The ongoing crisis over the COVID-19 outbreak is vastly changing the nation’s employment rate. Mere weeks ago, we at lows not seen for decades. Now, we're setting new records for the wrong reasons.
The length and severity of this pandemic are uncertain, although we can say with certainty, it's already been too long and too devastating. But all crises end. The disease will retreat, whether it's through man-made intervention or nature. The world will get back to work – perhaps slowly, definitely surely.
Once we're back to some semblance of normal, we may even see a hiring boom. If and when that happens, or if you're trying to regain pre-pandemic momentum, it's wise to remember the best way to hire is to retain the staff you already have.
I came to learn this in the years beginning my own business, Caliente Pizza & Draft House, a restaurant with six locations in the Pittsburgh region and an international award-winning product. Previously, we’d spend money on job services such as Indeed, Monster and Craigslist to hunt for employees. Results weren’t always great – some people wouldn’t show up for interviews, and many others simply didn't impress.
Other companies find hiring difficult and even outsource the process to external firms. But one study by research firm Korn Ferry found mixed feelings and results overusing these recruitment resource outsourcing (RPO) services. Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual CEO survey found that upskilling employees is a major focus for leaders, but employee retention is a concern that is holding back some of those decisions. If you spend so much on training but lose the employee, what was the point? So, on top of the good news-bad news, now there’s a Catch-22 in the mix.
At Caliente, once we felt comfortable with our level of staffing, we turned our focus to keeping the good employees we already had. Having opened our first location less than a decade ago, it took time to build the proper processes to achieve this goal, but it’s worth making the extra effort to develop these procedures and initiatives to retain those who you’re sure will lead you to success.
Employees will not care about you and your company until you care about them first, and that should begin on day one. We discuss onboarding frequently in our management meetings because we know how important it is to introduce people to our company’s culture and make them feel comfortable.
Even after someone accepts a job, they may still feel apprehension over their decision or have first-day jitters. Younger generations of workers have shown a trend of being more concerned about a job being the right fit over adequate compensation or benefits. Ease their concerns by making them feel like part of the team. Before you even get to the paperwork, give them a tour of the workplace, introduce them to co-workers, ask appropriate questions about their life outside of work.
There are plenty of clichés about first impressions, and they exist because they’re true. But if you can make a good one, you’ve got a great chance of keeping an employee for a long time.
The little things make a big difference when it comes to creating a team of employees that feels invested in your business’s success and culture.
Part of Caliente’s culture is fostering a belief in just that – being a team. We’ve had success with our pizzas winning acclaim at national and international competitions, so we make sure employees feel like a part of that success with uniforms that hint at our championship pedigree. We also offer customized shirts that indicate how many years an employee has been with the company, recognizing their service and demonstrating to customers that we have a close-knit group.
Cheesy and old-fashioned as it might sound, we also started an employee-of-the-month program. It simply gives recognition to our standouts, rewarding them with a gift card and their picture on the wall. We don’t stop the accolades there, either. We hold regular employee parties and recently added an awards ceremony in which we gave away nine huge trophies, honoring our tops cooks, hostesses, managers and more. People want to know they’re appreciated, and these are just a few ways of doing it. Again, it’s all about the little things you can do to say thank you.
As I alluded to earlier, we shifted our spending on ads for job openings to these programs and perks that show our employees we care. We legitimately do appreciate our employees – as the leaders at any company do, one would hope – but these efforts have a self-serving aspect, too. When the staff sees the work you put into their happiness, it creates a workplace people don’t want to leave.
People want to work at a place where they feel they have long-term opportunities. We may just be a restaurant in an industry rightfully perceived to have high turnover, but as we’ve expanded, we’ve certainly had employees rise through the ranks to positions of leadership at the company. The key is identifying your top talent and fostering it.
One process we developed that may be unusual in our field is employee evaluations. We make an effort to sit down with each employee, highlighting their strengths and areas in which they can improve. Spending one-on-one time with your employees, whether they are waiting tables or managing entire stores, shows you care about their personal development and how they fit in the organization. Early in a business’s lifespan, say if you have only a handful of employees, this is an easy step to forget, because you spend enough time with employees to provide constant feedback. Grow large enough, though, and you can lose that.
Another method for feedback and developing processes to retain employees is, somewhat contradictory, performing exit interviews. No matter how well you build an organization where people want to stay, you’ll lose good employees over time. If the circumstances allow it during these times of separation, it’s a good time to get honest feedback about how your business is being run. For example, we had a manager leave our company for personal reasons, and during his exit interview, he informed us that he often didn’t know what his exact duties were because we didn’t have job descriptions. Following that, we developed these descriptions, creating a more professional atmosphere that helped people realize our company had a direction for them and could provide a long-term career.
When successfully building a business, your staff will likely grow and managing personnel will become a more important task. You’ll want your best employees to stay for the long haul – top talent doesn’t always simply walk through the door, after all. So, from day one until they say goodbye (hopefully, many years later), pay attention to their wants and needs, show they matter to you and the company, and provide a path for their personal development.
That way, when the economy is back to where we all want to see it, unemployment drops into the low single digits yet again and finding good employees becomes a chore, you'll have a staff that isn't going anywhere.