In Part 1 of this three-part series, I talked about the importance of selecting a learning management system (LMS) that is easy to use, not only for learners, but also for managers and administrators. In Part 2, I shared the hidden dangers of non-learning feature creep when selecting and LMS, especially with attention span of learners on the decline. In this article, I’m going to share a set of hospitality-specific features that can really enhance productivity in a restaurant or hotel environment.
In addition to scrutinizing the relative importance of ease-of-use and non-learning feature creep, it’s even more crucial to consider how the system is designed and whether it has the functionality on the back end for what you are trying to accomplish. Many large systems have been designed primarily for other vertical markets or for white collar professionals. The functionality in such systems is often lacking in terms of what restaurants are seeking (and sometimes they don’t know this until long after the ink is dry on the contract). Generally, the more hospitality-specific functionality, the better off you’ll be when the time comes to deploy the system. Therefore, do your best to keep evaluation teams focused on your needs, and carefully examine whether a system has the functionality necessary to fully live up to what you are trying to do.
For example, the first article in this series talked about Conditional Learning Programs, which allow you to customize the learning experience for different regions, franchisees, specific brands or other criteria that dictate unique training requirements. This feature addresses a problem that restaurants have which may not be as common in corporate environments. Likewise, here are several other LMS features to look for that provide unique functionality that is particularly useful to restaurants and hotels.
1. Certification Tracking
Hospitality businesses must adhere to numerous federal, state and local regulations, many of which require certifications that need to be tracked in different programs across their organization. Whether for food safety, OSHA, harassment, allergen safety, PCI compliance or other certifications, keeping track of who is up-to-date on which programs when they’re all managed through disparate systems is nearly impossible. Certification tracking is a unique LMS feature that handles all of this automatically. It includes the ability for learners to input their certification numbers, settings for recurring training and manager sign-off, as well as detailed reporting.
Many restaurant chains use printed workbooks to track progress of lengthy learning and development initiatives, such as Manager-in-Training (MIT) programs. These are great tools to use in a blended learning environment, where some of the training is done online, and other parts are done in classrooms, on-the-job, or as practice activities. Bringing this concept online, virtual workbooks allow you to track all of this offline training activity within your LMS, along with associated e-learning courses and exams. They combine multiple checklists organized by competency, and can include the ability to comment on tasks and require manager sign-off.
3. Wait Time
Speaking of blended learning, it’s a great idea, but can be tough to implement at the store level once managers get used to the convenience of e-learning. It can be very tempting for them to sit a new employee down in front of the computer for days on end to get all of their required training done up front. But this is a terrible way to train employees and, in my opinion, an unfortunate abuse of e-learning in a hospitality environment. Using the power of prerequisites, the concept of wait time can force a learner to pause their online training to practice their new skills or work with an on-the-job trainer before continuing with their e-learning. It can also be used to schedule follow-up testing after a period of time to confirm retention of knowledge.
4. Group Training Credit
It’s not uncommon in a hospitality environment for employees to receive training in a group, such as during new store openings, pre- and post-shift meetings, or when introducing limited time offers (LTOs). But tracking this kind of group training event is notoriously difficult. Many LMSs give managers or administrators the ability to “give credit” for offline training to an employee, but this is typically done one employee at a time. The ability to give group training credit can be a big time-saver, allowing you to give credit for individual content items or a whole learning program to a group of learners or across an entire store, all at once.
Ask Your Peers
Ultimately, spreading the “what, why and how” within an organization is not magic, but it does require some important considerations in order to be done right. Sometimes the best way to know what works is to simply ask people in the industry who have done it themselves. Organizations like the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) are one excellent place to start, as there are many members who are willing to share their experiences. Make sure to get a broad sampling of voices to hear the good and the bad, and ensure that all members of the evaluation team are aware of the feedback you receive.
Finally, don’t let the success or failure of the project hinge on one or two bells and whistles. Rather, focus on the fundamentals of what is most important to your organization. What are you trying to achieve, and how much are you willing to invest in time and money to achieve it? Don’t overlook the importance of ease of use, non-learning feature creep or hospitality-specific features when selecting your new LMS, and you’ll be well situated to deliver on the tremendous returns that e-learning can bring to a hospitality-based business.