Staffing and Values

Recently I spent a few weeks on the road in NSW and Queensland sampling lots of different restaurants, cafes and bars to get a good idea about what's going on in the industry.  I wanted to understand what people are being challenged with beyond covid.

One of the things that I noticed was that there is a definite shortage of staff.  And I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But I learned that the Queensland government are going to release a grant of $1,500, to anybody that will go to Queensland, from another state to work in the hospitality industry. On top of that, they're giving them travel expenses.

  1. This is great for Qld government to do that for their hospitality industry.
  2. This acknowledges the real situation, which is that we are short of staff.
  3. This could cause serious problems for hospitality businesses in other states who are already struggling to get and retain staff.

So what I wanted to talk about in this blog is not how do you find staff, how do you recruit them, but how do you keep them once you've got them?

In the past, our industry has seen staff as just a pair of hands, somebody that will come in and do three or four hour shifts then go away. That has typically been the end of our involvement with them until the next time they're on deck. Unfortunately, some restaurateurs also mistreated staff, they underpaying or not paying them at all or by treating them in abusive manner.  Those are the very lowest standards in our industry, there are of course lots of good examples of how staff are treated, the good examples tend not to be reported in the media.  But lets be honest here it wasn't unusual for people in our industry to work hours that they didn't get paid for. We all know that.

The thing now is that the shoe is on the other foot, the staff have the power because there's a lack of people in the country who want to work in the industry. Our borders are shut to international students, backpackers and migrant workers. So my question here is, ‘”What can you do to make sure that available staff choose your place to work and that they stay there once they're there?”

A lot of this comes down to how you think about them. You can no longer think about them is just a pair of hands, you actually have to think about them as a whole human being.  

  • Someone who has feelings,
  • Who has ambitions,
  • Who wants to feel important.
  • Who wants to feel like they're making a contribution,
  • Who wants to know that they're cared about.  

To be totally honest these things have never been high on the agenda of most people that own restaurants, because you're so busy trying to make money and trying to keep the business going, that those kinds of things are the “nice to haves” rather than what we “have to have”.  To run a restaurant you “have to have” people who can run food to the table, take orders, can be polite, can do the right thing under pressure. They can reset tables fast, they can seat people, and so on. So we have always focused on the practicalities otherwise the restaurant didn’t run (and this has to continue) but it is now essential to focus on the needs and values of the staff member we have to care about them in a way that has never been in our purview.  Today it really has to be or they will leave to work where it is.

So what are some of the things that you should be aware of?

I have already mentioned some of them, people want to feel like they belong, and that they're cared about and that they've got a future in your business. So how do you communicate that beyond sating the words?  (Words are cheap).

An area that you can think about is their values – meaning what is really important for them.

What is important for you regarding a staff member, (your values) may be:

  • that they're accurate,
  • that they're fast,
  • that they're polite,
  • that they're clean.

For them, their values may be:

  • that they can do something creative,
  • that their workplace is fun
  • that they can engage with other people.

Now, your values of accuracy, and speed and so on are different to theirs, you've both got a different map of how to navigate running a shift or restaurant business.  The lists above show a mismatch between your and their values. What you've got to do is to actually take a step back and ask yourself, “how can we make our place, the kind of place where people who have those values (which are very valuable) feel rewarded and happy in our venue?”

Let’s face it you want creative, engaging, friendly people working there.  How can you attract them and get the job done in the way you want (living up to your values) and take care of these staff members in a way that makes them feel they have found the perfect place for them?  If you answer that question you have discovered how to attract and keep people that are a fit for you too.

When we are working on this subject with our clients at Restaurant Profits we do so by getting our clients to answer questions such as:

  • What are the things (values) that people are actually coming to work to experience? 
  • More than money, what do they want to experience in the workplace?   
  • What will make them stay, as opposed to leave to have those needs met somewhere else? 
  • How do you make sure that those needs are taken care of in your business?

In short, we do a lot of work around that really strange word “values”.  We discuss our clients “business and personal values” then we get them to think about what they believe their staff member’s values are.   Then we encourage them to do fun training and mentoring session with their teams.  This leads to their team members feeling heard, understood, cared about and “more than just a pair of hands”.  It also means that those staff members understand the restaurant and restaurant owners values – so the individual “maps” of how to navigate restaurant work are very similar. If you are looking at what kind of training can you do, later in this year, we are going to run a course on values, and values training and staff.  If you're interested in that, let me know and I'll get you the information and you can see if it's for you.  If it is come and learn how you can also make your place the kind of place that people want to work and stay even though they may be able to get an induced away but by better money offered by another restaurant or state.