Your brand has a strategy, are your team members part of it?
Director of Learning and Team Member Activation for Buffalo Wild Wings
CHART Board Member
Big or small, every hospitality organization has some sort of strategy for its success when it comes to people, quality, and profitability. At the same time, today’s workforce wants to work with meaning and purpose in a social environment and are advocates for change.
So how do you connect the dots between your team members’ passion and supporting your brand’s mission, strategy, and bottom line? How do you hook them on your culture from Day 1 to ensure they want to grow with your organization in the long run?
“…the promise of a job and a paycheck isn’t enough to retain employees these days. You have to get them to buy into your brand early on”
Step 1: Invest in initial and ongoing corporate training
According to the 2019 Trends in Hospitality Training & Development Survey by Black Box Intelligence and CHART, investment in leadership development for managers lowers turnover. In fact, recurring themes from the data collected through the Training and Development Survey over the last few years suggest that employee training and career development improve retention in all positions.
That’s good news considering restaurants are seeing up to a 105% turnover rate and lodging—while much lower—is seeing an average turnover rate slightly above 50%.
But as unemployment rates fall to historically low levels and the labor market continues to tighten, the promise of a job and a paycheck isn’t enough to retain employees these days. You have to get them to buy into your brand early on. You have to help them see what your organization offers them as far as a career overall.
The quicker this happens—whether it’s during new hire orientation or through working with their trainer, the quicker they will connect their own personal goals and passions to your brand. They’ll also be less likely to take that slight bump in pay from a competitor down the street or be lured away with flexible Uber-like opportunities, both of which are real possibilities in today’s employment market.
“Team members are brand ambassadors who speak directly to your guests.”
Step 2: Extract ideas from team members
Team members are brand ambassadors who speak directly to your guests. They are also the ones working side-by-side with the rest of your team. So there’s a good chance they’ll have ideas on how to make the experience better for both internal and external guests. Here are a couple of ways you can tap into your team members’ knowledge, creativity, and excitement:
- Ask questions. Meet with all levels of the organization in a safe environment where there is no rebuttal or blame. Meet in the work environment of those who you are asking so they can not only tell you, but show you, how to make it better.
- Run contests based around efforts, not just results. Whether it’s a contest on who sells the most desserts or who has the most positive surveys, most contests include only the front of the house (FOH) and make short-term impacts. Look for contests that generate ideas, such as recipe contests, culture video contests, or who has the best sales pitch for a new menu item or guest service offering. This not only generates fun and a little friendly competition but also lets your team members know you want to hear from them.
“When strategy comes from the top down, it is necessary that individual team members either see value in the strategy, or they see it as a fun and exciting endeavor to get behind.”
Step 3: Make initiatives fun and valuable to the team
Often companies try to do too much, which can be overwhelming for the team. To gain buy-in, it is imperative to streamline the focus. We tend to easily keep talking about sales, food, labor, service, cleanliness, etc., but strategy is not just day-to-day. Strategy is where the company is going. When strategy comes from the top down, it is necessary that individual team members either see value in the strategy, or they see it as a fun and exciting endeavor to get behind. Here are some ideas on how you can get your team involved in key initiatives:
- Consider the team when deciding on marketing programs, not just the guest. Many times, we look at marketing initiatives as new products, new procedures, and a new occasion to win over guests (more to do for the operators and shaking up the routine). It is important to not just look at the structured elements of rollouts. Think about the team member’s internal shift and how teams think and feel about the initiative. Create elements that make it fun for team members to engage with the guests, such as props for them to take memorable pictures or creating a version of the marketing initiative that is just for team members.
- Involve team members in the brand’s community efforts. Team members today want to work for companies that are socially aware. Partnering with a charity year-round, not only supports brand marketing, but also does amazing things for engagement and retention. If your company has an initiative to support an organization, create educational materials so team members can see where their efforts go, adding value to their hard work. In addition, find ways the team can personally contribute outside of monetary donations – for example, coordinate hands-on projects or hold drives for food/supplies that support the organization.
“Growth is not just sales or number of locations. It’s also about growing your team in numbers and career development.”
Step 4: Utilize team members to support the growth of the company
This is the tightest labor market we have been in in over 50 years. It is important to remember your company’s growth is not just about sales or number of locations. It’s also about growing your team in numbers and career development. To help you retain and grow your team members:
- Have a strong referral program. If you haven’t heard yet, your team members are your best recruiting strategy. According to a 2018 study by Future Workplace, 60% of people would be more inclined to stay with their company longer if they had more friends. So, if you can get your team members to recommend their friends, you are already on your way. Launch the program like an internal marketing campaign; create posters, send out mini flyers with paychecks, send emails, etc. Also show a sense of gratitude for referrals. Rather than putting the bonus on the referee’s paycheck, pay out the bonus on a separate check. Have the managers give the check during pre-shift with a card signed by the entire management team shining a light on the referee’s efforts of helping the company grow.
- Create a visual of the overall career path. Saying there is opportunity in a company is one thing. Showing a team member where they can go and how to get there makes it come to life. It starts from recruiting, then needs to tie into the interview, orientation, and quarterly conversations which promotes retention all through the year. Every dishwasher needs to know and be reminded that they can be a manager. Showcase those who have grown their career in your company to show people (who never thought they could) that it is possible. Market the career path to each individual so they are aware, can take ownership, and work with a personal goal in mind.
“Saying there is opportunity in a company is one thing. Showing a team member where they can go and how to get there makes it come to life.”
Day 1 of your brand started with one idea from one individual. To continue to evolve your brand in today’s fast, always-changing consumer and employment market, leverage the ideas of your team of individuals to help strengthen, support, and create an organizational strategy that team members enjoy working toward day after day, year after year.