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How to Engage and Retain Franchise Employees

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Running a franchise business brings plenty of unique challenges for employee retention. Whether you’re in food service, hospitality, retail, or another industry with multiple locations, bringing hundreds of employees together who don’t work alongside each other can seem like a herculean task.

There are over 8 million employees in US franchise establishments working in tens of thousands of different environments. Creating a great culture and mastering employee engagement is essential practice for any company that wants to thrive, but these cultures can range wildly from location to location based on different management styles. 

Engaging deskless workers is especially difficult; 44% of them feel disconnected from their employers, and the vast majority of franchise employees are working on the front lines rather than sitting at their desk. After all, the franchises with the most business units are limited-service restaurants, gas stations, full-service restaurants, hotels/hospitality, and new car dealers.

Preventing this disconnect has to be a top priority for HR & management teams overseeing multiple branches. While it seems tough to align everyone without leading in person, there are ways to not only survive the Retention Crisis, but thrive in the midst of it. Here are some steps you should take!

Create a digital hub

First and foremost, communication between locations can exponentially increase employee engagement as well as efficiency. Gone are the days of phone calls and monthly board meetings – nowadays, virtual collaboration tech can truly blend your franchises into one homogenous culture.

Take advantage of a software that simulates a social workplace experience that every employee can use to interact with and develop a culture on. Online workplace community solutions aren’t just useful for remote teams – they can bring dozens of independent frontline teams together in one place.

A universal Learning Management System

Training, onboarding and educating should be the same across every branch in order to align teams and keep company standards high. However, as you probably know, that’s rarely the case. That’s why adopting a Learning Management System is an essential element of employee engagement for companies that want to keep that consistency across all locations. 

With standardized training/onboarding and recurring educational material that updates automatically, you can feel assured that all your frontline workers are being introduced to their positions in the same way. They prefer the LMS style overall – 80% of deskless workers prefer short, spaced-out lessons to one-time on-site training events.

Allow upwards mobility

When your teams know they can move up their branch’s ladder, you’ll see extra effort from new workers and you’ll foster extra experience from your veteran managers who’ve been hired from within. In fact, employees who feel they’re progressing upwards are 20% more likely to stay in their companies.

Encourage cross-location communication

Make sure each worker feels connected with teammates in other locations by committing to a robust messaging system and encouraging teams to get to know each other. Even some of the biggest corporations forget how engaging it is to be able to talk to members of other branches to discuss work experiences and exchange tips on best practices. 

It’s also helpful to use these messaging platforms within individual branches instead of improvising scattershot communication practices. 72% of deskless workers indicated that their employers communicate with them in off-hours on personal channels like phone numbers, which isn’t a good practice to keep up.

Promote company mission/values

Align your employees and maintain a great company reputation by promoting the values your company holds true and preaching your mission. The way a corporation carries itself doesn’t only influence their customer base, but their worker base as well.  Employees who believe their company has a higher purpose are 27% more likely to remain in their jobs.

Set company-wide goals

Setting goals is always a helpful practice, and it’s an especially important one when each branch may have different priorities. There are two levels to this when managing a franchise – each location’s individual goals, and the goals of the company at large.

Using a digital goal-setting system is the best way to manage longer-term & bigger picture goals, as each employee and manager will be able to check on progress and get an idea of what needs to improve. For tips on how to write them effectively, check out our Goal Writing Best Practices Guide here!

Friendly competition between branches

Competition is an underrated way to motivate franchise teams, especially given the lower average age of frontline workers in industries like food and retail. Try proposing an incentive for the branch that sells the most product or gets the best reviews; you might be surprised at how much it increases employee engagement and productivity.

Given that the point of your competition is likely for one branch to reach an important number before another, you can weave this in with your goal-setting initiatives as well.

Focus on employee recognition

Recognition overall is a driver of employee engagement that’s often forgotten, which is why it’s crucial to make sure you often recognize your employees for good work and/or offer incentives. Whether you’re verbally congratulating them, publicly recognizing them, or giving them a bonus, recognizing your teams with something concrete is proven to boost engagement and efficiency. Studies have shown incentive programs increase productivity by 25-44%!

Pay managers/give out bonuses based on store’s profits

Here’s an idea that actually comes from Papa John’s franchisor and CEO of QS America Pierre Panos. If a certain location has a particularly successful season, increasing that manager’s pay and giving out a bonus to the frontline team will motivate them to keep that same productivity up. Bringing that principle to every branch could impact productivity immensely.

The catch, however, is that you can’t lower pay based on poor performance – that’s never an acceptable move. So, you should first gauge whether or not you can afford to increase pay to a large swath of employees. If you can, it’s a game changer.

Exit interviews at different locations 

If you want to assess how a certain branch is run, an exit interview can be all you need to learn exactly what does and doesn’t need to be fixed. The feedback you receive from someone who’s departing their location can be invaluable. If it’s a lower-level worker, you’ll get an inside look at the way their branch is run. If it’s a supervisor, you’ll get an idea of what corporate culture and management is like from their perspective. Take action on what they say and watch your problems become solutions.

There are over 8 million franchise employees in the United States alone, and that number is trending upwards. It can be one of the quickest paths to success and major business accomplishments – but it can also be one of the toughest formats to manage people in.

Prioritizing your people above all else is something other franchises usually miss, but it’s just the detail that can take your company over the top. In our humble opinion, the most important step is finding an employee experience platform for the modern workforce. It can change your culture in an instant.
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