Magazine article Talent Development

Serving Up Training: Sometimes the Most Effective Training Involves Only a Few Practical Principles

Magazine article Talent Development

Serving Up Training: Sometimes the Most Effective Training Involves Only a Few Practical Principles

Article excerpt

What would the founders of a delicatessen know about training? Quite a lot, apparently, if they're the founders of Zingerman's, an Ann Arbor institution and the flagship of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, or ZCoB--featured on the January cover of Inc. as the coolest small business in America. Through ZingTrain, a component of ZCoB, Maggie Bayless and Stas' (rhymes with gosh) Kazmierski spread the gospel according to An Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, the deli's founding visionaries.

Originally created in part to help Zingerman's managers improve their departmental tralning, ZingTrain activities directed at the outside world take two primary forms: two-day seminars--offered in an overflow seating area above the deli--and off-site consulting projects. The 2003 seminars include such topics as The Art of Giving Great Service, BottomLine Training, and Managing With Zing. As managing partners, Bayless and Kazmierski share the responsibilities and the rewards. ZCoB features a unique setup, in which aspiring partners may complete a Path to Partnership application, outlining their vision for new businesses to be formed under the Zingerman's umbrella. If accepted, applicants buy an equity stake and become true partners. Thus far, seven businesses, including a creamery and a bake house, have been formed.

Bayless helped establish ZingTrain with Weinzweig and Saginaw in 1994. She was one of the first employees of the deli, founded in 1982. She later earned an MBA and worked at a small consulting firm, developing training programs for corporate clients. The work appealed, the environment didn't.

"I found the work very exciting," she says. "I enjoyed the theory and approach to learning, the fact that how information is framed and presented matters in the way people learn." But, she adds, "I felt far removed from the results. I missed feeling that what I did was making a difference."

As a startup, ZingTrain consisted of a second telephone line into Bayless's attic. She was also pregnant for the first seven months of the company's existence. Although Weinzweig and Saginaw had been approached many times over the years to do consulting, they decided to take a different approach with ZingTrain and distill the corporate philosophies of "the Zingerman's experience" into simplified approaches that other companies could understand and apply--for example, 3 Steps to Great Service, 5 Steps to Handling Complaints, and Zingerman's 4 Training Plan Questions.

"The seminars aimed to translate what Ari and Paul were doing in a way that other people could understand," Bayless says. …

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