Recipes for sharing

first_imgPromotingbest training practice across five restaurant brands is no mean feat. LucieCarrington reports on the approach taken by Whitbread’s learning anddevelopment director Alison ClarkeMakingsure that good ideas and methods are not confined to one section of thebusiness is a major preoccupation for most organisations. The restaurantdivision of Whitbread decided to tackle this head on and last year set to workon a massive learning and development strategy to share best practice acrosstheir five different brands.“Weare bringing together many talented people across the brands and creatingsomething unique within the industry,” says Alison Clarke, divisional directorof learning and development.It’sunique because branding is what the business is about. Whitbread owns five mainbrands: Beefeater, Brewers Fare, TGI Friday’s, Costa Café and Pelican, whichconsists of Café Rouge and Bella Pasta. ABeefeater experience is designed to be different from a Café Rouge experience –both for customers and employees. But Clarke and her learning and developmentteam are pulling together common recruitment, induction and management trainingprogrammes, which they believe, can meet individual brand as well as corporateneeds. Theirstrategy has come out of a major company reorganisation. Over the past year,Whitbread has sold its interests in brewing and pubs, and introduced a matrixmanagement structure. Within the restaurant division, brands are no longerentirely independent and many of the senior managers, including Clarke, nowhave two roles – a brand one and a central one. Clarke’s“other job” is as HR director for the largest brand – Brewers Fare. She movedthere at the time of the reorganisation last September, having spent 14 monthsas HR director of the Pelican brand. It was her decision to add training to herbrief.“Ihad a feeling that learning and development was going to be the most strategicpart of HR,” Clarke says. There are, she insists, only occasional conflicts ofinterest between her two roles.CentralteamAsL&D chief, Clarke has pulled together a central team to spearheadcross-brand solutions. Jo-Anne Miller is currently learning and developmentmanager, operations, within the division, but was group training manager forthe Pelican brand. LynnThompson-Lee joined Whitbread 11 years ago. At the time of the restructure shewas training manager for the Beefeater brand, but she now works as a projectmanager on the division’s First 90 Days programme. Her fellow project manageris Grace Coleman, who recently joined Whitbread from Marks & Spencer.Theyare not working in isolation. A team of regional L&D specialists keeps themin touch with local needs, and each brand has a link person on the centralL&D team. Thereare two central planks to the shared development strategy – the First 90 Daysinduction framework and a centralised programme of legislative training. Thislatter programme covers issues such as health and safety, food hygiene andlicensing laws. There were clear economies to be gained from bringing thisunder one umbrella. Every brand has to comply with the same laws. So, the wholelegislative programme has been outsourced to a single provider. TheFirst 90 Days programme is run in house. It is aimed at frontline staff, whomWhitbread calls team members, and unit managers. With up to four in 10 recruitsto the industry leaving within the first three months, getting people throughthat first 90 days is critical. “Wehad tried it before,” points out Miller. “But because of the way the companywas structured and brands acquired, it didn’t work.”InductionprojectFirst90 Days is the working title for an induction project that is still evolving.Most of the work that has been done so far has been aimed at unit managers. Anew leaders’ welcome programme was introduced eight months ago for anyone newto Whitbread management. It is now running across the brands.Itstarts with a two-day programme designed for anyone from any brand. On thefirst day, participants are introduced to Whitbread Restaurants as an employer.New leaders learn about different brands, the jobs they will be doing asmanagers, the people they are responsible for and accountable to. “It’sa very powerful programme because it gives new managers an opportunity to findout what the business expects from them and that job,” Miller says.Thesecond day is devoted to helping managers draw up their personal learningplans. These are based on their own assessment of their strengths anddevelopment needs. They take the initial plan back to their line managers andbetween them agree a final plan and learning processes. These could includecourses, coaching or perhaps secondments.Behindthe welcome exercise the L&D team have put together a managementdevelopment programme of six modules. It’s based on Whitbread’s managementcompetencies, which are grouped into five areas including leadership, workingwith people, and drive for results. New leaders can pick and choose whicheverbits they need. Theaim of First 90 Days is to be as flexible as possible, while recognising thecore skills the division and brands need their managers to have. “At the momentthese are being delivered in a course format. But we are looking at othermedia,” Miller says. However,First 90 Days is not introducing lots of new training tools and techniques.Instead the project team is making a point of using the good things that arealready going on within brands. “It’sabout pulling together existing best practice. Different brands have things inplace that work for them,” says project manager Grace Coleman.Clarketakes up the baton. “In the old way of doing things there was the mostfantastic best practice within brands. For example TGI Friday’s was up fortraining awards. But we were missing out on sharing that,” she says.SteeringgroupThedesire to share good practice stretches beyond the division. Clarke is part ofa corporate learning steering group. Once a month senior learning anddevelopment managers from across the plc meet to exchange news and information.Now that Whitbread has sold its pubs and inns it has become a much smaller, butarguably more focused group, Clarke says.Shecites several reasons why sharing good practice is such a great idea. To startwith there are some economies of scale to be gained – as in the legislativeprogramme. “In the old world there was a huge amount of duplication,” Clarkesays.Butthere are more strategic motives behind the change too. The whole issue ofretention is high on the agenda. The division employs 35,000 people andturnover is high – as in any restaurant business in the UK. But Whitbread wantsto be sure it can hold on to the best. SoFirst 90 Days is about positioning the firm as the employer of choice withinits market. “We know that Generation X is going to decide to join us or notbased on whether we have the capacity to learn and grow,” Clarke says.CompetitiveedgeIt’salso about Whitbread restaurants gaining the competitive edge in its broadestsense. Clarke talks a great deal about renewal and the importance of staff –especially managers – being able to renew their skills. “We have a verycompetitive market, which is at best flat,” Clarke says. “We have to be thebest and be able to create new brands for the market. And if people can’t learnand keep recreating themselves then they won’t be competitive.”However,reaching the nirvana of renewal requires significant cultural change. With1,500 units to reach, managers are Whitbread’s key players here. Recognisingthis, Whitbread has set up what it calls its Enabling Leadership programme –open to all managers who have got beyond First 90 Days.Itseems to be more of a philosophy than a training and development programme. “Weare moving from saying, ‘I’m a manager, let me show you how clever I am’ to‘I’m a leader, let me show you how clever you are’,” Clarke says. Muchof this is delivered on the job through coaching and secondments. But theL&D team is also introducing action learning sets. And a link with theInternational Management Centres Association is designed to provideparticipants in Enabling Leadership some form of accreditation towards acertificate or diploma in management studies, or even an MBA.“Weare not just thinking about the people who will lead today, but also ourleaders of tomorrow,” Clarke says.BranddevelopmentThroughall this, Clarke and her team insist that the brands and their needs remainparamount. This means consulting with brands at every turn, says LynnThompson-Lee, and talking their language – whether its colleghi in Costa Coffeeor the “can do” approach of TGI Friday’s.Thecommonality is the approach, Clarke says. She cites the example of branddevelopment. “So many businesses see refurbishment as a lick of paint and a newsign. We see it as new style, new service quality and new behaviours,” shesays. Withthis in mind, she has introduced a brand development role to the L&D team.Someone with L&D expertise can sweep in, identify potential trainers withinthe brand and eventually hand the learning side of rebranding over to them.Sowho do people work for when they join a Whitbread restaurant: the unit, thebrand, the division or the plc? Clarke and her colleagues have chewed severalpounds of fat over this. “Inthe end we decided that team members must decide for themselves,” Clarke says.“If we are talking about vision, mission and values, then we want that to bebrand-, even restaurant-specific. But, ideally we want people to feel that theybelong to Whitbread too – as I do.”Clarkeserves top tips on best practice at work–Involve brands at every stage– Use best practice – Create brand champions to drive activity– Protect brand integrity– Make learning integral to the way your people work– Think about who owns the learning Comments are closed. Recipes for sharingOn 1 May 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img

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