Building First Time Manager Talent

I will always remember the wisdom of a highly experienced multi-unit Supercuts franchisee who said that the next most influential factor in a unit’s success after location, was the effectiveness of his store manager. In fact he could site what appeared to be paradoxical success among the stores he owned; some “B” locations outperformed “A” locations. Why? Because the managers at the “B” locations were well trained, experienced and great at their jobs. They were very strong in coaching and developing others. I couldn’t have made a better case for management training – and management training was my responsibility at the corporate office in those days!

Fortunately Supercuts invested heavily in management training at the time; classroom training delivered regionally with pre-training assignments, written trainer feedback to the franchisee about follow up needs and field staff mentoring. This meant the franchisor invested in train the trainer programs, orchestrating locations and materials for the training and at times incurring the cost for trainer travel to some markets. Additionally, franchisees paid for manager time and potentially travel to the training program. Classroom training is a costly affair and thankfully, the digital age has brought many cost savings with it, especially distance learning methods such as webinars and e-learning.

Even with far less expensive training methods to reduce the time and cost of classroom training, I am always surprised when I learn of mature franchisors that have not formalized a process to develop unit management. Consider that the location manager oversees service or product quality and delivery, employee recruitment, hiring, training and supervision, inventory management, and safety and security of customers and staff. All of these areas relate to growing volume and a healthy bottom line, yet it’s very common that the person in the position has been promoted from within and is managing for the first time!

1. When Should a Franchisor Formalize Management Training?

Even as a franchise system is just launching, there are training tools that franchisors can put in the hands of franchisees so they can focus on developing their managers. These include training checklists for the franchisee to use with prospective and new managers as well as a bibliography of books that address customer service and coaching employees. These tools should be introduced to new franchisees when they come through their own training and appropriate attention should be put on their use.

More substance and sophistication can be added as the system grows: webinars, e-learning, classroom training and a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows for the tracking of each employees progress in completing training modules can be developed as the franchise system grows and can afford the infrastructure. Until then, even simple approaches such as management training checklists can be considered a “certification program” by making it a requirement that a quiz be completed and placed in the manager’s file for review by a field representative when he or she visits a location.

2. What Topics are Important for First Time Managers?

As with developing any training program, start by examining the job description. What are the tasks a manager spends most of their time doing and what are the activities that produce the greatest results for the business? If efficient scheduling has a dramatic impact on the bottom line, then that training module should be developed as soon as possible. Likewise inventory management, waste management, etc. may be top priorities. Interpersonal communication skills are almost always part of a core training program. The ability to listen effectively, respond non-judgmentally and provide feedback to others is essential since customer interactions and employee supervision rest on the managers’ abilities in this area.

3. What’s the Best Training Approach for First Time Managers?

Think “blended learning”. This refers to using multiple methods of training rather than just one. Some topics are more suited to the use of webinars while others require the interaction of a classroom. For example providing screenshots of POS screens and reviewing how to produce management reports can easily be accomplished in a webinar. Practice applying newly learned interpersonal skills such as giving an employee feedback to change their behavior, is a topic best addressed in a classroom setting using case studies and role plays.

Franchisees juggle many balls and often either can’t make the time or don’t have the training skills to develop their management teams. Given this reality, it behooves franchisors to start and continually evolve their training programs aimed at first time managers.