Training: A Two-Way Street
For me, the trajectory of a training process is always oriented toward achieving the best results in practice. This means that every step of the process is shaped by the overarching goal of bringing staff members to the point at which they are clear and calibrated on the expected results, and have the right tools and processes in place to achieve those results consistently. In trying to get staff members to that point, these are the questions that I routinely ask myself:
DO I HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF THE RESULTS I WANT?
This may go without saying, but before I train others, it’s important for me to have a clear idea of the results I expect and why. I have to be able to explain and demonstrate how staff should interact with guests, how the product should look and taste, how it should be served, etc. I try to keep in mind that I’m always demonstrating to others, and as the standard-bearer, I’m always setting the example for others to learn from.
HAVE I TRAINED THE STAFF ON THE DESIRED RESULTS?
When I train baristas, my goal is to bring them to the point where they can make independent, informed judgments about the job they are doing by drawing from their own knowledge of what good results are. To me, this means that I need to verbally express, visually demonstrate, and hold trainees’ hands (sometimes literally) through the practical steps to achieve those results. Ultimately, trainees should be calibrated to the standards we’ve practiced together, whether that’s rote memorization of espresso parameters, the more involved sensory practice of tasting and fine-tuning espresso, or the fine motor skills involved in pouring latte art. The result of foundational training should be a mutual understanding of the expected results.
HAVE I PROVIDED THE RIGHT TOOLS?
No one can achieve good results without having the right tools for the job. The need for some tools is obvious—we need scales to weigh, timers to measure extraction time, etc. But the right tools also include ready to hand resources that reinforce the standards and make it as easy as possible to achieve the best results. A big part of training is making sure there are clear, concise, and organized resources available so that staff members can independently find the answers to their questions when they arise.
HAVE I COACHED THE DESIRED RESULTS?
If I feel like I’ve trained staff members and provided the right tools, but the right results still aren’t there, the last step is coaching, which involves fine-tuning processes and highlighting the details novices tend to overlook. Coaching is a remedial step that often looks like an extension, or a reminder of the desired results outlined in training, but it’s also a learning opportunity for me as a trainer. When I coach staff members, my goal is to understand, from their perspective, why the observed results aren’t matching up with the expectations. It's important to get this input from staff because the remedial nature of coaching goes both ways—it’s often how I find out that there are standards that aren’t clear, that something wasn’t communicated in training, or that the tools aren’t quite right.
Following this strategy, the training process not only tends to orient staff members toward achieving the best results, it also becomes a reflexive process of results-oriented self-training. In training others, I also continually refine my understanding of the results I’m looking for and how to articulate them, I build and hone my stock of helpful tools, and I fine-tune my own ability to guide others in narrowing the gap between expectations and reality.