Is good help hard to find?

Someone is finding and hiring the best employees in your market. Why isn't it you? You've been in business long enough to discover that the constant hiring, training, and replacing of employees is expensive, limits the quality of your food and service, and takes far too much of your time. So why haven't you solved the problems of hiring, training, and keeping high quality employees?          

Many operators cite the problems of high employment, a shrinking pool of workers, changing applicant attitudes, increased competition from other retail segments, lack of glamour in the food service industry, and low wage structures. Then there is my favorite reason, "My community is different." And the real danger of each of these excuses is that they are all true! So, it is easy to accept them as the final answer. If these reasons are true, then you may think that there is no solution to the problem of finding good employees and keeping them.          

There is a solution, but you may be looking in the wrong place. You do not have the ability to change the circumstances of your community or nation; you can't change the environment that prospective applicants grew up in, or their desires and goals. But there are some very important things you can change, your attitudes and the way you are hiring, training, and motivating your staff. No, it's not easy, but once you have solved your staffing problems the rewards will make a tremendous difference in your restaurant, and in your lifestyle.          

If you thought you were already doing everything right, you wouldn't be reading this article. If you want to see what a difference using better techniques with your staff can make, spend some time in the most successful pizzerias or restaurants in your area. Step back from your restaurant for a little while and take a closer look at the success of other restaurant operators in your marketplace.          

Your most successful competitors are successful because they consistently deliver outstanding food and service, and the only way they can do that is by having outstanding employees.          

Spend some time in their restaurant. Watch their staff. Talk to employees and ask them how long they have worked there, how they like their jobs, and how they were trained. (Don't try to hire your competitors' superstars. You haven't yet created the environment you need to be successful in keeping these outstanding employees.) Now that you know that your competitors have a crew of outstanding people, you know that it is still possible in today's tough labor market to hire and keep superstar employees. Now put together a plan to create your own team of superstars for your pizzeria.

STEP 1

Hiring is not the first step. The first step is creating an environment that will encourage the superstars you already have or may soon hire to stay at your restaurant. The first step is reducing unplanned turnover. If you keep more of your superstars, you will not need to hire and develop as many new superstars to achieve excellence. So how do you keep your superstars?

There are many proven things that you can do that will make an immediate difference in your pizzeria. Begin by recognizing what is really important to your employees, and understand that what is most important may be different for each employee.          

As a matter of fact, what is most important to each employee changes over time. Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist, found that every individual has basic needs that serve as motivational keys. As the most basic of these needs are met, the next level of needs becomes the most important. Understand these needs, and you have the key to creating a strong and positive work environment. These needs are, in order of importance:

1. Survival Needs: Such as air, food, water, and shelter. Do you know if each of your employees is able to provide the basics for themselves and those depending on them?

It may not be your responsibility to provide this basic level of income, but if your employees cannot satisfy this need with their job they will be focusing on other ways to survive, not on their day-to-day work responsibilities.

Maddox Ranch House, in northern Utah, dramatically decreased turnover and employee absenteeism by providing day care on the premises. For working mothers, childcare may be a survival need.

2. Physical and Emotional Safety: Means a safe environment. Safety reduces your operational and insurance costs, and lets your staff know that you care about them. An important aspect of safety is job security. Your employees' need for safety is not satisfied if they feel insecure about their job. Seize opportunities to recognize the things your employees are doing right; let them know they are valuable and appreciated.
      
By focusing on job security and employee esteem at Hi-Health Supermarts, we dramatically decreased turnover and increased sales by 100 percent in 90 days.          

3. Social: Employees have a need to interact with others. Once their survival needs and safety needs are met, their social needs become a top priority. Allowing employees to satisfy their basic need for social interaction will increase overall productivity, employee satisfaction and loyalty, and reduce turnover.
         
Build bonds between employees at work by having company activities or by just allowing employees to talk to each other a little when they are on duty.          

4. Esteem:  Everyone has a need to be appreciated and valued. Show them the importance and value of what they are doing, and make sure they understand how their job ties in to the overall goals of your business.          

You may have superstars in your crew just waiting to be developed. Tom was an experienced employee performing at a minimally acceptable level for our company. Management focused on Tom, and began a dialog with him emphasizing his abilities and unfulfilled potential. At first Tom didn'�t believe that we were sincere in the interest we were expressing in him. He felt his abilities had never been recognized in the past. But, we were persistent in reinforcing our strong positive opinions of his ability, and asking him to participate more fully in helping us achieve our goals.

When Tom finally began to believe in himself and in our opinion of him, amazing things happened. Overnight Tom became one of our best employees. Within 90 days we offered Tom a position as manager at one of our lower volume stores. In less than 6 months Tom's store was one of our best performing locations.

5. Self-Actualization:  Employees want to be the best they can be at something. Help them realize that the skills and tasks they are performing on a daily basis are steps toward achieving their full potential, and let them take initiative on projects as they are ready. They may make some mistakes, but so did you.
      
When you learn to be successful at helping your employees with these things, you will find that you have created time that you can use for more training, for more marketing, and for spending time with your spouse and your family. You will reach the point where you own the business instead of the business owning you.
    
Now if all this attention to your existing employees sounds like a lot of work, it is. But as you satisfy your employees' basic needs at each level, you will create ongoing satisfaction and loyalty, reduce turnover, and you will save the time that you would have spent in hiring and training new employees. And, the bonus is, you will have a better-trained staff with more superstars and you will give better food and service to your customers. Still don't believe me? Go spend a little more time watching your best competitors.
           
There are excellent tools available from several sources to help you put a system in place to identify your employees' needs and personality requirements, and to structure your time so you will be effective implementing these new employee support initiatives.

STEP 2

Now let's talk about hiring. Even when you succeed in reducing turnover, you will still need to hire some new employees. So how can you make sure your new employees will have the potential to be superstars?          

Clone your existing superstars. Ask your existing employees to recruit new applicants. When you create a good working environment, your superstars will bring their friends, who will often be superstars too. Recruit through clubs and organizations. Applicants who are spending time in these voluntary activities are often high achievement individuals and usually have a positive outlook on life.          

Use structured tools to help you with the interviewing and hiring decisions. There are simple tools available that with only a few questions will help you identify applicants who are similar to the superstars you already have for each job. Identify the job characteristics, identify the superstar characteristics, identify the applicant characteristics, and match them. These tools have been tested over many years and proven effective, and they may help you avoid potential discrimination in hiring charges.          

Hire the right people, train, and take care of your employees, and they will dramatically improve your restaurant and the quality of your life. Do it now!