As restaurants and retail businesses across the nation, and much of the world, rush to re-open their stores, re-engage their customers, and re-invigorate their balance sheets there is another, somewhat familiar, challenge; the race to hire frontline talent. Most in the industry are all too familiar with the talent war – a war that was in full swing as recently as February of 2020 and just like that, here we are again.
That battle to attract top talent to your teams is now in full swing with industry giants making huge moves to fill tens of thousands of roles. In fact, the industry is already back to 10.5 million employees. This is still 1.8 million off from February of 2020; however, this is with some states and large metro areas still in some state of lockdown.
As it always is in the restaurant industry, the competition is fierce. Taco Bell is hosting hiring parties across the nation to hire at least 5,000 new team members and ramping up new openings. Firehouse Subs is looking to fill up to 12,000 roles, and Sonic Drive-In is aiming to fill a staggering 20,000 roles. Whataburger is increasing GM pay to $100,000+ and companies like Darden and Chipotle are making big moves on hourly pay hoping to attract top talent to their establishments.
So, what do we do when we’ve been able to win the first battle of attracting top talent to join our ranks? That is obviously not the end of the war for talent, especially in an industry that consistently averages 100%+ turnover for most positions. This brings us to the next phase, the battle to keep top talent.
Having partnered with hundreds of brands in the industry for the last 15 years here are just a few of the lessons learned along the way when it comes to retaining your top talent.
Smooth and consistent onboarding
You only get one chance to make a first impression. This old saying is far more likely to be applied to candidates looking for employment than to ourselves during the recruiting and onboarding phase. Now, remember, we are in a battle for good people. Sure, a top candidate should make a good first impression but so should a top employer. It is the job of hiring managers to be clear and transparent about the organization, the role, and the expectations. Just as important is making new team members feel that they are a part of an organization that has a purpose, that is going places, and that is eager to bring them along for the ride.
Once you’ve hired a new team member, it is crucial that their first 90 days match up with the story they were told during the recruitment process. If you told a new team member that we prioritize training to set you up for success and then leave your new hires with an unmotivated kitchen or dining room manager for 3 hours on their first day as “training” their trust in your organization is already starting to erode.
We see brands excel at reducing early turnover by crafting a clear and simple onboarding plan that EVERYONE knows. It doesn’t matter if your CPO or VP of Training knows the plan, what matters is if your GMs, AGM’s, Shift Leaders, and Certified Trainers know the plan and are able to execute it. Creating this plan and training your store teams that are tasked with onboarding will take some time and effort, but you will almost certainly be rewarded by reduced turnover, higher employee engagement, and quicker speed to competency.
The best onboarding plans don’t gloss over the “mushy” stuff. They don’t go directly to operational execution. They start with a purpose, a why, whatever you want to call it, but they give meaning to the work that is to come. Not only do they start with these items, but they continue to emphasize things like core values throughout the first 90 days. These cultural fundamentals do not need to be elaborate or overproduced, they simply need to be authentic and consistent with the way the rest of your team acts. This might mean a series of interview videos from the founder about the brand, or other top executives explaining what the brand means to them. It could also be a story that all those tasked with training are familiar with and can tell throughout the onboarding journey. Remember, if the story a new team member hears is incongruent with their experience at work, the trust is broken and the chance for low engagement and increased turnover will be high.
Make training fun!
This is one that we can all agree on but often are at a loss on how to actually achieve the goal. One easy way to make your new hire training program more enjoyable is to provide a clear outline of what will take place during this training period. Ideally a daily breakdown of the first week or two but at the very least a weekly agenda of skills to be learned and how they will be taught. Knowing what is coming takes away a lot of the anxiety of being “new” and allows your employees to focus on the task of the day.
Another practical tip is to mix up your learning approach. Don’t put team members in front of 3 hours of video training and expect them to remember more than 10% of the material. We have to vary the approach, not only to accommodate various learning styles, but also to keep learners interested and engaged; so, leverage technology if you can. If you have an LMS, break up your eLearning into small bite-sized courses but mix in plenty of shoulder-to-shoulder training along the way. This style of blended learning is proven to increase the effectiveness of training and improve how your new hire feels about your onboarding process.
Don’t forget to recognize and reward progress as learners grow. Whether you are giving out digital badges through an LMS or intranet, giving out swag as rewards, or providing lots of kudos as they progress, these little gestures for accomplishments make learning the ropes a lot more fun.
Show you care about the person
To really make a team member feel a part of our culture it is becoming more and more important to show we care about the people behind the nametags just as much as the processes they are expected to execute. This sort of dedication to caring for our teams is easier said than done. But again, the payoff for this level of commitment to our people will be immense in the long run.
There are many ways to show that we care. One of the easiest to implement is to open the lines of communication. Make sure managers have plenty of one-on-ones with their teams. These sessions should be all about the team member and how they are doing, this is NOT a performance review. A 15-minute check-in even once a month can make a huge difference.
Give store teams the chance to get involved locally. So many people are interested in volunteerism so why not let your team members pursue that passion together. Setting up a couple of volunteer days a year for those that are interested can create a huge boost to feeling fulfilled at work.
Provide a voluntary training curriculum that goes beyond the job. Companies are offering a variety of content for their teams to help them with things like basic financial skills, tips to improve mental health, how to have difficult conversations, or even how to speak another language. Investing in the whole person is a great way to show you care which in turn allows a team member to remain passionate at work.
Create a culture of learning
Some organizations do such an amazing job bringing on new hires only to neglect them after the first 30, 60,
or 90 days. As experts in eLearning, we can confirm that if you want to really get the most of your LMS budget you have to keep people logging in for the long haul. As soon as your training platform becomes pigeonholed as a “new hire” tool you are destined to miss out on 30-40% of the benefits of your investment. Providing ongoing training throughout a team member’s first year and beyond is another great way to ensure your teams stay sharp and connected to the brand.
Similar to onboarding, we should continue to train brand standards that are blended with brand culture. This could be online or in-person but should continue to be bite-sized, fun, and consistently assigned. Ongoing learning allows you to continuously upskill your team, look out for employees that might be slipping and identify top candidates for promotions.
When your team is always open to learning and used to being trained it makes things like operational changes, LTO’s, or seasonal menu changes so much easier. Your team is well versed in how training is done at your organization, they now how to access content and will have no problem learning about a new product or procedure. We saw this clearly with so many of our brands in 2020 when they had to quickly release new procedures for covid safety, switching to curbside for the first time, or taking on new delivery procedures. The brands that had consistently emphasized training previously were the quickest and most effective at making these crucial pivots.
Train your trainers
Here is the hard truth; if we are not training our trainers, each of the steps above will at best vary in effectiveness from store to store and at worst completely fail. Again, anyone tasked with any part of training new team members has to understand the principles discussed above. They need to understand why each of these is important and they need to be regularly trained on how to execute your training program.
If you are starting from scratch with your training program it might be a good idea to have some honest conversations with some of your tenured team members. Try to get as much honest feedback on what changes they would make when it comes to training. Ask recently hired team members how they felt during onboarding. Talk to your managers and/or shift leaders who are regularly training new hires and ask what resources would help them. All of this feedback should help you craft a good outline of what your program is going to look like going forward. Then it’s time to roll out the plan. Again, starting with why is critical to get buy-in.
Help GMs see that these steps are designed to make their lives easier and ultimately improve their P&L’s. Make sure to have regular check in’s with your store managers and trainers to see how they feel your training program is going. Provide plenty of training for this group on things like having difficult conversations, compelling storytelling, DISC, or other personality training. Host zoom or in-person role-play sessions to practice key portions of the training curriculum. Create a voluntary book list that aligns with your company’s core culture. Many companies will provide recognition for employees that read a certain number of books on the list, a great way to build some friendly competition and identify some passionate top performers. Remember, like team member training, make it fun!
Hopefully, there was at least one takeaway above that you can use to help you keep your top performers on the team. At World Manager we have been able to work with so many industry leaders and have studied what separates the best from the rest. We openly share these tips and best practices with our World Manager Community in hopes to make a difference for as many brands and store teams as possible. In the end, we know our customers’ success is our success. If you have any questions or comments regarding any of the above material… give us a call!