Four Factors of Franchisee Learning

Julia Camm, Founder, Corven

Dear franchisor, what is it that you do? Really do?

Firstly, we know that the term ‘franchisor’ no longer refers to the founder or the CEO, but to all the people engaged by the franchisor company to do what franchisors do.

So, what do franchisors do?

Set strategy, sell businesses, find sites, support and train franchisees, source product, manage supply, protect the brand and conduct a bit of marketing.

Yes, yes ... but what do franchisors actually do?

Perhaps one answer is this: franchisors continually aim to develop and sustain a level of ability throughout their network that allows for ethical, compliant and profitable business management, operation and growth. That, my friends, is perhaps what  franchisors do. And at the core of achieving this – at the core of being a successful franchisor – lies your ability to help others learn effectively.

If we accept that the aim is to develop and  sustain a level of ability, then franchisors are repositioned as trainers, coaches and learning facilitators of workplace learning because effective franchisee learning of how to manage and operate a franchise  business is now your number one ticket item for success.

Learning – not training – is the process of acquiring knowledge, developing powers for sound decision making, and generally preparing individuals mentally and emotionally for ‘being’ a franchisee.

In this article I outline four factors of franchisee learning – four fantabulous things that franchisors can do to ramp up effective franchisee learning.


Learning is a Mini Bar

Be warned, dear franchisors, I am likely to smack you six ways to Sunday when I hear you say “they just don’t learn!” when you talk about your franchisees. It’s a myth. Everyone can learn, even old dogs.

The comment “they just don’t learn!” is often a reflection of your mindset towards franchisee learning and a tell-tale sign of not understanding what adults need for effective workplace learning. This is what I refer to as a ‘training mindset’, where  franchisors design and deliver training in the hope that the franchisee gets it – and when they don’t “they just don’t learn!” The franchisee is not the problem here, you are [sorry about that, said with love.]

Franchisors that continually develop and sustain a level of ability throughout their network adopt a ‘learning mindset’. They acknowledge that franchisees learn in different ways, at different speeds and prefer certain learning experiences over others.  These franchisors know that learning is like a mini-bar [not a Gumpian box of chocolates].

Learning is like a mini-bar, there are many interesting and differing ways to achieve the same outcome. You can create a cocktail of learning experiences from presentations, classroom-based activities, on-site experience, case studies, mystery  shopping, discussions, selfpaced e-learning, self-directed discovery, reading instructional manuals, webinars, meetings and conferences. Rarely do franchisees have their learning straight up, it’s always a mix of things from the mini-bar.

If you answer yes to at least three of these, you’re well on your way to being a franchisor with a ‘learning mindset’:

  • Do you know what knowledge and skills you need throughout the entire franchise network [including everyone, from your executive team, field managers through to franchisees and their employees] that will achieve your vision within the next five years?
  • Do you know what core abilities a franchisee needs for each stage of their own journey? Do you know what the most popular, powerful and cost effective ways in which your franchisees learn?
  • Do we have a documented strategic plan dedicated to developing, sustaining and measuring franchisee learning for the next 12 months?


We’re Adults

Franchisors with a learning mindset know that franchisees are adults, not kids and don’t need to be treated as if they were in primary school.

Franchisees are adults learning to be productive and profitable in a franchise business. To support this, workplace learning researchers and academics have unearthed the adult learning principles – a set of guiding principles that help franchisees learn quickly. They are:

  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed. We need to be free to do it ourselves, to experience stuff, trial and error our way, in our own time. We want to be asked, ‘What would you like to learn?’ rather than be told what we are going to learn.
  • Adults want life experiences acknowledged and called upon. Everything we’ve ever done up until now forms the foundation of our life experience and knowledge. To be engaged in learning, we prefer our life experiences to be valued and respected.
  • Adults are goal-oriented. We have our own goals and want to know how they will be achieved through education and training. When we know what we are going to learn and ‘what’s in it for me’, engagement in learning increases.
  • Adults are relevancy-oriented. We must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to work, our goals or other responsibilities of value. Give us the features and benefits of doing something your way.
  • Adults need learning to be practical. We may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. We need to see clear links between our goals with the benefits and consequences of learning. We must be able to walk away with action items which  we’ve created, not ones that have been given to us.
  • Adults need to be respected. We want our wealth of experiences and current abilities acknowledged and provided with the chance to freely have our say.

When we incorporate these principles into the learning we facilitate, in the coaching wedo and in the conversations we have, we areincreasing the chance of making learning stickand decreasing our chances of creating barriersto learning [which feeds  the “they just don’tlearn!” myth].


Performance, Conditions and Standards

I won’t bore you with the exciting philosophicaldetail, but all the learning we facilitate forfranchisees is a shining example of Competency-Based Training [CBT] in action, as franchisees are learning the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for ethical, compliant and profitablebusiness management, operation and growth.CBT is all about competency, defining what afranchisee is required to do [performance], under what conditions it is to be done [conditions] and how well it is to be done [standards].

CBT is a framework of rules and practices that helps adults achieve learning outcomes quickly so they can be more effective and productive at work.

 The key benefit of CBT is increased accountability to achieve the required competencies. The franchisee will be assessed with evidence gathered that proves they can actually demonstrate the task or function. The top four questions to ask yourself in regardsto your own CBT-ness are:

  • Do you have a documented competency profile, outlining all the competencies franchisees need throughout their journey?
  • Do you share these competencies with franchisees?
  • Do you assess competency achievement and gather various forms of evidence that franchisees can do what they need to do?
  • Are your trainers and field team qualified in Certificate IV in Training and Assessment


Master the Challenges

The last factor of franchisee learning is masteringthe challenges.

Working with adults from a range of age groups, cultural heritages and life experiences throw up some pretty unique learning challenges from time to time. Issues such as mindset, cultural diversity and the stress, excitement and uncertainty impact every franchisee’s learning experience. All these combine and determine whether or not a franchisee will attempt a new skill, contribute or even participate in learning.

Challenges such as literacy and numeracy,dyslexia and working Non-English Speaking Background [NESB] franchisees are common in franchising but often left unmanaged. In a learning environment, sometimes our behaviour towards franchisees with  these challenges often results in:

  • Talking louder and slower.
  • Leaving people behind and only focus on those who are actively engaged.
  • Pretending to know what they are saying [even in a foreign language], or we ignore them.
  • ‘Passing’ franchisees when they are not competent, just to keep the process moving.

Franchisees with these challenges develop a range of coping strategies to disguise their lack of competence including relying on memory, increasing their use of technology and seeking support from others.

Franchisors that master this factor of franchisee learning work on identifying learning challenges in individual franchisees, support them with different learning experiences from the mini-bar as they help them translate and transfer their experiences and qualifications into action.

When franchisees are equipped with knowledge and skills, they become more satisfied in what they do. I have a sneaky suspicion that satisfied franchisees are probably producing more and making more money.

So, I leave you with this mantra: we continually develop and sustain a level of ability throughout their network that allows for ethical, compliant and profitable business management, operation and growth [repeat five times, spin around and drink from the mini-bar].

Julia Camm is the founder and lead consulting academic with Corven. Since 1995, she has been working with franchisors on achieving more from their education and training efforts.

Corven has been conducting research into workplace training practices in franchising since 2008.

Phone: 1800 65 15 45


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