Employee turnover is a bigger issue than anyone can solve in one blog post. I get it. And, I’ll admit that calling your struggle to reign in employee turnover “a war” is likely a bit of an exaggeration. But it can certainly feel like a battle against unrelenting forces just to keep talented staff members from moving to a new opportunity.
According to the 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics more than half the employees in the foodservice industry are under the age of 34. What we can take from this is that the vast majority of foodservice employees are not retiring from their foodservice careers.
While there may never be a fool-proof way to retain all of your top employees, there are steps you can take right now to understand which factors have a direct impact on turnover. Once you understand these factors you can start to specifically address what you can change and what you can’t.
Dispel the myths!
When speaking with foodservice professionals regarding turnover, the topic which is almost always mentioned first is compensation. However, there are two major problems with this argument.
First, according to research conducted by upserve.com, money doesn’t have as much of an impact on an employee’s decision to move on as several other factors. Factors such as room for growth, poorly managed or toxic environments, comfort, and even school schedules all have a bigger impact on national foodservice turnover numbers.
Secondly, giving someone a raise can have less of an impact on your budget than hiring a new employee. In fact, according to this article on employee turnover, “just to hire and train a new restaurant staff member can cost as much as $3500.” Also, industry standards show that nearly 31% of foodservice staff is part-time. This means that they are not typically provided company benefits which also reduce the impact on the bottom line.
Move the Needle
When discussing actionable steps to retain quality employees, much of the headache can be addressed in the hiring phase. An honest discussion about expectations for career development should be a requirement in an interview.
This serves two purposes. It helps you understand how to help develop and nurture growth and establishes expectations for both the manager and the employee about advancement opportunities.
Manage the Environment
Managing the environment includes everything from the back-of-house to front-of-house. This is such a broad-reaching subject that it’s more beneficial to break it into several sub-tasks.
- Employee Interaction: This is potentially the largest reason for people leaving any job. A toxic work environment has many negative side-effects ranging from low employee self-esteem, loss of morale, work/life conflict, high absenteeism, lost productivity, and a negative company image. All of these boil down to added and unnecessary stress. The responsibility falls on management to evaluate team communication and make it better when tensions arise.
- Promote Safety: Safety, at times, can fly under the radar of in high paced industries. Employees can become so focused on getting the job done, that they cut corners which can lead to injury, lost time, and sometimes even death. This is as true in the kitchen as it is on a construction site. Also, have regular safety meetings and discuss PPE along with environmental issues like cleanliness, proper lifting, storage, and lighting.
- Advancement – Or At Least a New Title: Another major reason people leave foodservice jobs is that there is no room for advancement. They often move out to move up. While you may not currently have a job tier available between their current position and where they want to end up, you can give additional responsibilities via an additional title. Giving raise, even if it’s just a small one, can show them an appreciation for their hard work. If they are the talent you want, they will respond in big ways. Be careful not to just pile more responsibility on, without some kind of reward. That will have the exact opposite effect and could lead to animosity.
- Remove Physical Barriers: There may be some who would argue this point, but I firmly believe that efficient traffic flow will have a direct impact on employee mood. There is a cost for time lost, energy loss, and incalculable mental stress directly related to the flow of traffic.
- Look and Feel: It is well documented that when someone looks good they tend to feel good. The same is true of what they create. Chefs have been trained that presentation is a pillar of their profession. The food has to look appetizing on top of being healthy and nutritious. This is as true of 5-star restaurants as it is in budget buffets. So, why isn’t there as much thought put into how food appears in display cases, salad bars, and buffet service as there is when the food is plated? When your front-of-house conveys quality through the case design, serve-ware, accessories, and décor, your staff will take more pride in serving. The look and feel have to match that same passion you expect from your top talent.
If you can engage customers and employees with these steps you are well on your way to winning the war against employee turnover. One of the biggest indicators will be the word-of-mouth traffic it brings in. Additionally, you may even find that you will start to actively draw top talent and build a solid customer base.