One of the common fears of franchising a business is whether you will be able to convey to the different franchisees the values and characteristics that have made your brand a success.
John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s believes that the key to the success of his company has been that they have tried to “operate with small business mentality” since they see the business “as one store, repeated 4,800 times.”
Schnatter warns of the danger of getting “distracted by size and scale” when “you’re trying to grow your business”, and “lose sight of what made it successful in the first place”. So he believes that “to truly grow big, pass on the employees of each franchisee that small business mindset and teach them your brand values; you’ll set yourself apart from the competition, and the sky’s the limit.”
This small business mentality is a great concept for franchise owners to strive to maintain as they look to scale their business. The key to making this happen is through communication and training franchisees. From talking to our customers and researching what the best do, we’ve identified 5 elements that successful companies incorporate to improve their online training franchise programs.
1. Make sure your material is engaging
Glen Schwartz, director of global corporate communications at Dunkin Donuts, had a problem – a rather big one if you are director of communications. Materials sent from head office were not being read; training documents, product launch announcements, and messages from the CEO to franchisees. “We were lucky enough if they opened the memo,” explains Schwartz, “even luckier if they clicked on the link we sent them.”
This provoked concerns at the executive level, since “we need our employees and franchisees to know what is happening in the company” and “execute the vision of the company.” As a solution, Schwartz changed the communication method; he stopped relying on emails and began using a program to create more original and attractive content, such as 90-second corporate videos. As a result, the company had a substantial increase in the numbers of franchisees who consumed their learning content.
Rapid improvements in software and hardware are making it easier for companies to create engaging informational content. Videos can be shot with computers or even smart phones. There are lots of cost efficient cloud based online franchise training software offerings that allow you to create visual aids such as images, mind maps, and flowcharts. Quizzes are another useful way to engage and get interactive franchisees training.
Through the use of technology and digital tools, you can enrich employees’ training experience, as they did at Dunkin ‘Donuts. Keeping workers engaged during training helps to keep them engaged during work, delivering the results you need.
2. Be concise – keep it short and relevant
Don’t be fooled: the vast majority of employees don’t waste time reading those paper operations manuals with hundreds of pages. Time is money in working life, so the more productive, fast and efficient the training process is, the better. Franchise training courses should be long enough for learners to achieve the desired objectives – whether that’s franchisees learning about business methods and company values or employees learning about new work processes, product updates, or customer service requirements. However, online courses should be concise enough for learners to complete without fatigue setting in.
To combat this, make an effort to break up the key information into constituent parts. Make the learning modules shorter, as bite-sized learning can be more effective. Research suggests that between 15 and 30 minutes is the optimal time for franchising classes, whether it be face to face or e-learning.
Try to stick to this approach – whether your training topic is health and safety, brand guidelines or customer service process – short and to the point will be more effective every time.
3. Regular training is the most effective
Following on from the point above, if your training material is going to be concise and user-friendly, then limiting your franchisees to an initial training program outline is a poor idea. A study by Sales Readiness Group indicates that 80% of learning content is forgotten during the first 90-120 days. That means that placing too much emphasis on an induction program for franchisees will result in major knowledge gaps if you neglect adequate follow-up and reinforcement.
In addition, given the fast pace of change in even the most traditional of industries, it makes sense to be constantly informing staff about new product offerings, procedural improvements, and regulatory updates.
Joe DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven – a franchise with 56,600 locations – explains in this interview for BizJournals that “every two weeks” they contact each franchisee “to walk through different things we’re doing, different projects and initiatives, and case studies to help them grow and develop. Obviously, training and development are also ongoing with them all the time”.
So, prepare a calendar establishing the frequency with which you want to distribute online franchise training programs. In addition, whenever the company launches a new product or promotion, workers should be provided with up-to-date training materials.
4. Incorporate brand values in everything you do
Use and improve franchisee training to emphasize and embed your company values, no matter what the topic is.
All successful franchises have a brand value and ethos that makes them unique. In order to transition from a single unit self-run business to a large scale franchise operation, the core essence of the brand and ethos needs to live through all outlets and franchisees.
Online franchise training programs should have the brand ethos and company values hard-wired through them. Never miss out on an opportunity to let staff know what the expected approach and outlook to business should be.
This may require some creativity, but the benefits are worth it. Originality and inventiveness in the design of online courses is a plus; at Domino’s pizza, for example, they teach all employees how to make a pizza. CEO Patrick Doyle explains, “It does not matter if you’re an accountant, if you’re in marketing, if you’re in technology,” he says, because “you’re going to learn the basics, and you’re going to learn about how what you do day to day affects the stores”.
This type of approach establishes that everyone involved in the enterprise shares the same mission and avoids creating a divide between your corporate offices and the front line workers representing your business to customers.
5. Build in feedback for staff and trainers
Andrew J. Sherman, a partner at Jones Day International and a specialist in legal and strategic issues affecting small and growing businesses, says that franchises that “develop and improve franchise training programs and conduct periodic mandatory store operations performance audits will enjoy a much healthier franchise system. Try to install a “what gets measured gets managed” philosophy with each of your franchisees”.
But this is only part of the approach. If you conduct training with some element of assessment as recommended, it’s important to give feedback to the employees. By offering feedback to your franchisees, you can give them the guidelines to ensure that any recurring training issues are eliminated and thereby help to offer a consistent experience in all the premises where your franchise brand operates.
A bonus benefit: the more data you have on the workers’ performance, the more effectively you can design and improve online franchise training materials and this will lead to an overall improvement in the process. Through periodic evaluations, you can identify those points where employees have more difficulty understanding and require reinforcement in subsequent programs.
Some closing thoughts…
Following the advice above should help you design and create better material to improve online franchise training. At GoConqr, we make it easy for franchisors to create and distribute engaging learning content. Whether you use online tools to communicate or not, bear in mind the following when considering the best approach for training your franchisees.
- Transmit brand values: beyond providing basic information about the company and each employee’s functions, the most important thing is to be able to transmit to the franchisees the distinctive values by which the brand differs from the competition in the sector. The ultimate goal is that all franchisees offer homogeneous and consistent experiences to customers.
- Fluid communication flow: limiting yourself to initial training is not enough in a franchise… To develop successfully, you must encourage continuous communication with franchisees. Always look to offer advice to each one about any questions they may have about the company’s brand and conduct periodic evaluations
If you have any questions or if you are interested in some of the tools we have mentioned, do not hesitate to contact our team.