If you think it's tough hiring and retaining employees now, apparently it will only get tougher.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association, industry-wide growth over the next 10 years will force restaurateurs in the United States to hire 1.8 million hourly employees — plus 180,000 new managers to lead them.
Not only does Domino's Pizza expect to find itself in the thick of that grow-and-hire mode, it's hard at work now figuring out how to extend the stay of its current staff, let alone future troops.
"After a lot of work around improving our culture ... and focusing on training, our general manager turnover is down to 31 percent," she said. "But we want it lower than that."
It expects to shrink that number further with a new e-learning initiative rolled out in January called Star Talent University. Working in conjunction with the NRA's Educational Foundation and Harvard Business School Publishing's Harvard ManageMentor Plus program, Domino's developed a self-paced educational curriculum now available via its intranet to all full-time corporate store employees.
While Star Talent University does provide Domino's "team members" instruction on every aspect of running a pizzeria, it carries a strong emphasis on the non-operational aspects of running a pizza store, things Wilmot called the "soft skills" of dealing effectively with people.
Holly Fasano, corporate account manager for HBSP and the point person on Domino's program, said the NRAEF sought its help years ago to address the restaurant industry's turnover woes from the top down. High on its list of goals was improving staff interaction in the foodservice workplace, especially management-initiated interaction. Domino's program has the same goal and addresses 37 topics tied to key management issues.
The chain's complete program is available 24/7, which means greatly reduced costs for travel-related training, plus the chance for employees to self-educate at their own pace. The hoped-for result: better people skills, better performance, longer retention.
Still, despite all the gee-wizardry of an online training system, Wilmot said the company knows that real-life, side-by-side human interaction is the core of any sound training plan.
"This will never, ever take the place of hands-on learning and training," she said. "To me, there's nothing more exciting than going into the classroom for one-on-one attention, so we'll always do that. ... And we know that the best way to teach someone to make a pizza the right way is to show them ourselves."
Domino's isn't the first pizza company to partner with the NRAEF's Leadership & Management Program. Harry Bond, president of 55-unit Monical's Pizza, in Bradley, Ill., not only implemented a similar program at his chain two years ago, he helped NRAEF design its overall package. (Read more on Bond's people first initiatives in Who's Who: Harry Bond.) According to NRAEF's Jessica Wion, at last report, Monical's store-level general manager turnover was an amazing 7 percent in 2004. In 2003, at the company's 35 corporate units, there was no general manager turnover.
HBSP's Fasano said restaurant industry customers using ManageMentor Plus-centered programs are reporting "improved customer service and satisfaction, more satisfied employees and lower turnover rates." And Wion said such success stories prove the restaurant industry can reduce turnover when it focuses on
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What they need to accomplish that is increased coaching on the finer points of leadership. All three women said that while many employees seeking a move into management have tremendous operational expertise, they lack the skills to manage and motivate subordinates effectively. What's worse, those employees' bosses often lack those same skills, which perpetuates the cycle of ignorance.
Combining the broad business knowledge base from HBSP with NRAEF's restaurant-specific requirements was essential to creating a program that worked not for general businesses, but for foodservice operators, Wion said. In the case of Domino's, HBSP's business expertise was blended with NRAEF's restaurant industry knowledge and implementation guidelines, all of which were then tweaked to meet the pizza chain's specific wishes.
"It was tailored to look as if it was written for Domino's pizza," said Wilmot. "Harvard Business Publishing did a lot of research to bring this to the restaurant level. ... So when our managers pull up a performance appraisal (template), it's written in our words."
Domino's Star Talent University curriculum is broken down into four "schools":
* The School of Business (company objectives and how to measure them, diversity guidelines)
* The School of Leadership (managing and guiding employees)
* The School of Technology (how to use software, like Microsoft Excel, POS instructions)
* The School of Operations (food production procedures, OSHA safety procedures)
Via computer, team members can seek and find specific subjects on which they need more information, point and
After a lot of work around improving our culture ... and focusing on training, our general manager turnover is down to 31 percent. But we want it lower than that.
— Patti Wilmot,
Topic-specific chat rooms are available for group e-discussions, and the entire program is available in Spanish.
The program comes at a cost, however: $249 per licensed employee.
Sound steep? Not, really, said Domino's company spokesman Tim McIntyre. When compared to the traditional costs associated with training — travel, meeting space rental, hotels, food, downtime, etc. — the cost of e-training is very favorable.
According to an NRAEF news release, 300 Domino's team members have taken Star Talent University courses since its launch. Wilmot said the company is eager to begin tracking Star Talent University's effectiveness, but she thinks at least a year must pass before results are measurable. Employee evaluations will be key, she said, to showing improvement.
"I do know this much: When you invest in your team members, it improves morale," she said. "And when you do that, you get a better culture and people want to come here and stay here."