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Stop Saying ‘Labor’ and Other Principles for Managing Employees in the 21st Century

FastCasual.com recently published the following article by HotSchedules’ CEO Anthony Lye. You can read the original article here . “Labor” is an antiquated business word that reduces people to “cogs in the machine.” The mindset associated with “labor” is a competitive disadvantage in the 21st century, especially for restaurants. We need to cast out the […]

FastCasual.com recently published the following article by HotSchedules’ CEO Anthony Lye. You can read the original article here .

“Labor” is an antiquated business word that reduces people to “cogs in the machine.” The mindset associated with “labor” is a competitive disadvantage in the 21st century, especially for restaurants. We need to cast out the word and treat restaurant employees as a talent asset instead of a cost.

In restaurants, your team members have the potential to become topline revenue generators if you manage them to do so. Indeed, you can reach a point where staffing more employees leads to more profit. To move from “labor management” to “talent management” and reap the benefits, restaurateurs need to apply the following management principles:

Hire quality over quantity

Restaurants have an employee turnover rate of 62 percent nationally, so normally managers hire for quantity. Instead of filling a roster with bodies, aim for the highest quality candidates. To do this, ask your existing employees for referrals.

Just 7 percent of job candidates are referred, according to research from Jobvite, but referrals make up 40 percent of hires, and they are hired 55 percent faster than the average candidate. About 47 percent of referred hires will be around in three years, but only 14 percent of job board hires will stick around that long.

Therefore, build a referral pipeline instead of relying on job boards. Your team members will only refer strong candidates that share your culture and values because referrals reflect on their personal judgment.

Put an upfront focus on training

As good as your food may be, service distinguishes restaurants that thrive from those that fail. Training will determine the quality of your service.

Gear your training program toward millennials since they are most likely to be your new hires. Human attention spans have dipped below goldfish level, and millennials grew up on the digital tech that brought about this change. They don’t learn well in classrooms (it becomes Facebook or Instagram time), and they won’t stay engaged through a multi-day indoctrination.

So prioritize on-the-job, contextual training and then carve up the classroom material into little sound bites that can be read or watched on a mobile device.

Restaurants have an employee turnover rate of 62 percent nationally, so normally managers hire for quantity. Instead of filling a roster with bodies, aim for the highest quality candidates. To do this, ask your existing employees for referrals.

Give and take

When you’re managing talent as an asset, work is a two-way street. You have to manage employees with carrots, not sticks, to bring out the best performance. You must also provide flexibility if you want the best employees to stick with you.

As a baseline, employees deserve the right to swap shifts, move shifts when necessary or even design a schedule that allows them to meet personal commitments. If you micromanage scheduling or block swaps, your top talent will become disgruntled.

So rather than rule with an iron fist, provide choices. Employees with choice will be happier, and happier employees provide better service.

Focus your team on common goals

Well-trained, empowered employees can help you achieve revenue goals if you treat them as an extension of marketing and sales. In a restaurant, your talent should drive profit.

At minimum, educate your employees about what offerings are most profitable or least. Your servers can then steer guests toward menu items that are good for the business, when it’s appropriate to do so. Likewise, if you’re running a marketing campaign for a specific menu item, tell your staff. They can reinforce the promotion and contribute to its success.

Incentivize employees to act in alignment with the business. For example, the employees who sell the most high-margin offerings or promotional items could be awarded the most profitable shifts, more time off, spot-based bonuses or other perks that acknowledge their talent.

The devil is still in the details

Document what every team member should do. Your best practices and new ideas won’t go into operation consistently unless you define who, what, when, where, why and how for each task.

Some restaurants put operation guides in a binder or laminated poster somewhere. It gets ignored. The better platform for communicating guidelines is a smartphone or tablet.

Documentation is crucial because most tasks are open to interpretation. “Clean the bathroom,” for example, is ambiguous. What precisely needs cleaning in the bathroom? What order produces the best result at the most efficient pace? If you believe a clean bathroom is fundamental your business, define the process.

Work is a stressful, hostile environment if employees fear they will fail to meet expectations they didn’t know about. Detailed direction provides comfort and ultimately improves the guest experience.

Glass half empty or full?

If your team members are “labor,” your approach to management will be half empty. Employees will appear to be a cost, not an asset. You’ll continuously hire, disenchant and lose staff in a vicious cycle. If your team members are “talent assets,” your glass will be half full. You’ll hire, train and retain the best. You will help to turn restaurant jobs into true careers and make your business a magnet for great employees. Stop saying “labor.” Start managing talent.

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