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Pruning your training processes can make you lean and green

Pruning your training processes can make you lean and green

There are a lot of press, pundits and practitioners touting the importance of “green” and sustainable products and systems in the foodservice industry these days. Topics run the gamut from rooftop wind farms and energy-efficient utilities to idling cars in the drivethru lane and even biodegradable tableware.

Driven by our collective environmental conscience, potential cost savings, shareholder and crew demands, and enabling new technology, we’re making great strides in designing sustainable, even “green,” kitchens, menus, buildings, processes and equipment. But we’re long overdue in applying that same mind-set and initiative to the endemic waste and cost inefficiencies of foodservice training programs, materials and methods in this age of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Quick self-audit: Is your company still using paper and print materials to train or communicate with your team members? I don’t mean just training “manuals,” but also recipes, limited-time offers, reports and schedules? Do you bring franchisees and managers to your training? Do you send a trainer or trainers to them? Are you posting PowerPoint decks to your website and calling it “e-learning”? Do you maintain a dedicated training classroom at the home office that is used less than five days a month?

If you answered yes to all or most of the above, I think it’s appropriate to say: “Dude, It’s 2009. Are you serious?”

To enact greener, more sustainable learning in your company, a logical starting point is to assess the current architecture and physics of training and ask if there isn’t a better way.

Our training classrooms and formats are based on public-school education models that are extremely hierarchal and paternalistic in design. That is to say that the content is “created” by the brand, “taught” by the trainer and “consumed” by the trainee. The curriculum and materials are determined by the executive team and are uniformly paper-based and linear. That’s how people are taught, but is it the greenest and best way to learn? Here are few points to ponder as you consider how to create a greener training department:

Rethink the use of paper. The biggest expense in foodservice training today is undoubtedly the prolific amounts of paper we use in manuals, handouts, job descriptions, training guides, LTOs, recipes, etc. Water, energy, trees and landfill space are all saved when you minimize or eliminate paper use in your training programs. Transforming your current print materials into electronic versions is a smart first step, but don’t just post PDFs on your website requesting recipients to print it off on their end. This transfers cost but doesn’t make the process that much greener. Use e-mail to share documents with trainees and create a course-centric website for each topic that includes the specific materials related to the class and a forum to further discuss the topic and share experiences.

Reduce your carbon footprint. If you have a dedicated in-house training room where you educate trainees, team members or franchisees, what’s the cost of maintaining that training facility in airline tickets, gasoline, lights, heat, electricity, materials? Make it Energy Star-compliant; turn utilities and PCs off in the hours of nonuse and use compact fluorescent bulbs. Keep shades closed during summer in windowed classrooms and open on sunny days in the winter. Choose sustainable, versus disposable, products. For instance, use water coolers, versus water bottles, and replace disposable cups with ceramic mugs. Recycle all paper, nametags and aluminum cans. Use 100-percent recycled paper and rechargeable batteries.

Now ask yourself a bigger question: Why do I “bring” or “send” people to a training session anyway? Consider the cost and long-term return on investment. A greener and potentially more effective option is to bring the training to the student at the time of their choosing. E-learning certainly comes to mind as an option since it completely eliminates the need for a classroom in the first place, not to mention eliminating the expense of routinely printing and shipping training material updates.

E-learning programs must be designed carefully to make the best use of the medium. Remember, “form follows function,” and they must be delivered differently than traditional classroom training. You cannot merely throw a PowerPoint deck on a website with a voiceover narration and proclaim it “e-learning.”

Cut the astronomical cost of turnover. It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve. So the initial training product is instrumental for exciting, directing and retaining fresh new talent during the onboarding and orientation process. Training that fails to capture the imagination, passion and potential of talented new team members contributes to needless turnover. Why spend all that money recruiting and hiring “A” players if the orientation-training program disillusions them and a brain drain results? Getting green with equipment saves a pittance compared to what ROR, or return on retention, generates for a company.

Establish industry standards for green training. There’s an Energy Star rating for foodservice equipment, maybe it’s time to design and assign a similar grid to foodservice training programs. Ultimately, I am but one voice for the process, and hardly the ultimate authority. (I graduated in the half of the class that made the top half possible.) I would suggest that the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers might be the right group to tackle such an initiative. Who better to define and assess the industrywide criteria that characterize a green and sustainable training program than this awesome organization? In the meantime, look hard at your own company’s training programs, processes and materials and determine ways to do it greener and greater. Saving is the new spending.

The third edition of Jim Sullivan’s best-selling book “Multi-Unit Leadership: The 7 Stages of Building High-Performing Partnerships & Teams” is printed on recycled paper. Learn more .

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