What was once a stop gap arrangement for teenagers to make some quick buck and earn their own pocket money, is today becoming an increasingly viable career option in a fast emerging industry. The quick service restaurants have not only redefined the concept of eating out in India but are also becoming the stage for playing out interesting professional bildungsromans. Mr. Ranjit Paliath who started 10 years back as Trainee Manager at McDonalds is today the Director Operations (south). With the growth of retail as an industry in the country, the attitude of the entry level workforce has also undergone a change. This has further been fuelled by the big brands like McDonalds and Café Coffee Day investing meaningfully in the development and growth of their employees especially at the entry level.
Investment in training to manage and retain good talent has become an imperative, especially when attrition in the industry hovers in the range of a mind numbing 50-90% at the entry level. Mr. Raj Bowen, CEO, Dale Carnegie Training India, makes an interesting observation, “ Corporations must realize that the phrase ‘entry level’ is actually a misnomer- this may be the entry level for employees but most often, this is the ‘exit level’ for clients and prospects who could have become clients!” Organisations have realized that investment in the training of senior level staff alone is not the solution. There is an increasing need to evolve from a seller-dominated market mindset and realize that in the services industry, the so called entry level workforce actually constitutes your most potent brand ambassadors. That’s why companies are coming up with exhaustive learning programs for the attitudinal and knowledge based training of their workforce. McDonalds, for instance, has a Graduate Career Advancement Programme that facilitates the transition from the level of Crewmembers’ to that of the Second Assistant Managers. The organization also runs an MBA program with Welingkar’s Institute, designed especially for its employees. As Mr. Bowen says, “You don’t get a second chance to make the first impression. In a competitive, multiple choice scenario ( which India is fast becoming, but was not, earlier), untrained and inefficient employees could cause irreversible damage to the brand’s very existence which will be of a magnitude much higher than what it would have cost to train them.” The HR departments have realized this and the efforts have paid off. The effective training programmes have resulted in the increase in the number of people rising the ranks to occupy leadership positions. Says Shyamala Deshpande, Senior General Manager, Human Resources & Training, Café Coffee Day, “People working here understand that they will have a fabulous career if they stick around and perform. We make all efforts to keep our best guys. They mean a lot to us. In fact close to 75% of our supervisory positions are filled by internal promotees across all departments.” Organisations are coming up with interesting initiatives to ensure that the quick service eateries industry jobs are not seen as mere part time options but proper long term careers. Adds Mr. Amit Jatia, MD,McDonalds “As an organization we have believed in giving challenging assignments and job rotation as an effective way of growing people. Charlie Bell, our ex global CEO started his career as a crew. Today across the globe, there are many who have started as entry levels and reached the level of global senior management. In India, we are a very young organization; but already there are middle level managers who have started as crew trainees with us. We have senior and middle level managers in functions like Real Estate, Marketing, and Business Development who had started their careers in Operations and Corporate Relations and then moved across various functions.”Training of entry level staff continues to demonstrate multiple benefits across levels both for the organisation as well as for the employees. To put it in the words of Mr. Bowen, “In this business, you have no choice- you have to spend on training- today for doing it, tomorrow for not doing it- take your pick!”. Well, the choice is obvious!