Companies across the United States are having trouble hiring employees. What started in 2019 with millions of Americans leaving their jobs for other opportunities has blossomed into a full-on game of musical chairs. As the pandemic subsides, an estimated 1 in 4 workers has plans to look for new opportunities, according to a recent Prudential Financial Pulse of the American Worker survey. Those jobs are stretching across every industry but have hit restaurants especially hard.
People leave jobs for myriad reasons. Lack of promotions, lack of fulfillment, and lack of pay all play a critical role in why people migrate to new gigs. For its part, the restaurant industry has not always been the friendliest environment for employees. When the pandemic began, millions of restaurant workers found themselves out of a job as concepts were forced to shut their doors due to lockdowns. Now, as the economy slowly recovers and people return to work, companies are making every effort to promote themselves as excellent workplaces.
From signing bonuses and higher wages to better work/life balance, free phones, and even payouts for simply applying, employees have their pick of places to work. Unfortunately, for restaurants that were already feeling the squeeze from a lack of workers, the pandemic and subsequent recovery have left them reeling. Job seekers wield an incredible amount of power right now, and restaurants need to prove they have what it takes to keep people happy.
So… What is an Employer of Choice?
Of all the buzzwords companies put in their job descriptions, this one might be the most enticing. Simply put, an employer of choice pays a salary above the market rate and offers employees a slate of benefits, including paid time off and holidays, health insurance, and work/life balance. But being an employer of choice encompasses more than just a better paycheck. Employers of choice promote positive relationships, transparency, respect, and empowerment, making it easy to retain and recruit new workers.
Some brands, including Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out, are considered employers of choice because of their commitment to promoting a solid work/life balance alongside higher-than-average pay. Other concepts, including Chipotle, TGI Fridays, and Texas Roadhouse are also considered top employers because of their employee improvement initiatives, profit sharing programs for managers, and staff inclusion in the hiring process.
When employees are hard to find and even harder to hire, being an employer of choice gives you a leg up on the competition. But becoming a preferred workplace isn’t as easy as offering new employees a $50 bonus and changing nothing else. Those days are over, and with more jobs available than people to fill them, it is easy for prospects to select the right fit for them.
Using Data to Create Better Workplaces
Sometimes life isn’t all about making as much money as possible. While cash is nice, having the right type of work/life balance is becoming more critical. For example, think about a shift manager who is constantly getting home late on Sunday nights and missing dinner because they are always doing inventory. With the help of a mobile app to automate the process, they get the job done much faster and might still have a chance to eat dinner while it’s warm.
Restaurants can attract and keep extraordinary talent simply by making their workdays a bit more bearable. When used correctly, data has the power to simplify complex, time-consuming tasks and get people moving.
“Utilizing data for good can minimize or eliminate the critical, but tedious, work associated with running a restaurant, totally taking it off a manager’s plate,” Dale Del Bello with PAR Data Central said. “It goes even further than that, too. No one wants to spend an 8-hour shift hiding out behind a desk in the back office. With platforms like Data Central, managers, operators, and owners can spend more time doing what they love; taking care of guests, working with their teams, and providing great customer experiences.”
For employers of choice, data is vital to maintaining an open and inclusive workplace. Products like Data Central walk new hires through the best practices process, creating a consistent set of guardrails that lessens the time it takes to onboard. Once the onboarding process is over, managers can analyze daily reports to find growth opportunities and pinpoint staff members who need more guidance or a refresher course.
Staff Autonomy and Empowerment
No one wants to show up to work and be told what to do, micromanaged, and given orders like it’s their first day of basic training. The best, most rewarding jobs come with a sense of autonomy, and employers of choice value the perspectives and talents their staff brings to the table.
This means managing incentive plans to reward top performers and monitoring performance at all levels. Less productive employees can train under the mentorship of more experienced staff members to level up their skills and give them more opportunities to succeed. By rewarding top performers, it incentivizes everyone to put in the extra effort to get ahead. Giving them chances to train and mentor others gives them a sense of pride, accomplishment, and purpose beyond the usual day-to-day.
According to Forbes, mentorship programs work. Not only do mentorship programs keep retention rates high for both mentors and mentees (69% and 72%, respectively), they can save the company money. Restaurants often spend north of $6,000 to hire and train a new employee. By keeping that money, operators can use those dollars to improve the restaurant, offer raises or bonuses, create incentives, or develop training programs.
Most importantly, employers of choice are able to fill out their employee rosters with people recommended by their current staff. When employees are happy, they’re more likely to recommend your restaurant to their friends, family, and others. People don’t typically share job postings for places they don’t want to be at, because let’s face it, who wants to subject others to the same misery.
Reducing the Learning Curve
Good restaurant operators are constantly learning, and they pass those lessons on to their teams. With the right platforms in place, managers can reduce the learning curve for their teams by instituting LMS training programs and certifications, compare individual jobs to larger KPIs, and share information across the network with SMS alerts. As a result, employees are better informed, better trained, and know how their work affects the bottom line.
Wes Boggess, Product Manager for PAR Data Central, managed restaurants and bars for 17 years without restaurant technology.
“Intuitive tools help managers stay ahead of their day from beginning to end,” Boggess explained. “All of a sudden, complex and difficult tasks become much more efficient, allowing managers to complete everything quickly and get back out where they are most needed – on the floor. Not to mention, because their tasks are automated, they are getting home on time!”
Routines are about more than ticking off boxes on a checklist. When employees understand what their daily tasks are before they start their shifts, it gives them an idea of what to do, while guides can help them figure out when it needs to be finished. Labor and scheduling platforms keep everyone on the same page and make it easy to trade shifts without needing to loop in a manager every step of the way.
Managers have their own unique set of problems to contend with, and at an employer of choice, they can breathe easier knowing they have the right tools for the job. They should have access to a mobile system that moves with them and makes it easier to multitask, but keeps them in the loop when important decisions need to be made.
“The pace of change in restaurants, especially post-COVID, is so fast that open, dynamic, and flexible systems are table stakes,” Boggess said. “The tools and systems restaurants are gravitating toward should be able to quickly adapt to tomorrow’s unknown challenges.”
Creating a Positive Domino Effect
When managers are happy, their employees are happy. When employees are happy, they treat their guests better. Ultimately, that generates more revenue for the restaurant.
The writing is on the wall for restaurants. Employees are going to go where they see the best fit. If people have the option of joining a company that pays well, treats employees with respect, and gives them the tools they need to be successful, they’re going to choose that place every time over the one that doesn’t.
Employers of choice are making moves to attract today’s best talent. It’s about time the rest of the industry catches up.