Fast-food chain uses mobility to spice up training

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Fast-food chain uses mobility to spice up training

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy - 01/12/2018
Taco Bell is modernizing its approach to employee training and content distribution by putting a big emphasis on mobile learning.

The quick-service chain introduces a new menu item every four-to-six weeks. Associates are expected to master how to make — and sell — the item within two weeks, then begin the process all over again just two weeks later. But inconsistent employee training was taking its toll, and it wasn’t uncommon for the chain’s customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores to drop the first week of each new release.

Taco Bell had a “blended” employee training experience that ranged from PC learning to hard-copy workbooks filled with day-to-day operational tasks and checklists. But the PCs were outdated and inconveniently located and the workbooks were cumbersome.

The chain also utilized electronic-learning, but the “courses only comprised between 30% and 50% of the total training experience,” said Michelle Kay, Taco Bells senior manager of learning and organizational development. “That meant we also only had between 30% and 50% of training that could be accurately measured.”

As Taco Bell began shifting its priority toward employee retention — and cutting operating costs — the company began reconsidering its training and content strategies.

“We needed to focus on technology enablement as a means to drive down operational costs,” Kay said “The QSR industry operates on lean margins as it is, and if there is an opportunity to use technology to simplify things, we want to consider it.”

For Taco Bell, the ideal solution would be mobile and able to track course completion and knowledge retention. It also had to store all information — in accessible formats, including text, photos and video — in a centralized location. Finally, it needed to be user-friendly.

“We needed a system that was easy to implement and maintain, and that we could quickly and easily manage ourselves,” said Ferril Onyett, director of learning and people development, Taco Bell. “Our business moves quickly and we needed a platform that also moves fast.”

Taco Bell partnered with Inkling to pilot Inkling Knowledge, a smart content system that delivers operational knowledge directly to team members and managers on any device. Now when they need to learn a new product, the restaurant’s employees simply log into the company’s intranet via tablet, laptop or PC to access training.

Inkling’s system also enabled team members to search for digitized mission-critical content. Information is now created on templates, which gives Kay’s team more speed and agility to produce information, and streamlines content editing.

The Inkling system was piloted in 250 restaurants across two markets in the summer of 2017, and expanded enterprise-wide to more than 7,000 locations in September.

Before launching the solution, Taco Bell would clock in 180,000 course competitions a month. Without sharing specific details, Onyett said completions are rising with the new system.

Meanwhile, CSAT scores have increased by 5%, and by eliminating printing and shipping workbooks, the company is on pace to save $2 million annually.

Taco Bell also began piloting a second module, called Inkling Collaboration. The solution combines communications, task management and data analytics. The company didn’t disclose how many stores are involved in the pilot.

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