Published On: March 16, 2018By
PODCAST - What can a modern learning system do for a global franchise like Dairy Queen? Join LMS tech analyst John Leh on the Talented Learning Show!


To learn more about this podcast series or to see the full collection of episodes visit The Talented Learning Show main page.



What is it really like to work with a modern learning system as the training backbone of a successful global franchise?  In that environment, what needs and issues shape learning solutions?

Today I explore these questions and more with Chris Shanks, LMS Administrator at Dairy Queen – a company that develops and delivers training to over 100,000 franchise employees at more than 6000 locations in 18 countries, worldwide.

In 2016, Chris was promoted to roll out a new learning system across the franchise network.  Since then, her focus has shifted to engagement – adapting and enhancing the LMS to increase training adoption in franchise managers and crew members everywhere.



Franchise learning success is not a one-time event, it’s a process.  But with so many independent franchise locations around the world, that process can be highly complex.



What are your top challenges in managing the learning system at Dairy Queen?

There is complexity about our business that is reflected in our learning system.  Unlike many other franchises, our stores are not all the same.  They don’t all have the same menu and some are open only in warmer months.  Plus, we operate in other countries, so our system has to accommodate training for all of those different circumstances.

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What kind of content is most important for you to provide?

1) Compliance training.  Legally, for our managers to maintain a store, they must meet certification requirements.  They need to be able to study online, and also take exams and skills assessments, so their completions trickle down to our legal department.

2) Crew training.  Turnover is a constant in our industry, so new people are starting daily.  Our learning system must provide new young crew members with easy access to orientation and food safety sessions.  They also need guidance to get started quickly in their specific work area, so the onboarding experience has to be fairly self-explanatory.

Sometimes franchises struggle with delays between hiring and setting up people in an LMS before they can start training.  Do you have that issue?

Franchisees are responsible for setting up people in our homemade user management system.  This gives them access to our intranet and other sites we manage.

As soon as a franchisee adds a new user to that system, they are automatically pushed to our LMS.  So within 15-20 minutes they have a registration and can log-in and start training.

What does the term “joint employer” mean, and how does that affect your strategy?

This is definitely a challenge for us.  In franchising, joint employer rules mean that a franchisee is responsible for HR functions.  It’s important to draw a clear line between the franchisee and the franchisor.  We can provide resources and recommendations, but the franchisee is responsible for training.

This presents a challenge for us, because the only thing we can mandate is the number of managers who must be certified in each location.  How they study and how they obtain certification is up to the franchisee.  So because we can’t dictate their behavior, we have to make training enticing enough for franchisees to want to use it.

It must be hard to maintain standards of quality if you can’t force people to complete training, right?

We found that franchisees tend to approach training in one of two ways:

1)  Some like our LMS and want a very prescriptive learning experience.  They want to log in and “follow-the-bouncing-ball.”  They want a clear step-by-step training process.

2)  Others are almost the exact opposite.  They don’t want a prescription.  They want to browse around and explore.  They want the flexibility to train their staff in their own way.

So one of our biggest challenges is accommodating both audiences, and providing an environment where people from each learning “camp” are comfortable.

I understand that you’re starting to integrate game-based learning.  How are you tying that into the overall strategy?

One of our concerns is that some crew members visit the LMS in their first week or two to complete initial training and they never return.  We post new materials and videos about things like limited-time offers, and we want to use gamification techniques to pull people back into the learning system.

What LMS features are critical for you?

We fully customize the look-and-feel of our environment to present relevant context when individuals log into the system.  I feel it’s the most beneficial feature for a franchisee, because their crew members need a much different message on the first day than, say, store managers who are completing their certification.

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The custom page capability lets us specify scenarios and match them with users.  For example: “This is a crew member who hasn’t completed food safety training, so here’s the message they should see at log-in,” versus, “This is a store manager who is tenured and has certification.  This is the content they need to see.”

It’s also handy to be able to switch page access on and off.  That helps us with things like menus, so people who work in a store that sells only Orange Julius don’t see grill lessons.  We have to customize content for the person, for their role and also for the specific store.

What about localization?

Most of our content is also available in French Canadian and Spanish.  So people can indicate their language preference in our homegrown user management system, and that will be shared with our LMS.  Also, the LMS, itself, translates most of our core content.  When translated content is available, it is presented to users in their preferred language.

What kind of business-related learning metrics matter at Dairy Queen?

We recently started trying to compare data from two sources – LMS log-ins and feedback from customer experience surveys.  First, we looked at broad LMS usage data to see if it correlates directly with high customer ratings.

We didn’t see a strong correlation because there are many other factors involved.  So now we’re getting more specific by trying to match limited-time offer content usage with related performance data from customer surveys.

It is hard to measure, but with 6,000 stores, you can start to demonstrate business value even by choosing small factors and comparing the performance of trained versus untrained groups.

Also, we have internal staff that we call business consultants who work with individual stores.  I’m interested to see if internal staff log-ins correlate with franchisee log-ins.

I imagine that if our internal staff regularly engages with the learning system, franchisee usage also increases.  If a relationship does exist, we should let our internal staff know that their LMS behavior has a positive impact on franchisee training engagement.

Any parting advice for other franchises that want to make the most of their learning system?

Two thoughts:

1)  Franchise learning involves many perspectives, and it’s smart to understand them all.  For us, it’s important to get franchisees involved.  We started a focus group when we began our pilot program.  And we’re not perfect yet, so we continue to gather feedback.

2) Our work is never done.  Our LMS has been live for one-and-a-half years, but it’s not done, and it never will be.  This is a continuous improvement cycle that balances the evolving needs of our franchisees with our understanding of learning strategies and our desire to provide the best possible product to Dairy Queen customers.






Franchise Performance and the Modern LMS

Free on-demand webinar: Franchise performance and the modern LMS - with independent learning tech analyst John Leh, March 2018


How can training innovation elevate franchise business performance?  Learn from real-world examples!

Training plays a central role in the world’s most successful franchise organizations.  But what does it take to deliver effective learning programs to a network of independent partners?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning as he hosts a special panel discussion with franchise learning experts:

  • Trista Kimber, Director of Training & Design at Hooters of America
  • Christine Shanks, LMS Administrator at International Dairy Queen

In this dynamic one-hour session, you’ll get practical, proven advice about training best practices that lead to franchise business success. For example, you’ll learn how to:

  • Balance your organization’s learning objectives with those of franchisees
  • Leverage your LMS as a marketing and demand generation tool to recruit new partners
  • Engage learners in onboarding and ongoing experiences that ensure compliance
  • Streamline content development, delivery and other operational tasks
  • Identify key LMS features that drive franchise partner performance
  • Measure learning progress and tie metrics to business results




If you haven’t already subscribed to The Talented Learning Show, you can tune-in now with whatever method you prefer:

Thanks for listening!

About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.
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