A version of this article was originally published on the Time Doctor blog.
It’s obvious to see that a restaurant benefits when its employees are working together synergistically.
Good teamwork helps to build morale in the workplace, which makes workers more productive and ultimately improves profits. For restaurants that have excellent teamwork, problem-solving is easier — since people with different skills and knowledge will work together to produce a creative solution.
Without good teamwork in the workplace, it’s difficult to progress as a business – which can result in poor service and loss of customers. In fact, 86% of employees and executives state that workplace failures are a direct result of a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.
If you want your employees to work together and produce great results, here are some tips to improve teamwork on the floor of your restaurant.
1. Encourage Informal Social Events
Although formal team building events are encouraged in certain HR manuals, a simple Google search for “bad team building experiences” will provide you with a litany of horrors.
Forcing people to participate in compulsory team building activities is, ironically, detrimental to good teamwork. What’s fun for an owner or manager might be less so for an employee, and the last thing you should want is for resentment to grow among your staff.
Instead of imposing team building from the top down, it’s more effective to allow teams to build organically. Plenty of people would have a problem with being forced to participate in weird team-building exercises, but most people are okay with a glass of wine and a nice meal.
In low-pressure, informal surroundings — even your own restaurant on a closed afternoon or evening — team members can get to know each other and form bonds which will carry over into their daily work. Instead of budgeting for elaborate team building events, you can budget for low key social time, maybe even offsite where everyone can observe how another restaurant functions.
2. Clarify Roles
If there is any ambiguity regarding roles and responsibilities, it’s impossible for people to work together effectively. Even worse, you may end up with situations where workers are unfairly delegating their work to others – which creates resentment.
To combat this, it’s important for roles and responsibilities to be clearly documented. This documentation should be available for all to see in an employee handbook or posted in the back-of-house, so people can refer back to it if there is a clash of opinions regarding obligations.
To avoid confusion, each new employee should be referred to this document as part of their onboarding process. In relatively small environments like restaurants, it is essential for workers to know the exact responsibilities of every person in the organization, in addition to the responsibilities of their immediate teammates.
3. Specify Goals
All employees, whether front- or back-of-house, should be clear on the long-term goals of your business. This should be covered when new employees are hired and regular updates should be made via staff meetings.
If a restaurant doesn’t have clearly defined, measurable goals for service and sales – then it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page. If everyone knows that the organization’s goal is to turn tables at least three times per shift, this will help all team communications and keep everyone moving in the same direction.
4. Reward Excellent Teamwork
One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the restaurant workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork.
If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the business as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help other employees in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with their daily responsibilities.
Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve.
Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a reward like a gift card or a weekend off with a description of the achievement.
5. Don’t Micro-manage
If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team! In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required.
It’s important to specify goals and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micro manage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to just do what’s required to please their direct manager.
Even if an employee is fully committed to customer service or efficiency in the kitchen, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck.
As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.
6. Establish Effective Communications
Your workers don’t have to become best friends in order to work effectively with one another, but practicing good communication is important.
From a cultural perspective, the management team should lead by example and demonstrate good communication. A great way to do this is to encourage managers to listen carefully to their staff and solicit honest feedback.
If managers are behaving in ways that make life difficult for their teams, but people are too scared to speak up due to the risk of being fired – this will create a problem. In order for a team to work together, communications need to be open and genuine.
In a survey of workers in the United Kingdom, 42% stated they have left a job in the past because of a bad manager. Encouraging feedback helps to improve communications but also reduces employee turnover.
If your managers can’t take honest criticisms without feeling personally attacked, they may not be suitable for managerial roles!
7. Get Feedback from Everyone
Oftentimes, great ideas can come from unexpected places. In order to achieve the long-term goals of the business, it’s wise to solicit ideas and feedback from all roles within the restaurant – from the dishwasher to the owner.
Brainstorming sessions can be great for generating ideas, but there are some disadvantages. Sometimes, the people who provide the most contribution are the ones who’re naturally outgoing and talkative – rather than the ones with the best ideas!
To solve this, open as many feedback channels as possible. Some employees will deliver excellent insights during one-to-one meetings with their managers, whereas others may prefer to voice their opinions using an anonymous feedback box.
If everyone within the organization can deliver meaningful feedback using their preferred channel, and it’s obvious that management takes this feedback seriously and makes appropriate changes – this creates an excellent workplace culture where everyone feels valued.
When people feel valued, they work together more effectively.
8. Hire Wisely
A lot of restaurants suffer from terrible, ineffective hiring processes. Ultimately, your hiring process should be used to predict how well a new recruit will work long term with your customers, other staff, and you.
Instead, interviews usually accomplish very little other than making the interviewer feel superior by asking ridiculous questions such as: “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”
While it would be great if most organizations could completely overhaul their hiring process, one incremental improvement would be to involve more team members that the new hire is set to work with.
A manager may be looking for very different criteria than the new recruit’s team members. If a person ticks all the boxes in terms of skills and culture, but there are potential personality clashes with team members, this will do more harm than good when the new employee arrives.
Every person that a new hire works with on a daily basis should be able to voice their opinion regarding the hiring process – not just the recruit’s direct manager.
Teamwork isn’t something that we can forcefully impose upon our workers. Instead, good teamwork will naturally occur when there is a healthy workplace culture, where employees are treated as individuals and open communication is celebrated.
There’s no need to be dogmatic and stick to management principles that were effective 100 years ago. By taking whatever steps are necessary to get the most out of each employee as an individual, you will also get the best performance from your teams.
Want more tips on how to resolve conflict, deal with harassment, and talk to your employees? Download our free eBook “Building a Better Restaurant Staff” today!