As restaurateurs, you know that even if you have the best menu in the world, the finest produce, and the most welcoming décor, none of it matters if you don’t have the right people in place to make it all come together in a great customer experience. And with restaurant industry turnover now at 66.3 percent, there’s more reason than ever to ensure that you are bringing your staff onboard the right way.
In Part 1 of Staffing for Success, we took a look at hiring tips that help bring that right person through the door. But what do you do once you have your new hires on the payroll?
At this year’s National Restaurant Association Show, a panel of experts — John Kelley, SVP of Restaurant Operations for White Castle; Kate Shehan, former VP of Human Resources for Cosi; and Jim Knight, former Senior Director of Training and Development for Hard Rock International — came together to share their experiences with training employees (among other things) and in developing a robust concept of corporate culture.
What is your culture?
Your biggest concern about training new employees shouldn’t be how long it will take to learn a particular task, no matter how important that task might be. Teaching steps, building muscle memory, and decoding systems may seem like an arduous process, but they’re really simple compared to figuring out how to get your staff to live and breathe your company culture. After all, even the slowest-to-adapt employees can be rock stars for you if they internalize what your restaurant’s key mission and values are all about.
When we speak about culture, we don’t mean the building or the food or your policies and procedures. It’s 100% your people. It’s the staff and ownership you have right now, and it’s the behavior of each one of them individually and in tandem. Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, had a motto that reflects this reality: “Competitors have tried and failed to copy us because they cannot copy our people.” It’s not online processes or boarding procedures that make Southwest what it is. It’s the people they employ.
Culture also is not about heritage or legacy. In many cases, relying on the past to determine your future can make training new employees more difficult. If there is a disconnect between what you say to a new hire in orientation and what they experience from their peers in the workplace, it’s fair to say that employee is not going to get off on the right foot. Your team needs to speak with one voice and share a mindset about what it means to be successful at your restaurant. Culture dictates that you pick up that piece of trash off the floor, because everyone who works with you would pick it up.
This may mean including co-workers in training procedures, so that it’s not a single manager responsible for imparting everything a new hire needs to know. This keeps your existing staff energized, lets them feel like part of the process, and makes the transition from training to everyday business that much easier for the new hire. And who knows? You may be developing your next great manager in the process.
It may also be necessary to retrain long-term employees who are having trouble seeing the changes that are evolving from the culture they were hired into. What was acceptable behavior in your business 5 or 10 years ago is no longer pertinent. It’s important to give people the chance to adapt to changes in your culture, but not at the expense of developing better habits for newer employees. Because, ultimately, sustainable growth for your restaurant only comes when everyone is headed in the same direction.
Amateurs practice until they get it right.
Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.
It’s the simplest way to explain how important your training procedures are to the health of your establishment. Without the methodology in place to reinforce your culture, there’s no guarantee that the food (or hospitality) you put out into the world will reflect positively on you. Here’s three easy ways to get that sense of culture built into the fiber of your entire training regimen:
1. Always speak in terms of “we.”
Don’t talk about things; talk about people. And always include yourself in the conversation. A good manager will exhibit the culture he or she wants to sustain in every communication or activity, whether it’s related to training or not.
If you are constantly saying, “This is how I do it” or “This is how you do it,” you’re missing the point. “This is how we do it” exhibits a sense of communal culture that cannot be beat. It seems simple, but it’s a powerful statement to make about how team members have to work together toward a common understanding.
2. Make it memorable.
Anyone can have an 80-page training manual or videotapes from the early 90s about how to greet a customer. Instead, make sure your training material is as energetic and unique as the culture you want it to reinforce. Training guides that are mostly photographs or instructional drawings are a great way to keep new hires who may learn in different ways engaged. Rather than just expecting your team to memorize scripts, role-playing scenarios can unearth the most positive answers to frequently asked questions — and sometimes uncover new solutions your current staff would not have come up with on their own.
Whatever you do, the important thing is that your training feels authentic to your business. And that it permeates everything and everyone — at every level — in your restaurant.
3. Keep it going.
For too many businesses, training is treated as an over-and-done proposition once a new employee acclimates, but it’s important to maintain touch points throughout the entire employee life cycle.
Setting meetings to discuss reality versus expectations is one way to revisit some of the material included in an employee’s initial training, but larger employee circle meetings or “lunch and learns” can also be great ways to make sure the culture you are promoting as a manager is sticking. How do you know how often to schedule these kinds of check-ins? Take the average turnover duration for your employees today and make sure the period of check-in is considerably shorter than that.
Next up: we expand on how to retain valuable employees with this and other methods.
Continue on for part three in our Staffing for Success series for tips on how to retain and reward your employees: