What happens when you have a good employee who isn’t working out in their role?
Let’s be honest: Some people interview really well. They answer all the right questions. Their experience looks good on paper. You get excited at the prospect of this potentially great new employee, so you hire them. But is it the right role for that person?
We all know staffing in the restaurant industry has likely never been more difficult. There just aren’t enough people to fill all the jobs. Sometimes you hire someone to fill a position; likely that person is a hard worker, but maybe they weren’t hired for the right job. You don’t want to let someone go who works hard and has solid skills.
“The problem with hiring unknown quantities is there is not a defined assessment period,” says Kevin Boehm, co-founder of Boka Restaurant Group, in Chicago. “It takes a few months in a position to learn their strengths and weaknesses. When this happens, you have to assess whether there is a position available to better utilize their skill set.”
Boehm recounts hiring someone as a general manager for one of their restaurants. This person had strong back-office skills, but that didn’t translate to the front of house. The answer? They moved him into a more suitable corporate role and he thrived.
“Someone who is a hard worker who isn’t fitting that role?” asks Jason James, managing partner at Odd Duck and Sour Duck in Austin, Texas. “You have to try to find that position that fits them best.”
On the flip side, you also need to be able to cut someone loose if they just don’t mesh with the rest of the team.
“One of my biggest successes as a manager is to nurture certain talents, but to also trim the fat,” James admits. “If you don’t trim the fat, the standards slip. Everyone starts to be [dragged] down at that point.”
As a manager, you also need to create an environment where your staff feels comfortable letting you know what’s going on, whether with another team member or even themselves if they feel like they’re faltering.
“If your staff feels like you have their best interests in mind,” says Jesse Smith, co-owner and front of house manager at Atlanta’s Watchman’s and Kimball House restaurants, “they have no problems telling when they feel stunted, are having issues at work or feel like they need a change.”
It works both ways, so having open communication is key.