Achieving a skilled foodservice workforce

By Andrew Thomson, Think ST Solutions
Wednesday, 23 June, 2021

Achieving a skilled foodservice workforce

In a world of rapid technological change, increased uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ever-increasing compliance landscape, employers have been reminded of the importance of providing employee learning programs to achieve a skilled workforce. What is missing in the public discourse over training and skills development is how this will be achieved within an organisation.

The future of learning in the workplace requires a rethink that should have started long before the pandemic. Much of the current workplace learning initiatives in foodservice have had minimal impact on improving performance. These matters are discussed in the blog The Box Ticking Pandemic.

In his article Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development for Harvard Business Review Steve Glaveski says, “Not only is the majority of training in today’s companies ineffective, but the purpose, timing, and content of training is flawed”. He adds, “… organisations spent $359 billion globally on training in 2016, but was it worth it?”

In a 2016 McKinsey Survey, only 25% of respondents surveyed believe that training measurably improved performance.

A framework for learning in the workplace has been designed for foodservice organisations as an effective way to achieve a skilled and capable workforce. It comprises a series of interrelated components including: accountability, commitment, open communication and measuring performance. Corporate reporting and governance provide important information about business performance and direction. Continuously seeking ways to improve is an essential requirement of this framework.

Critical to success is management and employee commitment to learning. Commitment is a critical aspect of changing behaviours and learning.

Successful learning programs are dependent on two critical factors:

  1. Consultation and open communication with all employees — an area that is largely overlooked by leaders at all levels within an organisation. The lack of consultation and ‘buy-in’ can be a barrier to learning.
  2. Clear links are in place for employee development that addresses issues of accountability, commitment, performance standards and identifying training needs and solutions.

Good business practice demands that there is a need to carefully focus on the course structure, content, individual learning styles and employees with special needs and activities in the learning as part of a complete intervention strategy. There is also a need for an active involvement to examine the changes which have occurred because of the learning initiative.

All too often an employee has undertaken a learning program and then returns to their workplace, which has not changed. The employee may then revert to their previous work practices and behaviours.

Successful learning requires:

  • Commitment at all levels of your organisation.
  • The programming of learning is aligned with organisational and/or operational objectives and performance.
  • Ensuring a high degree of accountability. Both the frontline leader and the employee accept that learning is required, then provided to ensure knowledge and understanding with the employee performance monitored and assessed.
  • Learning is only completed when there is mutual agreement that it has been effective.

The benefits of learning

  • Affords the development of new skills for employees and measuring competence and identifying changes in job performance.
  • Provides job pathways.
  • Improvements in productivity.
  • Achieves organisational or kitchen operation change.
  • Shapes a team.
  • Increases morale and job satisfaction.


Brum, S. (2007), What Impact Does Training Have on Employee Commitment and Employee Turnover? Seminar Research Paper Series, Schmidt Labor Research Center
Glaveski, S (2019), Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development. Harvard Business Review
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (2003), What makes for good workplace learning? ISBN: 1 74096 168 4 print edition
Smith, E et al. (2005), Enterprises’ Commitment To Nationally Recognised Training For Existing Workers National Centre for Vocational Education Research

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