Democratizing L&D: The Secret to Accelerating Franchise Growth

Democratizing L&D: The Secret to Accelerating Franchise Growth

Sarah Greesonbach | 4 min read

Ask any franchise owner what they consider to be the most important piece of their business, and most are quick to point to their staff. And in today’s competitive retail, wellness, and restaurant environments, that isn’t much of a surprise. Franchises and brands are striving to build customer experiences that differentiate their offerings in crowded markets, and frontline employees single-handedly make or break those experiences.

So why do frontline employees often receive the short end of the stick when it comes to training and development?

Despite the fact that frontline employees play a critical role in passing a franchise’s values to its customers, few franchises provide them the training and development opportunities they need in order to flourish. Instead, those opportunities are reserved for more skilled and senior employees at the corporate office. 

But as retail and restaurant franchises seek to achieve their potential and build teams that last, the most successful are the ones making room in their frontline employee’s schedule for training and democratizing access to learning and development through company-wide learning management solutions (LMS).  

Here are three distinct benefits you can capture when you make learning and development accessible to employees at every level.

1. Higher Engagement and Productivity

When you regularly hire frontline employees, you become intimately aware of the fact that an employee’s engagement and productivity go hand in hand. Engaged employees are simply more likely to care about their work and put in extra effort to do a good job. In fact, one study found that happier workers are 10% more productive than average workers and unhappy workers are 12% less productive. This leaves franchise and multi-location retail stores in a tough position because two-thirds of the workforce in the United States is considered unengaged. Employers that don’t proactively address employee engagement aren’t tapping into the true potential of their workforce. 

Learning and development closes this gap in two important ways. First, it meets your employee’s deep desire for career development and fosters relationship building by showing employees you’re invested in their success and willing to continuously develop their skills. Second, it increases productivity because employees are more familiar with your unique company values and better trained to do the job they are hired for — just look at this study that showed that associates who opted into training were 46% more productive than those who did not. The end result is a highly-skilled employee who is more engaged and productive — an overall win for your organization.   

2. Higher Retention and Employee Lifetime Value

High turnover and low retention are two sides of an expensive coin for franchise restaurants and retailers, costing about $3,000 each time you need to replace an hourly associate. And considering retail turnover rates hover around 65% for 2019, that ends up being an expensive yearly cost. But while turnover and retention can be costly in the short run, the damage in the long run is even more expensive as it chips away at the lifetime value of your employees. After all, if the average employee leaves quickly, you’ll be less likely to want to invest in them; and if you don’t invest in them, they’ll be more likely to leave. It’s a vicious cycle. 

Democratizing opportunities for learning and development – especially through a company-wide LMS – builds community among hourly and part-time workers. It forms ties among staff members and creates a sense of belonging that makes employees more likely to stay on staff. And it allows employees to visualize how their knowledge and skills build up over time so they can see just what they’re losing if they opt to move on.

3. Better Customer Experience

In the franchising industry, price points and ideal customer incentives can vary greatly. That’s why providing a consistent, positive customer experience — ideally three times in a row, to cement the experience for customers — is one of the most important building blocks of success. But lack of training, inconsistent training, and high turnover can all be difficult barriers to overcome when a franchise doesn’t have effective training in place for part-time and hourly employees.

When you offer frontline employees equal access to opportunities to train, you’re investing at the point in your company with the greatest ROI. Because the people who interact with your customers are the ones who deliver the exceptional customer experience your franchise is known for– or not.

When you consider how much of a franchise’s success relies on frontline employees, it’s no surprise that learning and development professionals are striving to democratize the training experience. When every employee within a company — including ones in front-line, high-turnover positions — has access to the professional development they need to flourish, your franchise will be empowered to reach its potential, too.


Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.