and make it easy for employees to access them.

Create a Culture of Employee Development

Employee development programs can be more than just a tool promote hourly employees, they can be a major differentiator in recruiting and retaining top talent. This starts with creating a culture that prioritizes training and development. While it's key for top executives in your company to champion and support these programs, an employee development  program will only really be successful when all employees are invested.

One way to help build this culture of employee development is to focus on soft skills training. Soft skills, such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal communication, can key for employees at every level to develop. These can be emphasized and developed through cross-functional workshops with different departments and levels in your organization, with each workshop focusing on building a different soft skill. Making this a holistic training exercise can help foster a team environment and create excitement towards employee development across this company.

Additionally, it's important to not only establish a management training program, but to have a clear pathway laid out with expectations for employee advancement as they complete the program. Employees that see their peers advance through management training initiatives are more likely to buy-in to the value of these programs themselves and their company's commitment to follow through on the importance of internal development. Chipotle is a prime example of this, as the burrito chain has established a clear path for employee to progress all the way up to restaurant owner and promotes 96% of hourly managers internally each year2.  

Start the Conversation

It's important that all employees, from hourly workers to shift managers to even executives, are made aware of employee development opportunities throughout their tenure with the company. Consider the following scenarios as opportunities to communicate employee development programs:

  • Pre-hire. This should be one of the major points highlighted in the job interview. Doing so not only educates the candidate, but it helps recruiters identify an interviewee's long-term goals. Simply having the conversation can lead to hiring more motivated hires for your team.
  • Employee onboarding. During the onboarding process, remind employees of the potential to grow within the company and lay out their path to advancement. Delivering information of company programs gives new hires a sense of security, hope and vision of their future with your company.
  • Annual reviews. Discussing managerial programs during performance reviews is a great way to provide positive reinforcement and coaching. Present your company's programs as a reward for leadership qualities and acknowledge an employee's growth potential. Employees are likely to work harder if opportunities for career improvement are expressed.
  • Employee training. Employee training, be it for new-hires or tenured associates, always presents a great opportunity for a refresher course on company-sponsored management programs. Take this opportunity to not only educate employees on processes but also the managerial programs that can improve their career.

Ease of Access

Even if employees are aware of a company's programs, they may be unaware of how to apply for them. Make it easy for employees by putting together informational packets containing everything they need to know to apply. Include a pamphlet that describes the program, contact information for program leads and one-sheets that outline any prerequisites for admission. Make sure all application steps are clearly listed and defined and that shift managers are equally prepared to any questions their employees may have. These materials should also be made available on your company's internal communication platform and in break rooms.

There's no doubt employee development and management training programs benefit companies in various ways. For employees, it means increased motivation and a path to financial security. For businesses, placing an emphasis on employee development can attract and retain top talent - in turn reducing turnover and increasing employee satisfaction.  While proper implementation is a major part of success, ultimately making employee retention and development a major part of your company culture is what defines the most successful employee development programs.

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) Restaurant Briefing March/April 2014 (2) How Chipotle Transformed Itself by Upending its Approach to Management