Turnover is like a dip in the stock market: you can reinvest after selling at a loss, but you’ll never get back that initial investment. Employees are investments. When team members leave, they take with them the knowledge they’ve acquired and you’re faced with bringing someone new up to speed. It can be draining both emotionally and financially especially when it seems all you’re ever doing is breaking in new staff.
Don’t underestimate the powerful value of the relationship between employee and boss. Why do people leave jobs? Certainly some employees leave for higher paying opportunities. Kitchen staff often leave to expand their experience base with different chefs and different cuisines. Most, however, leave jobs for emotional reasons. Often it’s a disconnect or a problematic relationship with their supervisor. People don’t want to just work for someone—they want a connection with their leader. They want a mentorship that provides common goals, direction, communication, and increased responsibility to help them advance their careers. Employees want to care about their jobs. They want to know they’re valued. Being a great boss means nurturing these relationships. When people like their boss, they’re less likely to leave.
Here are some strategies to reduce turnover and keep your team intact:
1. Invest in Orientations
Staff retention starts with the first impression. Orientation is your first opportunity to build rapport with your future brand ambassadors. Create value around the orientation. Don’t let an employee work for weeks before you reach out. An initial lack of rapport will negatively impact their view of the business. When I was a GM, I was present for every new employee orientation. After a tour and staff introductions, I went through training materials, set expectations, and explained our company’s values and policies. After the necessary administrative information, I had lunch with each new team member. If other staff was around and had time, I invited them to join us. I asked them how they got into the hospitality industry, about their family and hobbies. This simple personal investment shaped the morale of my business and will help you tailor the initial relationships with your new teammates. They will leave their first day with a sense of connection to you and the business, a great first impression, and hopefully a sense of pride and respect for their job.
2. Power of 5
You must continue to work to sustain the relationship that starts at orientation. The Power of 5 is about creating opportunities to coach and develop your team through five minute chunks of private interaction. During service, interactions are usually hasty. The Power of 5 forces you to focus on one employee for five minutes. Maybe you want to acknowledge remarkable service. After a shift, instead of just saying “good job,” sit down with them for five minutes to specifically explain how you felt and reinforce what happened. If you receive food compliments from your guests don’t just say “Table 32 liked their steak.” Take five minutes after the shift and tell him how great the food has been. Tell him how much you value the level of pride the kitchen has in the food. Don’t just reprimand an employee who makes a mistake. Sit down for five minutes at an appropriate time and talk about what happened, why it happened, how to fix it. Reinforce your confidence in them moving forward. There is so much power in interpersonal communication in the restaurant industry because of the highly sensitive service-driven environment. This type of interaction builds lasting loyalty around your relationships and will definitely minimize turnover.
3. Pre-shift Your Team
One of the most powerful actions a great coach can take when leading a team to victory is the pregame speech. Very few championships are won without a dynamic boost from the coach. Begin your shift with an enthusiastic and defined pre-shift, just as great coaches do. This sets the tone for teamwork and camaraderie which are key for employee fulfillment. When employees feel part of something larger than themselves, they’re less likely to leave.
Use the opportunity to educate your team and to give a shout out to employees who have gone above and beyond. Interact with your team. Have some fun. Quiz them on the menu. “What’s your favorite entree?” “Sell me your favorite Cabernet.” Reward great answers with creative prizes.
Pre-shifts can cut off negative energy and create a focused and purposeful mindset. If you’re having fun, it’s likely they’ll have fun too. Create an environment with character and energy and you’ll be rewarded with less turnover and a happier staff. Employees are the roots of your restaurant. If you water and feed the roots, the entire restaurant will thrive.