Retention 101: How to Re-Recruit Your Team Members Every Shift
by Jim Sullivan
Having a bad reputation as a place to work is like a hangover. It takes a while to get rid of and makes everything else suffer. –Jim Buelt
I have written often about the importance of making hiring THE most important decision in your restaurant. I’ve shared best practices from the industry’s best brands relative to sourcing, hiring and developing the best talent. Most of those best practices have centered on recruiting good people and then developing them into great people. But somewhere between “recruiting” and “retention” lies the little-used process of “re-recruiting.” This means keeping your “A” players engaged, appreciated and energized every day. It’s done by showing appreciation every shift and letting them specifically know why their work matters.
Outstanding team members are high maintenance in that they expect focus, goals, guidance, appreciation and recognition from their supervisors. Focus and goal-setting seem to be naturally abundant in the supervisory skillsets of our GMs, but appreciation, encouragement and recognition is in a little bit shorter supply. Why?
There are both developmental and financial reasons. Foodservice Managers are trained and expected to focus first on tangible goals aligned to measurables such as same store sales, customer service scores, labor hours, food costs, repair and maintenance expense, marketing dollars, operating margins, training costs, and sales per labor hour. These line items are clear and accruable, subject to multiplication, subtraction or division, and therefore easily columned and scrutinized in a profit and loss statement. Managers are salaried and bonused on improving these numbers, so naturally that’s what they will focus on. What you reinforce is what you get.
Not so easy to measure and delineate is the importance and ROI of employee encouragement, appreciation, recognition, development, relevance. The value of those things lies not in what it costs your managers to do them but what it will cost you if they don’t. This logic is contrary to the CFO mindset, which is why accountants tend to be dismissive of recognition and appreciation and training by labeling them as “soft skills” implying their worth is secondary since it’s so hard to measure. And so managers are not taught these skills. What you don’t reinforce is what you lose. Deserved or not, this explains why training and development programs appear first on the chopping block in tough economies.
Here’s where it all gets a bit tricky. Hourly team members are not focused on the same things their managers are. GMs focus on the Big Picture whereas hourly crews work solely in the Nitty-Gritty. That’s where the Big Disconnect occurs. Managers can achieve self-worth, relevance and fulfillment by attaining numbers and hitting targeted goals. But how do our hourly team members find fulfillment at their job? What did they make today? A dollar, or a difference? Do our managers ever help them make that distinction? Show the same concern, energy and appreciation for your “A” players daily that you normally reserve for new team members you’ve just hired.
Re-recruiting has two stages. One is done daily, the other is done quarterly or bi-annually. The longer-term stage centers on extending the tenure of each position, as opposed to simply measuring turnover. If you know the average tenure of every single position in your restaurant (“How long have our cooks or cashiers stayed with us on average over the last five years?”) you now have measurable insight on where to apply recognition, development, or advancement measures to extend that tenure. For instance, if my cooks tend to leave after an average tenure of 28 months, I’d apply formal training, recognition or pay raises at 12 month, 18 month, and 24 month intervals to see if I can extend that tenure to an average of 36 months, or more. Tenure tells you more than turnover does. But you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.
“What are you still doing here?! Get off the clock, go! No wonder our labor costs are through the roof!” How many times have you or your managers said something like that to your hourly employees at the end of their shift? Never? Sometimes? Often? What if you took that moment instead to tell that team member what they achieved that day, how it aligns with the customer’s expectations, and how much you appreciated their effort? You re-recruit with recognition in a brief post-shift one-on-one meeting right before the employee clocks out. Everyone wants to know they contributed, that their role has value, relevance, worth.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job suggests that Anonymity, Irrelevance and Immeasurement are the Holy Trinity of job dissatisfaction and turnover. Anonymity is resolved by taking a genuine interest in your people, getting to know them better, their interests, their passions. Lencioni says that Irrelevance is counteracted by making certain that each team member understands “Who they are helping and how they are helping” every single shift. What problem are they individually and collectively solving? By sharing this insight with your team members at the end of their shift, it demonstrates their value to you, your customers, your brand, and your business. Immeasurement is an “Employee’s lack of a clear means of assessing his or her progress or success on the job,” says Lencioni. Failing to link measurement to relevance frustrates employees who wonder why the most important parts of their jobs aren’t being measured or recognized. Can you imagine a basketball, baseball or soccer game in which no one keeps score and the coach eyes only his or her own performance review during the game? How would players on those teams feel…would the best ones search out other teams with scoreboards and more appreciative coaches? In a heartbeat.
So if you had a record lunch, let your cooks know that only one error was a team best, and that their efforts made for many happy guests. Thank servers with sincerity and graciousness—not sarcasm–for being on time and show appreciation for the smiles they gave and the sales they made. And teach your junior managers a lifelong lesson by your example.
Be gracious, show gratitude, and don’t forget: your customer is anyone who isn’t you.
Jim Sullivan’s bestselling new book Fundamentals: 9 Ways to Be Brilliant at the Basics is available at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. Get his online training catalog, apps and insights here at Sullivision.com.