How to Successfully Hire and Retain Staff

As more hospitality businesses continue to reopen and grow during the COVID life environment, we are all trying to figure out how to hire and retain staff. This is a great time for owners to review some of the aspects of their business to make sure they are set up for growth and have the systems in place to keep staff engaged and growing. A thought to keep in mind when interviewing or evaluating current staff is: The Guest Experience will never exceed the Employee Experience. What is the culture in your business?

To get staffed and retain that staff once hired starts with how people are treated through the interview process and orientation. Training is the next hurdle to overcome to set up your new hires for success. Some points to pay special attention to are listed below:

Let People Know You Are Hiring
The first step in attracting talent in today’s marketplace is to let job seekers know you are looking for talented individuals and the benefits that they would be able to expect if they work with your business. The best and often most efficient way to attract new hires is to ask current staff for referrals of friends or people they have worked with in the past. By offering a referral bonus it is often less expensive than recruiting in a pool of unknowns and retention is typically longer. No matter what system you use to recruit it has to be proven to attract the type of people you are looking for.

Strong Company Culture
Your company culture encompasses values and behaviors which are shaped by a defined set of shared beliefs, goals, attitudes, and practices that define your unique environment. A culture is evident in how staff speak and act with each other especially when leadership is not around. Do you see defined divisions between departments, managers, and executive leadership? Everyone should speak the same language and be working toward common goals.

All of us thrive in an atmosphere of appreciation and fun. What is the atmosphere within your establishment? Is there a lot of bickering and complaining or it there more of a teamwork and upbeat feeling when you walk into the building? This is evident to potential new hires when they walk in the door and they already understand that the atmosphere starts at the top. How they are treated defines whether they are going to work with the team or not. No matter how much potential you think a new hire has, a negative environment can stifle that potential. Without a sense of being valued by supervisors and colleagues, workers start to feel like a machine or a commodity.

Expectations and Honest Communication
Retaining staff begins with honest communication and clear expectations from the interview stage and throughout all of your interactions with that staff. Update job descriptions to be very specific about the main tasks for each job so there is clear understanding. These job descriptions should be used during the interview and orientation process. Do not over glamorize a situation as this will destroy your credibility as a leader and equate to more turnover of staff.

Hire for Personality and Train for Skill
It is becoming more difficult to find applicants that will come to you with all the skills you are looking for. Or if the skills are there, they are often not willing to adapt to your systems. Many experienced workers are so set in their ways that they are constantly “job hopping” and never satisfied. Hiring someone with little to no previous experience, but with a willingness to learn and with a great attitude can often pay much higher dividends in retention and guest satisfaction.

Growth Opportunities are Evident
People interviewing for a new position want to know that there are opportunities for them to advance and grow their knowledge and to gain more business experience. Provide them with an example of another employee’s growth as an example of what can be accomplished by performing their jobs to a high level of competence. Once they are hired be sure to have regular one on ones to assess where they are in their personal development and continue to provide those promised growth opportunities.

Effective 2-Way Communication
More than ever before team members want to have effective 2-way conversations with their leaders. They want to know that they are able to communicate new ideas for improvement, have their opinions listened to, and be surrounded by leaders with a seek to understand approach. If your team feels someone cares for them as a person at work, they are more loyal to the team.

Acknowledgement and Recognition
As leaders in your business does the staff know when they are doing or have done a great job? In your pre-shift meetings do you mention at least one person who sincerely stood out as going above and beyond for a Guest or team member? This type of communication and public praise must be sincere and specific to be effective. It also needs to be strongly embedded in your culture and practiced consistently.

Staff Autonomy / Empowerment
As leaders we are empowered to make decisions that we feel will have the best interest of the Guest, Staff, and Ownership in mind to build the business, but do you give the staff some earned freedom to do the same? Your staff needs to feel empowered to fix issues as they arise within certain parameters taught by leadership. The better a staff member becomes at making decisions the more freedom they are given to handle situations as they arise. The staff must feel part of the solution. This sense of ownership makes for a stronger and more loyal team.

Competitive Compensation
Although compensation is not typically at the top of the reasons why someone leaves a position it does have an impact on decisions. As leaders you want to make sure you are competitive with your compensation. Ask yourself this question, “Does it cost more to keep a trained employee who is doing a good job and wanting a raise or to hire someone new and train them to be productive for 4-6 months while they learn their positions?” Most of the time it is a better solution to retain a trained employee, pay them more and give them goals that will benefit the restaurant’s profitability.

These are some of the most common reasons why people leave or stay in a position. In today’s world the decision to leave is often an immediate departure (very few people give a notice and work it out). By starting with an understanding of why people leave, you can focus on eliminating those obstacles from your culture allowing you to hire great talent and retain that talent. If you are sincere and want to see your staff succeed in life, then show it. Help them to understand that if they are always starting over (changing jobs) they will never get to the finish (promotion or degree). Your investment in their future keeps them positive and focused and your business benefits from that. As simple as that is most people do not think of it until they hear it from someone else. Care about your staff and they will care about you and your guests.

Mike Krebs – Project Manager, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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