Now, more than ever, we (as an industry) are having a helluva time retaining good people. Before diving into how we can combat such a grave issu, it’s important to note some of the less obvious reasons why this is happening:

  • There are more restaurants than ever before and that number will continue to grow over the next five years. This isn’t a problem, but finding good people to run and work in them is.
  • Because of such massive growth a few things are happening:
    • inexperienced managers in a lot of cases don’t know what the hell they are doing, thus aren’t mentoring and taking care of staff like they should.
    • And, with so many restaurants opening up, there are many seemingly enticing opportunities for individuals unsure of their fit at an organization. It’s the grass is greener phenomenon.
  • Additionally, the restaurant industry is behind the curve (as it’s been for quite some time) in taking care of their own – fewer benefits (bonus, 401K, health), longer hours, higher stress and lower pay – you enticed yet?
  • Lower pay, in a lot of situations leads workers to find jobs in completely unrelated industries, especially if this lower pay is met with debilitating student loans like many young (and not so young) people are facing.

So, the challenges are real, the question is what do we do on a business-by-business case to weather the storm – how the hell do we actually keep good people around?

You hear a lot of folks talk about how employees are assets. You might even hear me spout off one of my favorite lines on a Facebook Livestream, “your staff can be your greatest asset or your worst liability!“. Well, when you think of assets in the traditional sense, what is the goal to do with them?

You need to take care of an asset, otherwise, it ceases to be one. This is the moment it turns into a liability.

So, we first need to start taking care of our staff – truly taking care of them. Choosing to be a leader implies certain sacrifices, starting with putting the interests of those around us ahead of ourselves. Who was it that said, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. If you want your staff to buy into the mission, to do good work, to be reliable and trusted – you need to show them that you care. You don’t show them that you care with a paycheck, that part is understood, you show them by paying attention to who they are as a human being – what do they care about? How is their family? What’s their favorite sports team? You’ve got to ask questions and be curious about someone, for the sake of wanting to get to know them better – not because you have some sort of agenda. Oh, and when you ask, even if it’s only to see how their day is going, it helps to hang around for the answer.

Among the challenges here is that people are different from you and they are different from me. You are different from me. We’re all different, which is a blessing and a curse. To each situation and conversation we bring own set of quirky personality traits, backgrounds, and ways of looking at the world. Thus, how can you not afford to go into every situation with an employee like it has a life of it’s own? Because it does. The way one person handles criticism is different than someone else. That same someone else might tell a damn good joke, but doesn’t quite know when to draw the line. You have to pay attention to the pieces that make the puzzle whole – there’s no way around it – otherwise, you don’t have a puzzle anymore,

Another part of caring is facilitating individual employee’s growth. Why? Because you want the very possible best for this person, not just as an employee and I think often we forget about this piece. We’ve all probably been guilty of getting caught up in the day to to day to check-in on our staff – see how people are on a one on one basis – this is where scheduling 15 minutes once every 3 weeks to chat with each employee on an individual basis can be really helpful – off the line, casual, and in a way that allows them to put their guard down. Here, if you do it right, you get a chance to fix what’s broken, find new ways to challenge them and inspire them to take their career to the next rung, then next rung and the next rung.

Soon, if you do it right, you’ll have graduated an employee on to bigger and better things. Along the way, you will get to see this person transform into something both you and they can be proud of.

Now, you might say – but then I just have to start hiring more staff to fill all of my best crew leaving. To that I would say three things:

  • Most will stay longer than necessary.
  • If you have or were to have kids – is the goal to keep them close at your side and out of harm’s way? Of course not, at a certain point, it’s time to send everyone on their way.
  • If you have a staff member that leaves in such a scenario as this, I guarantee they’ve got some damn good ideas for replacements – most likely those replacements are those they’ve been mentoring right before your very eyes.

Long story short, if you take care of people the way people are supposed to take care of each other, your people will take care of you and then you’ll be able to take care of the business.

Another good article that might help: 6 Keys To Getting Your Staff On Board With the Mission!

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