By Charles Marvil
In 2015, there was a 72.1 percent turnover rate. Sounds bad doesn’t it? And yet it is lower than pre-recession rates that, according to the 2015 NRA Forecast, averaged 80 percent.
Compounding the turnover issue now is the fact that the labor pool of employees is shrinking and wage increases are becoming mandated around the country. Operators are going to have to deal with these issues by increasing productivity, increasing prices, increasing the use of technology or a combination of all three.
To top it all off, a new generation has entered the workforce and is changing the rules of the game when it comes to how to recruit, train, manage and retain your employees. This young group is different because it has never been without the Internet or mobile technology.
If you want to hire the best employees for your company in today’s world, you’ll need to make a radical shift in how you interact with potential staff. Several established and new technology platforms can help the restauranteur navigate this shift and address the issue of retention.
Finding and Training Good Employees
Recruitment, or getting the word out that the operation is hiring, is typically done through a job posting site such as Craigslist, Indeed or Monster. But to keep up with the current “on demand” economy, recruiting tools like Hirewire (hirewire.com) offer an alternative.
Using Hirewire, an employer creates a profile of the job they are hiring for. The potential employee also creates a profile, which includes experience, availability, location and salary requirements. In addition to the traditional profile information, employees create a video profile of themselves that is included in their overall package.
Hirewire analyzes the two user groups, employer and potential employee, and sends a notification to the employer when there is a potential match. The employer can then contact the potential employee via text message to set up a time to meet face to face.
Founder and CEO Chau Nguyen says the video component has saved a tremendous amount of time and effort for the employer, as it gives them the ability to quickly determine whether there is a good fit based on initial communication skills. Currently the product is in beta mode and is being offered to employers for free to try. By this fall, Hirewire plans to begin offering the product using two potential pricing structures: frequency of hire (pay per hire) or, for larger employers, a subscription service.
Once the employee has been hired, the hospitality operator should provide an adequate amount of training to prepare the employee to interact with the guest. Many organizations do a good job providing this training, however, many small, independent operators are so stretched that providing training for new employees may be something along the lines of “Hi, welcome aboard. Here is your employee manual, read it when you have time. Here is Joe, follow him around today and watch what he does. You will be on the floor tomorrow as a server.”
Unbelievably this scenario is commonplace, but PeopleMatter (peoplematter.com) can help. PeopleMatter provides an operator with a way to offer training for employees that is effective and relatively easy to enforce. Since Millennials constantly access the Internet, PeopleMatter offers a number of training modules that are appropriate for the hospitality industry, and they offer the ability to create customized video training appropriate for the operation.
The platform allows for quizzes to ensure that the employee actually is retaining the needed information. All of this training is designed for desktop and mobile access, is trackable and can be put together in advance. This way, a new employee can be hired, given a link to the required training modules and be asked to complete them before reporting to work for their first day.
The PeopleMatter platform is very robust. In addition to the training module (LEARN), it includes modules for hiring (HIRE), scheduling (SCHEDULE) and data analytics (PERFORM). The PeopleMatter platform is extremely customizable and is well-suited for larger independent operations or multi-unit operators of typically five or more units.
Solving Scheduling Hassles
Scheduling has always been a hassle for any hospitality operator. In the “old days,” schedules were frequently created using an Excel spreadsheet and a request book that was usually hidden in the manager’s office.
Schedules were done at the last minute because the manager was too busy dealing with every other issue that arises in the restaurant. The schedule may have been posted or emailed the day before the next weekly schedule started, creating anxiety for many employees as well as the management team. Often when a group of employees all wanted the same day off, such as a major holiday, it created sen more problems.
Several technology platforms help relieve the stress of scheduling and provide improved lines of communication between employees, including ShiftNote (shiftnote.com) and HotSchedules (hotschedules.com).
Both allow the manager to create a schedule online then distribute it either via email or a text notification. Employees are able to make schedule requests electronically, although the manager must still approve the request. A manager can also restrict the number of employee requests for certain days, such as a major holiday, and the employees can search ahead and know this in advance.
In addition, swapping a shift with another employee can be done electronically, taking this responsibility out of the manager’s hands and putting it in the hands of the employees. Because there is an electronic record of the transaction, there cannot be a “he said, she said” situation if an employee does not show up for a scheduled shift.
These software programs interface with various POS systems and allow for clock-in enforcement. If an employee is scheduled for 9 a.m., the software will allow the employee to sign in up to 9:05 a.m. (or whatever window the manager establishes). After that time, the employee must get manager approval before clocking in.
In addition, scheduling software uses sales and guest count data to help predict future sales data, thereby providing proposed staffing level based on historic data. By comparing scheduled labor dollars with actual labor dollars, the manager can control labor costs more effectively.
One additional component that both ShiftNote and HotSchedules incorporate is the concept of a manager’s log book. Not surprisingly, both put the manager’s log book online, which allows for remote access by managers, owners or the corporate office. The log book is useful for tracking shift notes, employee issues, repair needs, accidents, inventory and much more. This type of technology is effective for improving company communication levels.
The hospitality industry is first and foremost a people-to-people business. No amount of technology will completely remove this element from the business. However, as wage rates increase and the labor pool shrinks, operators are forced to come up with solutions that will allow their employees to do their jobs more effectively and easily.
The next generation of worker is in the pipeline and completely comfortable with technology. Millennials are looking for an employer who shares this ideal, and when they find this fit, they are able to step into the gap and provide employers with quality work.
Today’s operators cannot expect to communicate in the same way they have communicated previously. Pen and paper is out, email is out, text and short video is in. By considering the capabilities of software platforms like Hirewire, PeopleMatter, ShiftNote and HotSchedules, hospitality operators will be able to attract, train, manage and retain the next generation of hospitality employees and leaders. It’s time to catch this technology train before it pulls away from the station.
Charles Marvil has more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurant management and POS technology. He is currently a full-time instructor in the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University.