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NRA’s Javenkoski: Tech enables useful staff feedback

Text messages, video and audio podcasts, e-mail, social networks, blogs, microblogs, vodcasting, wikis, virtual worlds—technology today offers a vast array of methods to educate the workforce that are more affordable and easy to access. But the real advantage of that technology renaissance is that it offers a two-way street of communication, says Jim Javenkoski, director of enabling technologies for learning at National Restaurant Association Solutions, the Chicago-based educational arm of the NRA.

There is just so much going on with the Internet and telecommunications. How do operators or trainers even know where to begin?

The key to implementation is to really start someplace. There are a lot of technologies out there that are free or cost-effective, or an open source, or all of the above. But the technologies that enable learning aren’t the focal point; they are the enablers. It’s really about human beings and those who are in positions of leadership encouraging those in the workplace to contribute or share ideas and insights and constructive criticism.

We’ve heard of employees using the Internet to publicly trash their employers. How can employers discourage that?

The reality is people have conversations inside and outside the workplace. If they don’t have a real medium to offer constructive feedback and opinions and have them received and considered, frustration can build up in anyone, and they are likely to say something resentful.

What might be an example of using technology for feedback?

A restaurant manager could send out a text message to employees, a question of the week regarding food safety or some sort of professionalism topic, and invite responses back through text messages. It’s an appealing form to most of today’s young employees.… You’re not looking for answers; you’re looking for feedback and engaging people more.

What if you’re not using much technology now? Will you fall behind your competitors?

You have to look at what is the culture of your workplace now. What is the level of trust? What is the level of motivation, and what is the performance now? If you have a culture that is struggling for one or more reasons, you cannot throw technology at it. It all begins with leadership and having a thoughtful approach to learning in the workplace.

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