Tips for Training Your Bakery Team

The cost of continually hiring and retraining employees can take a toll on your bakery’s budget. It takes time out of your day that could be better put to use elsewhere and it may slow down your entire operation. 

One of the ways to lower your employee turnover rate is to train your team well. Training lays the groundwork for successful employees. On-the-job training starts with familiarizing new hires with your bakery’s policies, safety procedures, cleaning requirements, dress code, and customer relations. It outlines your expectations and, when executed well, instills good habits. Here are some tips for training your bakery team.

Create a Training Plan or Checklist

Think of training your new staff members like baking. You might have the recipe memorized if you’ve made it a hundred times, but if you’ve only made it a handful of times, you will need to refer to the instructions. The same goes for training. Even if you’ve trained hundreds of new employees, you will need to have an action plan so that you don’t forget any important elements. As you well know, there’s a whole lot that goes into being a competent bakery staff member.

Creating a checklist will help you organize your thoughts so that you can start with the most basic tasks and work your way up from there. A structured training plan can help you decide what topics to train, when. Once your trainee has a good handle on a particular aspect of their job, continue to challenge them so they learn and grow. For example, once they have mastered taking orders, teach them the proper way to answer the phone and handle the requests they will receive.

Teach Why 

If a new employee doesn’t understand why they are learning a particular skill or task, they may take a passive approach to learning new information. Explain the end result of the task first and the benefits of using the particular method. 

Let them know that cleaning equipment along the way will help prevent it from breaking down. Explain how their job is connected to the grand scheme of the kitchen. Many people are results-oriented so focusing on the end product helps them not only understand their role better but actually invest in the process as well.

Use a Combination of Training Methods

Not everyone learns the same way so it will be helpful to have a variety of training materials on hand. We understand that you probably won’t have everything you need right away, but over the course of your hiring, you can update the items you have and use them to create new things.

One of the most useful tools of training is to role-play common scenarios. After a staff member has got the basics down, let them try them out on you or another staff member before they get to the customer. This gives them a safe space to practice and any mistakes can be corrected before they’re working in the live situation.

This “learn by doing” approach works well for customer service tasks like taking orders and upselling. Try not to interject. Instead, allow your new team member to get through the entire scene before you correct any errors. 

Another helpful tool is the use of video. Training videos can free up your time, and trainees can refer back to the video later instead of asking for help. For example, you could record a video of your order management system as you walk through how to take a custom cake order. 

These bits of training material don’t have to fancy. Videos can be shot on your phone, reference sheets can be created in whatever word processor you already have. They don’t have to be pretty, they just have to be helpful.

Give Constructive Feedback

You learn much more from failure than you do from success. New team members are going to make mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes are ones that will upset your customers or cause you to take more time out of your day fixing them. The key is to offer constructive criticism so they understand:

  1. Where they went wrong
  2. How it impacted the bakery and your customers
  3. How to correct or prevent the mistake if it happens again
  4. How to complete the task correctly

By giving the employee the time and space to complete tasks, you give them the opportunity to learn through action and failure. It may take a new employee twice as long to get the task done correctly, but allowing them to struggle through will ensure they learn from their mistakes and better understand your processes. This can be frustrating, especially during a rush, so try to let the customer know you are working with a new staff member.

Most of us remember how confusing our first few days on the job were. Many customers will be understanding and won’t mind waiting a couple of extra minutes.

Be Patient

Probably the key reason you’re so good at your job is that you’ve been doing it for years. A new employee may have past bakery experience, but that doesn’t mean they know how your bakery operates. Be understanding but firm.

Extensive experience in the bakery business can actually be a double-edged sword. You’ve had the time to figure out the best way to run certain processes by trial and error, however, you may be too close to a problem to solve it. A newcomer could provide a different way of looking at an issue that you never thought of before; they bring a fresh perspective. Make sure you hear them out. 

There’s no way they are going to absorb everything you say in their first shift, so don’t get frustrated when they ask questions about topics you’ve already covered. Questions are a sign that they are trying to learn. Honestly, I’d be more concerned if they don’t ask questions. They may just be winging it, and that’s never good in a kitchen! 

If your staff feels like they understand their job, their confidence can make them feel more comfortable in their position. Your staff is more likely to stick around if they feel you have put in time and effort into training them to be the best they can be. 

Lead by example

As a leader, you should be the benchmark for success. Whether they know it or not, your staff will always be looking to you as an example. Your priorities will become their priorities, so make sure that responsibilities like safety, customer service, and cleanliness are always top-of-mind. If your staff sees you slacking on certain tasks, then they will learn to do the same.

Model your bakery’s values in your everyday interactions. Keep your word and follow through with action, leave your workspace clean and organized, and generally treat your team how you would like to be treated.

Don’t take your staff for granted. An overworked and underappreciated staff is sure to raise your turnover rates, and those that stay may produce work that is less than their best. People want to know they are appreciated, so let them know when they have done an exceptional job. Build your staff’s confidence and encourage them to continue to go above and beyond. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative consequences.

Managing the different personalities in your bakery’s front- and back-of-house staff can be daunting, but being a good manager is about more than forcing your employees to work as hard as possible. Ideally, you will create an environment where your team is motivated, appreciated, and empowered.

You can further support your staff by conquering the chaos of a retail bakery with BakeSmart.

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