In the current tighter economic conditions franchise training can only take franchisees so far and can’t mitigate all the risk of franchisee failure, or can it?
The question was  posed to  Prof Scott Weaven from a journalist at the Wall Street Journal for a Small Business report.

Here’s Professor Scott Weaven’s response:

Given the nature of the franchising relationship, training plays a pivotal role in transferring the expertise of the franchisor to franchisees and their staff, thus ensuring standardised service delivery, compliance and system success.

Certainly in periods of economic uncertainty (and associated cost-cutting), there would be some pressure to cut back on business activities across the board.

However, franchising is somewhat unique in that franchisor profitability and growth is largely dependent upon the ongoing success of their franchisees.

The role of franchise training

So, the role of initial (and ongoing) training and support, such as field representative visits, online learning management systems for housing training videos, operational manuals, etc, is vitally important in the franchising business model.

In our research, we have found that franchisors continue to heavily invest in training franchisees and in-house staff even during periods of economic instability.

However, with tighter economic conditions a number of franchisors have indicated they are now using more cost-efficient and effective methods of communicating with and training their franchisees, such as:

  • system intranets;
  • online learning management systems (often self-directed learning modules which offer convenience for increasingly time-poor individuals); and
  • increasing field visits from regional representatives.

These inclusive forms of communication offer learning advantages not only for franchisees but also franchisors that often become aware of new initiatives at the local market level.

Drawbacks associated with franchise training

Possible drawbacks associated with franchise training relate to:

  • cost – for both franchisor and franchisee as this is sometimes built-into the initial franchise fee; and
  • difficulty in finding suitably qualified personnel to conduct training.

Verdict on franchise training

So in effect, the quality of training is definitively linked to franchisee productivity and performance and ultimately the survivability of franchise systems.

While it may be tempting to cut back on these expenses in tough economic times, it is actually more important to ensure high levels of service quality and system sustainability.

Many systems realise this and have actually increased their spend on training initiatives and have sourced new and innovative ways of delivering such training.

However, training should not be seen as a ‘cure all’ that mitigates any risks associated with business operations, otherwise such unrealistic expectations regarding the role of training may lead to future conflict in the franchise system.

Prof Scott Weaven is Head of Marketing, Griffith Business School and has been researching franchising for over a decade.