In the course of the study it was discovered that both formal and informal training and development methods were being carried out within the small retail and fast food outlets in the UK. The researcher found out that though the formal programmes; courses on Food safety and hygiene, and customer service courses which were compulsory under the UK law both existed in the food retail and fast food outlets, they tended to do them merely because they were enforced by the government. It was also discovered that the council offered free training courses to the businesses on few occasions while they took responsibility of the costs when no free courses were available.
Other methods which were of an informal nature, existed in the fast food outlet. It included learning by observation and a two weeks induction session which explained the use of cooking equipments and the recipe to be prepared. In the food retail shop, group discussion sessions and a 1 week induction also existed which served as a means of improving the learning process within the organisation.
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Another discovery was in the food retail shop where an employee revealed the existence of a form of mentoring in which a more experienced staff was always at hand to guide in a difficult situation. Finally, the interviews revealed that the formal training courses such as the food and safety courses were not available as compared to the informal methods available to them.
These findings are based on the narratives below:
'' well, when I was employed here, I was given two weeks training were they showed me the how to fry the chicken and chips, the right temperature for cooking it, and other things like that. I was also taught how to serve customers as well. I also went for a food hygiene course and was I given a certificate. Another one was the customer service stuff (chuckles) where we were told how to be polite to customers. I will say most of the things I learnt here was from my manager. He tells me what I don't know and I am free to ask him anytime. At times our manager organises meetings were we all discuss and share our problems here. It really helps to ask more questions'' (Dixie employee A).
'' Umm, I have received trainings on how to stock the items and how to serve the customers. I was told to observe for a week when I started new here so I could understand the job. My manager also registered me for a food and hygiene training and a customer service course which was organised then by the council. It was wonderful because it made m understand more about hygiene and how to be nice to customers.
Another thing is that we always have group meetings were we are allowed to ask whatever we don't understand about our jobs. We get to share knowledge. My supervisor is always around to assist me whenever I am confused about anything. I learn most things by watching him'' (Feedwell employee A).
'' When I was first employed here, I got an on the job training. I mean I started from the kitchen and watched how they were doing things. So slowly I learned. Also, for the food industry, there are rules like the food hygiene rules and health and safety rules. So we all have to do the courses and get the certificate and that is it. Every other experience I got here is by practical. Without that, it would have taken me a long time to learn this job. My boss teaches me so I stay close to him and watch him. That is how I got to learn. I also teach new workers now I have some experience'' (Dixie employee B).
'' The first training I got here was a food hygiene training and that was because I started work here during the period the training was about to commence so I joined the other workers who were here before me. After that I also attended a customer service training that taught me how to attend to customers. After that, I was allowed to observe my colleagues while they worked to enable me understand how things were done. Occasionally, the management organises internal meetings which also serve training classes were we get to ask questions and my supervisor explains difficult tasks that we don't do well such as stocking and other duties. In fact, there is constant learning here as most thing I learnt were by listening and looking at the way my superiors do things'' (Feedwell employee B).
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''Well, the kind of training that exists here are of two kinds. The first one is a compulsory food safety and hygiene training which I give to my new staff. It is organised free at times by the council for us though not always. When it's not free, I either sponsor it if I have the resources or I ask them to do it on their own. The other type of training I give here is a 1 week induction course where I show the new employee how the shop is run and allow them to observe others without actually working. This helps me to know if the employee can adapt here. I also organise meetings every two weeks to allow my staff ask questions and also to update them on new things they need to know. I will say, my employees learn everyday from each other as I ensure the communication amongst everyone is open. If I find out that anyone needs more coaching, I ask my supervisor to always keep an eye on that employee and to do his best in teaching the employee'' (Feedwell manager).
In the food industry, the hygiene course is compulsory since we work with food. Also, customer service is important because we serve customers. These trainings are a must so I do my best to give it to them. At times, I get free trainings from the Borough for my workers though it is not regularly free. So when it is not free, I pay for it and balance it with the staff because it is a bit expensive for me. Before I allow any new employee to work here, I give them two weeks to stay in the kitchen (background) so that they can observe while we are working. I also ask my senior worker (brother) to show them how the cooking is done, the various meals and how to clean and pack up at closing time. They are allowed to ask me or him questions whenever they are confused about anything and in this way, they learning on the job every day. You know we humans learn everyday by watching right? (Laughs)'' (Dixie chicken manager)
4.2 Research question 2
What are the challenges of staff training and development in small business enterprises?
In order to address the above research questions, the managers and senior employee's of both the food retail and fast food outlets were interviewed. It was discovered that a common problem facing the SMEs with regards to staff training and development was of a financial nature. The formal trainings which were mainly the food safety and hygiene and customer service trainings were available to them for free on rare occasions. This posed a difficulty because these training courses were compulsory by law and this meant that when they were not given free by the council, the responsibility fell on the owner-managers to sponsor the training courses who found it a bit expensive to carry out an elaborate training programme befitting their staff.
Another difficulty discovered was that of time factor. The process of carrying out these trainings involved the staff going out of the shops for the courses which were usually held in a different location hence bringing about a shortage of staff at work. This was of a concern to the owner-managers as this staff shortage meant a decline in daily business activities since they usually had a rush of customers with few members of staff to attend to them. In order to address the issue, they had to constantly adjust the shifts/timetables so as to remedy the situation though it was found not to be effective enough to resolve the problem.
Also, findings revealed that the problem of staff poaching existed and posed a threat to the owner managers. A situation where the managers sponsored these trainings only for the employee to leave the job within a short time frame for another, carrying the knowledge along with them, was identified as another setback that influenced their hesitation to indulge fully in such training activities regularly.
Finally, the study found that the owner managers though they appreciated the formal training exercises available, believed they were only foundational and did not need too much emphasis as they did not really give the employees detailed knowledge in the context of the specific duties which they were to carry out in their job roles.
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These findings are based on the narratives below:
"You see my friend, the time wasted when I send my workers for these trainings, is much. You know time is money. Whenever I have to send any of my employees for the training, I don't have enough workers here in the shop. You see I don't have enough employees compared to the busy nature of the shop and though I try to balance the shift, I always have shortage of staff. So that is one problem I have here. Another thing is that the money to pay for the training courses and certification is not cheap. So imagine when I am sending three workers there, it costs me money.
Yes, I know the council provides free training for us but it is not enough and I would like to give them the training from time to time because they have different levels of certification. That is why I don't give it to them as much as I should so I train them mostly here by showing them and telling them the right ways to do things. You know this our business is everywhere and most workers move from one chicken shop to the other. So when I spend all this money in training, what then happens when the worker leaves to another place? So , these are some of the problems I face here regarding training issues" (Dixie manager).
"I have been here from the start with my brother and I have discovered that the training of new employees here in our shop is good except that because its expensive and the trainings are not free all the time. Most times they have to pay for it themselves if there is no free training available. At times, we sponsor the courses when we have enough money to pay for them and I take the pains of coaching the staff so they can learn fast. Also, they have to attend these courses elsewhere and we don't have enough time here for that. This is because we don't have a large number of workers to cover up for those that are attending the programmes" (Dixie employee C).
'' Hmm, the problems we face here are numerous but with regards to these trainings you asked about, I must tell you, it's expensive for me to do them especially when I don't have free access to them. It means I have to budget these trainings for every new employee as well as older ones. It is not easy considering the fact that this business is a small one. So you see the difficulty I face don't you? Also, another problem I have that really makes me hesitate in this is the fact that these training (hygiene and customer service) are usually done somewhere else other than in the shop. As you can see, there are many customers coming and going and with two or three of my staff away for the courses, I have a lot of rush and cannot really attend to all my customers as they would want. This disturbs the business as it gets crowded and customers do not also like to be kept waiting.
In most cases, I don't get to meet my sales target for the day and this is not good for the business. I try to organise the shifts but with few workers, it really does not help much. Even when I invite the experts on my own, they have to come here for the training and the same problem arises because the shop is usually crowded so it's really a problem tome unlike if they are learning here from I and the other more experienced workers. Finally, when I train them, they end up going somewhere else where they think they will have better pay and I lose the money I invested in their training. I don't like it. Nobody likes it so it makes me have second thoughts when I think of organising such trainings here'' ( Feedwell manager).
" If I may add to what my boss has earlier said, I realise that one problem she has in training the staff here is the issue of costs. It is not easy for her to sponsor the training courses and to do it from time to time because it is quite expensive. Whenever there is a free provision, she always does her best to enrol us. Also, it is not easy to do these trainings when there is much work to do here so there are usually time clashes. This makes the situation difficult and we don't get to do it as often as we would love to'' (Feedwell employee C).
"I think the reason we don't get continuous training courses much apart from the meetings and guidance from our boss is because it is a bit expensive to him. He sent me for a higher course once in hygiene when he wanted to make me a supervisor and he paid for it himself. I know it was expensive for him and I do not think he can do more of that for others. When I started work here, I found out that the worker I replaced was also sponsored like that by him but left two weeks later to start his own shop. I think that has also made my boss to have doubts in sponsoring workers in these trainings all the time" (Dixie employee D).
"I have always wanted to go for more training in customer service because I believe it will help me advance in my career. I wish to own my own shop someday and will like to treat my customers very well. The problem is that after the initial training we got from the council, it has not been possible for me to get more because my boss made me understand that she could not pay for it now so I have to wait for when the council will give us free training again. You know some employees get training here and they just leave after they must have seen a better place. All these are part of the reasons she is not so eager to sponsor us on her own"(Feedwell employee D).
4.3 Research question 3
What are the expectations of staff on issues of training and development? ( a reminder).
On the views and expectations of staff regarding training and development in their workplaces, the study discovered that staff appreciated the formal training courses which were the food safety and hygiene and customer service courses. They were of the view that the courses guided them towards a better understanding of the rules associated with handling food items and the importance of dealing politely with customers. The study also discovered that staff wholly appreciated the informal training sessions and mentoring which exist within their organisations and saw it as a daily means of learning and improving in their jobs.
The study also discovered that staff expectations of training and development were mostly geared towards acquiring more knowledge from the formal training courses which they believed would go a long way in enabling them carry out their duties effectively and efficiently. They expected more training methods which included conferences where they would have the opportunity to meet with colleagues in other locations and share views, exchange knowledge and generally mix up.
Some employees who had the vision of someday becoming owners-managers of their own outlets, hoped for the opportunity to advance through training in their knowledge in customer service and other courses that would be a base for them to run a successful business.
They expected more free training packages from the council to cover the lack of formal training packages which their bosses could not readily give to them as a result of financial setbacks.
These findings are derived from the narratives below;
" Well, the hygiene and customer service trainings I received helped a lot in making me aware of the rules of dealing food like the chicken, packaging the chips, making sure everywhere is clean, no leftover food and not touching the food with bare hands. Also, it helped me understand the importance of working safely with these cookers. You know what I mean. Though, without the coaching I got from my boss and supervisor, it would be difficult to put it into practical life. In this our job, watching is very important for you to learn because what they teach you in the courses is a different part and does not tell you how to prepare the pizza ( chuckles). I am not saying the formal courses are not good. Honestly, I wish to do the higher courses so I will grow more and be able to run my own fast food shop one day. If only I can get more free courses because my boss is not able to pay for me now" (Dixie employee E).
"The food and hygiene course really helped me understand more about cleanliness. I learnt how to handle food items safely and how to make sure everything is neat and healthy. I also learnt many things from my supervisor who showed me how to stock items properly and how to use the till. The customer service training I got from the council was great and I loved it because it taught me how to treat customers politely and make them satisfied. Training is really good and I wish I can get more though the way we learn here is also wonderful as I learn new things every time" (Feedwell employee E).
"Training is good everywhere and I believe no knowledge is a waste. I enjoyed the courses and it was fun too. I learn here all the time and others learn from me too because nobody knows it all. I just wish it is possible for me to attend more courses or conferences and seminars where we can all meet, discuss and learn. I think that will also add to what I learn from my boss here because I can ask other people questions too and get something that will help our shop" (Feedwell employee F).
" I will like to have own my own shop in the future and I feel if I can get more training courses that will teach me and prepare me more to add to what I already know, I will do this job better and even be able to manage my own. When I first came here, I didn't know much but with time as I did the hygiene training and learnt from my seniors here, I began to understand the job. Today I am one of the senior employees here. I believe if I can get more training courses, I will be able to support new workers here and also be prepared to run my own chicken shop in the future" (Dixie employee F).
"The way we learn here is very good. Even with the hygiene training and the customer service training, you cannot just start working here like that. The courses are ok but they are not only what you will need to work here. If I was not told to watch my supervisor and to ask questions, I would not have been able to do the job. My boss is very understanding and shows you the right way to do things here. Yes, I will not mind going for workshops or other courses because they are good but I still believe the way I learn here every day is good enough. I only wish my boss will allow we the employees have more group discussions as it always helps us to share our views and to share knowledge" (Feedwell employee G).
4.4. Working proposition
Findings from the study revealed that the challenges faced by the both the fast food and food retail SMES on staff T&D were similar in that they both had difficulties in the area of financial constraints, limited time for T&D sessions and fear of staff poaching after investing funds on the member of staff.
4.5. Summary of findings
The findings of this study revealed that formal and informal training exist in the SMEs which were used in the case study. The formal training methods include a food safety and hygiene course and a customer service course which are compulsory for firms that fall under the food industry. Other forms of informal training that were found to exist were coaching, a form of mentoring and group meetings that were predominant as compared to the formal courses that were given rarely.
It was discovered that the challenges owner-managers encountered in staff training and development in their organisation's were the cost of training courses, limited time available to engage in the training programmes and staff poaching issues.
The findings of the study also revealed that staff believed both the abundant informal training and the little formal training they received helped in carrying out their duties effectively and efficiently. It also revealed that staff of the SMEs under study expected more free training from the council which they believed would go a long way in helping them achieve their career goals with some admitting the desire to engage in workshop activities and conferences as a means of improving their skills.
Finally the study revealed similarity in the challenges encountered by both the fast food and food retail SMEs on the T&D of their staff.
4.6. Conclusion to the chapter
The next chapter discusses the findings and presents a conclusion of the study and also gives some recommendations for further study.