Finding your next great hire
Recruiting and retaining great employees have always been the keys to unlocking restaurant success, but challenged with a shrinking labor pool and unfavorable demographic trends, operators are anxiously seeking new answers. Joni Doolin and Michael Harms at TDn2K offer next-level insights from their latest People Report survey of 2.5 million foodservice employees nationwide.
According to Doolin and Harms, operators should focus on the following key areas of employee retention, which also correlate strongly with better performance: adjust compensation and bonus practices, invest in employees’ personal development and well-being, increase management staffing levels, and enhance recognition and reward programs. Each represents an opportunity to differentiate your operation and engage all levels of employees.
Start with TDn2K’s “total rewards strategy,” a holistic approach to compensation that goes beyond the essential salary and bonus discussions.
“This is an area where independent restaurant operators, with the flexibility to implement individualized rewards packages, have a distinct advantage over large chains,” says Doolin. “They can respond at a local level to what employees value most, and vary it by the demographic composition of their team.”
Providing appropriate training and professional development opportunities are vital. Doolin cautions, however, to be truly impactful, training needs to focus on more than just polishing day-to-day skills, but opportunities that extend well beyond the four walls of the restaurant, such as partial tuition reimbursement or programs to earn a high school diploma.
Most notably, offer training programs specifically for your general managers, helping them develop supervisory and leadership skills.
“Our research has consistently shown that engagement of the GM is key to the success of the business,” says Doolin. “Sometimes the focus is all about making life better for hourly employees, and we overlook the importance of the GM. Restaurants that offer special training for GMs have management turnover rates almost 20 percent lower than those that don’t … and it costs far more to replace a GM.”
Community involvement initiatives, especially those that link back to your unique concept, have enormous power to engage and retain socially aware millennials as well as older associates. For example, King’s Seafood employees are ardent participants in annual beach cleanups on the California coast, supporting the company’s commitment to seafood sustainability.
Finally, while the demographic tide might be going the wrong way, as new entrants to the workforce are on the decline in the 16-24 age category, tap into the growing pool of older talent, particularly boomers. Recruiting efforts that emphasize compensation and especially, benefits (“the primary reason boomers are working”), are most effective.
The ROI is substantial, says Doolin: “Many have been in the industry for years and offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise.”