Article contributed by Sydney Lauro
This is a pivotal moment in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Although we’re finally recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and are desperate for the highly anticipated “return to normal,” there’s a big problem. Where have all the workers gone?
Changes in the workplace over the last year forced hospitality employees to look elsewhere for work. And now, when we need those employees to come back, the well feels like it’s run dry. So, how can restaurants compete for talent and retain their current staff? There are a variety of factors that impact this, but there is one that is often overlooked even though it can make a huge impact: employee communication.
Mind the Gap
Although good communication with your employees has a huge impact on your business, companies often struggle to get their communication strategies right because there’s:
- Too many cooks in the kitchen (no pun intended). Often there are many people relaying messages and communicating, which muddies key messages.
- Insufficient budget for comms technology for frontline workers.
- Limited training for frontline managers.
Most organizations with dispersed employees rely on the Cascade of Communication. This is when a message from the top goes through multiple layers of field management before reaching frontline, hourly employees. And like the game of telephone you played as a kid, there are flaws in this system. Messages get lost in translation. The intended tone doesn’t carry over. And sometimes managers put their own spin on the message or decide it’s not important enough to share with their teams at all.
But don’t blame your managers for not being incredible communicators. Even though managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement (Gallup), they aren’t being set up for success. Managers are usually promoted into that leadership role because they were the best at the job, not for being great communicators or coaches. And then we don’t take enough time to teach these skills.
Is The Hiring Problem a Culture Problem?
We know that the pool of applicants has drastically shrunk. But it’s important to understand why this is happening.
It all comes down to the employee experience, which is a combination of communication and company culture, and follows the entire employee journey. Inadequate communication and a poor experience account for a lot of turnover and results in highly disengaged employees.
So, if you don’t have a great culture, with transparent communication, clearly stated benefits, and other key parts of the employee experience, that’s when churn happens. And it can impact your reputation as an employer, which makes it harder to hire new talent.
The Power of a Great Employee Experience
So, what can you do about your hiring dilemma? Start focusing on communication. When internal communication is done well, it’s a powerful tool.
And it all starts with the hiring and onboarding process. Are you transparent with candidates? Quick to respond? Have you made sure your employee benefits are front and center? Often, companies in any industry miss out on finding great people because they don’t focus on these things. But the reality is, how you hire and onboard your people sets the tone for their entire experience at your company.
But that doesn’t mean that improving communication now won’t also have a big impact on your existing staff. Have you reminded them about the benefits of working at your company? Are there benefits they’ve asked for that you could start offering? Are you focusing on your people and creating a positive work environment? How are your managers doing right now?
Some of the biggest ways you can improve communication are:
- Find ways to get communication from the top directly into the hands of hourly employees. This might require a new channel for communication and resources.
- Make communication more two-way. Use surveys or focus groups to get input from your managers, hourly employees, and field leadership. Listen to what they have to say and take action.
But these two strategies can take time and resources that you might not have. But one way to make the biggest difference quickly without breaking the bank is focusing on manager communication.
4 Tips to Help Managers be Better Communicators
Because you already have some ways of communicating with your managers (e.g. email on the BOH computer), they’re an easier group to reach. And since they account for the majority of the experience of your frontline teams, focusing on them has a huge ROI.
There are four key ways to make your managers better communicators:
- Review Existing Programs. Work with your HR and Restaurant Ops teams to see what training and onboarding materials currently exist. You might already have great programs, but maybe they aren’t being reinforced. Or maybe the training is out of date. Review what you do have, and leverage the teams responsible for curating the curriculum to make improvements.
- Ask For Manager Feedback. Never underestimate the voice of your people. Your managers on the ground have insight into what’s going wrong and possible solutions. And they can tell you exactly what they need and are struggling with as management. Leverage surveys, focus groups, and even shadowing their all-team or area leadership meetings to gather their feedback.
- Help Them Lead Better Team Meetings. These are also called team huddles or pre/post-shift meetings, and they’re a primary way managers communicate with their teams. Help your managers set a cadence for these calls, provide them with talking points, and share tips for building team culture.
- Follow the Data. The last way you can improve manager comms is to look at the data. Where are your top performers? What are they doing differently? It’s likely that you’ll find managers with great communications skills at locations that are performing well. Learn from them and share that knowledge.
No single tactic works for all organizations, but consider adopting one or two of the strategies above and start with a pilot group of employees. From there, review the feedback with your leadership team and share your findings across the organization. Change in this area can be slow, but the results will impact all your employees. As an owner/operator you will be able to gain visibility into day-to-day operations to understand where challenges exist, and where successes can be celebrated. Understanding the communications drive increased accountability and growth in this time of transition back for the industry.
If you want to learn more about how you can improve top-down communication, request a demo today.