10 Must-haves to Cultivate a Positive Workplace Culture
Senior Director of Marketing, CHART
Is it possible we’ve finally gone beyond the need to make the business case for training in the hospitality industry? While it’s still important to prove return on investment, it’s apparent that Learning and Development (L&D) is now viewed as mission-critical by top operators.
This conversation was front-and-center at the inaugural QSR Evolution and FSR NextGen conference, held in Atlanta in September 2023. Two panels, in particular, were so rich in their practical takeaways, that we at CHART were scribbling notes to take home. The culture-sharing discussion quickly turned to training and development as the bedrock in shaping a positive workplace that values employees’ well-being and growth, and in turn, drives retention.
Here are 10 themes that emerged from the panels that contribute to a thriving workplace culture.
“Culture = What You Inspire + What You Allow” – Aaron Noveshen
1. Training as the Foundation (Recognize that “It’s Everything”)
The hospitality workplace may be changing at light speed, yet one thing remains constant: the significance of training and development in shaping a positive and productive culture. It’s certain that the way organizations approach training can greatly influence their employees’ experiences and overall success. Training is the way new employees feel comfortable, valued, and prepared for their roles.
Nothing communicates care for employees more than providing them with good training. Conversely, nothing says “I care about you less” than throwing someone into a situation unprepared.
The onboarding process is the first step in establishing a positive culture. It sets the tone for the employee’s entire journey within the organization. When done right, it tells employees that their presence is not just valued, but essential to the company’s success.
Imagine starting a new job, walking into a workplace, and feeling instantly welcomed. That sense of belonging and value is what a great first day should embody. An over-the-top warm welcome, assigning peers for support, and ensuring the new team member’s comfort – these actions create an atmosphere where employees feel appreciated from day one.
2. An Environment of Development (Show Them a Career Path)
A high-performing workforce is not taught at. The focus should be on creating a developmental environment rather than a traditional school-like approach. This means helping employees grow and progress in their roles, possibly extending beyond the company to later roles with vendor or franchisee partnerships.
When employees see a clear trajectory for their development, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged. We need to help people achieve their dreams – in and out of your company. Guiding employees toward future possibilities not only benefits them individually, but also bolsters the organization’s reputation as one that cares about its employees’ growth. It creates a culture of continuous learning and advancement.
A holistic approach to employee development encompasses not only job-related skills but also personal growth. This includes teaching time management, promoting wellness, and even providing education on topics like financial literacy. Balance is key to ensuring that employees feel supported in all aspects of their lives.
3. Great Communication (Recognize the Power of Words)
All discussion kept coming back to the power of the spoken word, and clear and frequent communication. Overcommunication of values and transparency of progress is key. Keeping employees informed about the organization’s direction and sharing successes and challenges fosters trust and engagement.
Effective communication extends to broader messages conveyed by the organization. For example, sending an email specifying how much time off employees should take during the year speaks volumes about the company’s commitment to employee well-being. It reinforces that employees are not just workers, but individuals with lives outside of work.
4. A Focus on Work-Life Balance (Prioritize Well-being)
Prioritizing employee well-being, work-life balance, and mental wellness are key elements of a positive culture. Measures like limiting work hours and supporting personal goals contribute to a healthier work environment. This can be particularly challenging in an industry with demanding schedules.
Beyond Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for mental wellness and support, it’s evident that top hospitality businesses look at mental wellness from a holistic approach, including courses on financial, physical, social, and many more life topics.
5. A Sense of Belonging (Build a Supportive Community)
These are troubling times. Help people who may be struggling. Let them know they are not alone, and create a platform for people to safely ask for help. Always in this conversation, let them know that it’s okay to not be okay.
Building a sense of belonging, community, inclusivity, and support is vital. This includes using technology to foster connections, provide resources for personal development, and create an inclusive workplace. Provide access to and education about all of the resources available to them beyond job-related skills.
6. A North Star (Live Your Values)
Every member of the organization should know and model the company’s values. Strong company cultures align with their stated values, and this alignment contributes to profitable outcomes.
7. Equality in Technology (Ensure Access for Every Worker)
Make every piece of technology accessible to every worker, not just the top tier. This inclusivity ensures that all employees have the tools they need to excel.
The role of technology in building community cannot be overstated. Recognition tools and communication platforms within an LMS or app can help foster connections and celebrate achievements. Face-to-face interactions and dialogues, such as team huddles, remain crucial, however, technology can complement these efforts by providing additional avenues for interaction and support.
8. Supportive Managers (Develop Your Leaders)
Developing your leaders is an investment in the future of your hospitality organization. An effective leadership team is a cornerstone of successful performance and positive culture, while underdeveloped leaders are detrimental to the business.
9. A Fun Place to Work (Hype the Crew)
Be a fun place to work, where the vibe is a community of people who enjoy being together. Consider having regular family meals where the foods and flavors of different cultures can be enjoyed. Use small moments of success to share positivity.
10. People as Individuals (Encourage Authenticity)
Allow team members to show up at work like they show up at home – as their authentic selves.
The Ongoing Effect of Culture
Training and development are not merely functional aspects of running an organization; they are the bedrock upon which a positive workplace culture is built. By prioritizing effective training, showing employees a path forward, communicating openly, supporting well-being, and fostering a supportive community, organizations can create an environment where employees thrive, grow, and contribute to the organization’s success.
Cultivating a positive culture is an ongoing effort that requires commitment and adaptability. However, the rewards are immense, including higher employee engagement, better retention rates, and a more successful and sustainable organization. As leaders, it is our responsibility to recognize the profound impact of training and development on culture and to harness this power to create workplaces where employees can flourish.