For the past few years, many of us have struggled to recruit and retain talent within the restaurant industry. Now, with the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us, the Wall Street Journal reports on a more optimistic labor market – one that is “consistent with a jobs market coming back into balance” rather than one that is “wobbling into a strong downturn.”

While labor clocks-in as one of your organization’s largest costs, it is also your greatest asset. So, rather than resting because power seems to be moving back to employers, we can use our recent experience to better recruit and retain talent. After all, don’t you want to retain your greatest asset?

So, how do we stand out and retain our talent?

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The Great Resignation forced us to focus on higher wages and more flexibility in order to gain traction in a highly competitive market, but recent reports indicate that many of those who recently shuffled positions in search of pay raises and “better working conditions” regret their decisions.

For many, the shine wore off quickly because the main drivers were incentives that felt right in the moment but didn’t hold their luster for the long term.

Harvard Business Review argues that while compensation and flexible schedules are some of the “easiest levers you can pull” you must consider how easy they are for “competitors to imitate” and how “their impact on employee retention is the least enduring.”

In other words, compensation and other “perks” are just one component of the employee value proposition – you should go deeper to recruit and retain talent.

McKinsey research indicates that there is a “stark disconnect between what frontline employees want and what employers think they want.” The firm reports that 70 percent have applied for opportunities with purported career advancement but many “struggle to overcome the barriers to professional growth.”

So, along with compensation and other perks, I encourage our clients to make sure that their employees’ growth and development is achievable and that it will foster more meaning and purpose in their jobs. Are you giving employees the tools and training to succeed for themselves and the business?

The employee experience is all about engagement, and when it comes to career pathing, we believe in serving up opportunities through:

  • Technology: Use technology to be transparent and show your employees what they should see. Having visibility into key areas of the business helps with performance. Performance helps with buy-in. Buy-in helps with retention. Customized systems like Restaurant 365 provide relevant data via unique dashboards that help monitor food costs and manage schedules, inventory, and labor. Tools like this provide operational support that create better business habits, bring employees closer to real-time operations, and introduce them to data that guides stronger decision-making.
  • Training: According to McKinsey, frontline workers rank the opportunity for job growth or promotion higher than pay or benefits. In contrast, they cite a “lack of employer-provided development opportunities as a primary barrier to advancement.” Ensuring opportunities to acquire new skills and advance based on those skills brings a sense of purpose and economic mobility to frontline workers, so we suggest focusing on this area as you seek to recruit, hire, and retain enthusiastic workers.
  • Thoughtfulness: I could spend multiple e-mails on this one topic but listening (truly listening) to your employees is the greatest path to improving engagement and retention. At GSS, we have open channels for our employees to let us know how we can improve their experience. If you seek feedback from your customers, you need to seek feedback from your employees. What is the unanimous feedback we’ve heard? It’s not raises. It’s not more vacation. It’s the desire to have more training and stronger communication amongst our international team.

Final Thoughts

Activating and engaging employees as true stakeholders can elevate our businesses, but we must ensure they have access to all the tools and resources they need to be successful personally as well as those that help enhance the business.

The good news is that you already have the tool to improve engagement readily available to you – the ability to listen.

If you’d like to chat about this or anything else, please let me know. We’d love to hear from you!

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