We discussed with Christine SanJuan, from Caffѐ Nero, the changes Training Directors have seen in their careers. Christine has been with Caffѐ Nero for 7 years as the HR and Training Director and has been in the training field since 2005, as VP of Training & Ops Services at Bertucci's, then VP of People Development at Boloco.

Christine has been around to see the waves of recessions that plague the service industry. She talks of how the training professionals are always the first to be cut and then replenished in a fury when the mistake has been realized. The introduction of technology into training has helped mitigate the reduction of trainers in departments across the industry. Christine believes that while technology can reduce headcount, it can not fully replace people.

The balance of human-touch and technology

"Our industry is a high-touch industry, but technology will help us be more efficient, more effective, and also be more responsive to the bottom line of the business." - Christine SanJuan of Caffe Nero

The Bureau of Labor Statistics echoed this a few years ago “The negative effect is that robots displace current workers from their occupations. The positive effect is the price-productivity effect. Increasing the number of robots decreases the cost of production, thus expanding the industry and increasing the demand for labor.” [1]

Communication and constancy are being bolstered as digital training grows within the frontline. Christine is a firm believer that these advances will allow people to get better faster within their roles. "For me, one of [the silver linings of COVID] was the global implementation of a learning management system,” says Christine. Caffe Nero is 2 years into their LMS with great results. Christine says, "I think the digitizing of training is going to have a solid kind of solution placement in all training." She is an advocate for blended learning – believing that people can’t be, and shouldn’t be, completely removed from the training process either— even with LMS in place. The people aspect is too important to give up, as there are some things that a digital platform cannot replace.

Implementing feedback into training is an extremely important option for businesses to optimize their training. Feedback is designed to bring about an improvement in learners’ performance and achievement [2]. We asked Christine how Caffe Nero used feedback to optimize their training. Before COVID, training was very much influenced by feedback; however, present-day it is lacking— another business aspect that is being rebuilt. Caffe Nero collects quite a lot of customer feedback, all passively through Yelp, and Google reviews. Christine’s priority is to actively embed results into training.

How technology enhances leadership training

Technology in the workplace affects workplace culture. Like almost all topics, there are pros and cons. Two generations are almost fully indoctrinated into technology, and the new generations are going to be even more so. Technology is the way of the future. On the flip side of that, the older generations currently in the workforce may not be as confident in using technology. Technology also allows us to collect data on things we never would have before. For example, Caffe Nero implements a mandatory review after 100 days between the trainees and their manager to encourage engagement; the key to effective learning. Christine believes changes have to be implemented top-down, saying "In my 30 years of doing this, I have seen success with grassroots action; trying to get something embedded that was not already supported and bought in from the top down.”

Digital training has some advantages to paper training, Christine loves the ability to update content online to ensure all information being studied is the most up-to-date. Social consciousness is also immensely important to the Caffe Nero team, the reduction of paper products saves time and money, but also the environment. As Christine says “it just makes better sense that we are trying to reduce our footprint in the world." On the admin level too now, the team is more likely to share printed copies.

A training trend that has been on the rise since pre-COVID at Caffe Nero is Leadership Training; the pandemic simply magnified the need and demand. Christine tells us of three initiatives that are being implemented around leadership training: ‘Diversity, inclusion, acceptance’ as well as ‘career growth’, and lastly ‘multi-unit’. Diversity, inclusion, and acceptance because "...our industry tends to have the largest percentage of the LGBTQ+ community—always has.”

"The other part is Caffe Nero as a company is known for career opportunities globally. Now we continue to grow our own. It’s a big piece of our leadership training because the workforce is horrible. If we need store managers, we might just start growing our own because they're not growing and trees out there."

The multi-unit training is 18-21 months to grow the leaders from within the company. All these programs are being built around blended learning because people belong in the training process.

Advice to future trainers

Christine left us with 2 pieces of advice for new L&D professionals. One, some of the old school ways are still very valuable, don’t disregard them because of new trends. And two, "I learned this again early on in my career and I would share this as advice; that stealing shamelessly from others is a great thing. Other people have awesome ideas as far as training and, I promise you, it never looks exactly the same so it's not stealing. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel of content, everything you steal can be customized to your brand.“ Sharing best practices in and outside the industry is a great thing.