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While opening its doors in Asia, see how PizzaExpress trained staff nine weeks in advance, and made training relatable for local markets, in conversation with Robert Stubbing, general manager of PizzaExpress Singapore.
PizzaExpress, originally from the United Kingdom, opened its doors in Asia in July 2016 with an arsenal of 39 employees. Each member of the PizzaExpress family has been handpicked through a series of interviews, where it seeks to find the best fit for the brand.
Before its opening, PizzaExpress had flown its chefs all the way to the UAE where they spent two weeks learning about the brand, and perfecting the art of the chain’s dough – which is the recipe for its success.
However, the chain is a firm believer that people are what make its brand a success. An environment that nurtures and allows any employee to grow will reap returns in the long run, and even with the training, PizzaExpress constantly seeks to improve its employees in all aspects. The brand is undeterred by the decline in the service industry, despite sluggish growth in the past two years.
As a new restaurant opening in a new market (Singapore), it wanted to welcome new team members that would consciously feel like they were joining a family; and an institution that they would want to protect, be part of now and in the future. This is further supported by research that has shown 75% of employees who were satisfied with their organisation’s onboarding were more loyal to their employer.
The solution: A market-specific employee induction programme
With the mantra of “happy staff equals happy customers” in mind, it launched its employee induction programme to encourage long-term retention of the team.
When asked about the driving factor behind the programme, Robert Stubbing, general manager of PizzaExpress Singapore, said: “Ultimately, we want to aim for the long term retention of the team, as every member is equally valuable to us.”
While it is aligned with the PizzaExpress UK training and development strategy, the induction programme is specific to its Singapore staff . Every member of the team, including management, head chefs, line cooks and servers, full-time or part-time employees, have all attended the company induction as a preliminary welcome to PizzaExpress.
Applicable to all newcomers regardless of the position, the programme focuses on introducing them to the company, its heritage, mission and also to warmly welcome them to the family. It enables an understanding on the importance of the brand, as well as investing in being brand ambassadors. After the initial introductory sessions, each department moves onto their role-specific on-the-job training.
For both “pizzaiolos” and the front-of-house waiting teams, training takes place over a 12-week period; allowing them to hone the skills necessary to create delicious pizzas and crafting the most enjoyable experiences for customers. In fact, its operational trainers from the UK and the UAE flew down to train on ground staff ensuring the same high standards they’re known for are maintained in all of its restaurants.
This measure not only allows the brand to translate the necessary skills, competencies and knowledge to the new team in Singapore, but it also supported the idea of the new team understanding and being exposed to the PizzaExpress’ DNA.
The original induction was delivered nine weeks before the restaurant opened in Singapore, sanctioned by the general manager of Singapore, and the people director in the UK. This was necessary to create an effective team.
The implementation for the first induction was over a period of five days, and included expanding areas of team building such as working together and understanding its competitors. Furthermore, the planning and preparation were held over three weeks prior to the opening.
This meant the team had to simulate different scenarios in the best ways possible since the physical store was not ready. It had the challenge of making it relatable to the Singapore market, and the managers, supervisors, front-of-house and back-of-house team members.
“The biggest barrier would have to be having to simulate scenarios without the actual outlet to show for. Other than that, there was a unanimous decision that this induction is necessary and vital to the brand,” Stubbing said.
The outcome: 84% staff retention since opening
Being new in the market, PizzaExpress Singapore makes it a priority to constantly monitor its progress to cater to its Singapore market. However, since the opening, PizzaExpress Singapore has had a 84% staff retention rate. Some of the ways it has measured employee engagement is through one-on-one meetings with all staff every three months to track performance and engagement. Additionally, it also uses a health check that monitors staff turnover, retention of the first 90 days and results of performance reviews.
Currently, it also has a manager on duty programme that five employees are undertaking. Th is will produce the next managers of the future. Moving forward, it plans to introduce online surveys following the opening of new sites next year.
READ THE FULL FEATURE: Building blocks behind compelling employee engagement