5,864 US dollars. That’s how much every single employee that leaves your restaurant costs you, according to an estimate by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell that accounts for all expenses associated with replacing a staff member – recruiting, training, and lost productivity. What this estimate doesn’t factor in is the huge operational nightmare that finding new staff often entails.
With a well-known, long-lasting staff shortage problem in the industry, it’s more important than ever that restaurateurs develop effective employee retention strategies.
Haven’t created yours yet? Here are five key elements you must include.
A weak, or downright bad, company culture can lead you to losing your best workers. So how do you create a positive company culture – one that will make staff want to stick around?
One of the best ways to lose your most competent and hard-working employees is to prevent them from shining, or advancing in their career.
Here are some ways to make your employees feel that their hard work matters, and it’s not going unnoticed:
Create a recognition program. According to a recent study from OfficeTeam, 66 percent of employees would “likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated”. The percentage is even higher among younger staff members. An official program ensures you acknowledge goals and achievements in a fair and timely manner. Cash incentives are always a welcome reward – but even a simple gesture of public recognition can boost job satisfaction.
Give your staff the chance to display their abilities. Customer experience-focused companies like Ritz-Carlton and Alaska Airlines empower all their employees, from the baggage handlers to the service agents, to waive fees, give refunds, and generally go the extra mile to help a customer in need – all without having to ask for permission to a supervisor. The idea behind this is simple: if you give your employees the freedom to fix a situation any way they think is right, your customers will be happy – and you will know if you have a customer service superstar in your team.
Capitalize on their strengths. Are you putting people in roles that fit with their abilities? Perhaps Eliza, who is very precise and has a knack for numbers, should be the one in charge of inventory, even if Marek has been here longer, and he is the restaurant manager. And why not take advantage of the knowledge Louis gained at the kitchen safety course he attended at his previous workplace? Placing people in positions that fit their strengths is a win-win: they are happier – and you benefit from their skills.
Create opportunities for advancement. Promoting from within makes a lot of sense. You hire someone whose abilities are proven, and you can slash training costs. On top of that, creating internal growth prospects can be a great incentive for employees to stick around. Seasoned staff moving up can also help create, and spread, the right culture. “When you start at entry level and move up, you really develop a loyalty to the business,” says Elana Hobson, who started as a part-time fry cook at Jack in the Box 40 years ago, and is now senior vice president of operations at the quick service chain.
Restaurant jobs are notoriously stressful. Long hours, hectic shifts, having to deal with hungry customers – all of these factors contribute to a high risk of employee exhaustion. To avoid losing your best staff to burnout, the so-called largest occupational hazard of our century, it is important to maintain a healthy life-work balance. Help insure that your people have time to disconnect and relax, so they can come at work well rested:
A few months ago, in the Netherlands, I visited a restaurant specialized in local dishes. When I asked what type of meat was in their signature meatballs, the waitress shrugged. “I am not sure – meat”, she replied. I asked if the meatballs were good. Her answer? “I don’t know, I have never tried them”.
Training should be treated as a continuous process throughout your employees’ career. Good training won’t only help your employees perform better; it will also make them feel happier and more confident in their work. According to research by CHART, hospitality businesses that spend 5% or more of their budget on training experience 23% less staff turnover.
To ensure high-quality and effective training,
You know how important clear communication is to maintain a positive environment. At the same time, it can be hard to make time to chat with your staff when you are busy juggling late deliveries, bills, and the dinner rush. A day goes by, then a month – and then, a highly valued employee is leaving after feeling bad at work for a while, and you never even realized there was anything wrong.
Keep the communication channel open by:
Employee retention may be one of the toughest challenges for operators in the already complex restaurant business. Not sure where to start? Begin by putting your people first with a positive, open, honest work environment. Your staff will pay you back by taking good care of your customers, and sticking by you.