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Two common staffing challenges in the service industry, and how to solve them

September 27, 2016

By Charles D’amico, courtesy of Credibly

Success in business starts with the people you hire. A poor approach to staffing can work against the growth and financial stability of your store or restaurant. Often, we become victims to circumstance, poor foresight, or poor leadership, forgetting to build our bench or hire the right people. But some simple tools and planning can save yourself sanity, time, and money.

What does it mean to have someone who is completely open to work any shift you need? At first glance, it might sound great that this person can help you out any time, but unless you are hiring a high school/college student for summer help, the idea that a person has no other responsibilities in their life can be a red flag when weighed against other variables.

For example, if you are hiring a manager candidate fresh out of college, you might expect them to have open availability because they have just recently finished with the responsibilities of their education. But in the retail and service industry, we don’t hire college graduates on a regular basis; more often, we look to hire servers, hourly staff, or shift leaders who are only looking for part-time work. If someone we are going to pay minimum wage (or close to it) has no other responsibilities or jobs, it could suggest a lack of drive and planning.

When hiring hourly employees, the best ones are often the employees who have a lot on their plate, and it frustrates us that they don’t have more availability. But it’s OK that your employees are in demand, and you as an employer should embrace it. If you have an A+ employee who can only work Tuesday and Thursday nights, that means there’s two shifts a week when you don’t have to worry about operations. It’s counter-intuitive to your business to say, “I’d rather have C-grade employees working full time than an all-star team of part timers.”

The key to succeeding with this approach is having set schedules that your employees with other responsibilities can bank on. If they know their schedule is going to stay the same for the foreseeable future, it helps them plan their lives and minimize stress — which increases the likelihood that they’ll stick with you.

Hiring Experienced Help & Managers
As many restaurant owners could tell you, it’s rare to find workers who are experienced, dependable, and in need of a job. Sure, talented people lose their jobs for a number of reasons and have to look for work, but in general, an employee with years of experience and an amazing attitude probably isn’t going to walk through your door, ready to rock. (In my experience, it’s far more common to see workers who are unemployed after leaving “bad situations,” and it turns out they were part of the problem at their previous job.)

The best way to find experienced help is to grow it from within on a daily basis. If you are constantly growing your “bench” and teaching the next round of leaders in your company, you’ll always have managers and shift leaders ready to go. The cost of finding outside talent to replace an employee is always higher than developing talent from within.

Think of all the times you have hired an outside manager to lead your company, and your strongest employees have to work to support them while they learn your systems and procedures; that represents a tremendous cost in worker productivity. The better approach is a seamless transition where you coach up an employee to lead a shift and grow organically in your company. When you are weighing the cost-benefit analysis of giving someone who’s already in your organization a shot to learn (even on the job) versus hiring from outside, more times than not an internal hire will come out ahead in overall costs and performance.

To make this a regular part of your staffing strategy, you have to work at it every day and create a culture of growth. Even if your restaurant only has one location, you need to teach people how to do your job. The military has done this for centuries; it’s called redundancy training. If you have managers who do not coach or teach their employees for fear of someone taking their job, they are missing the point. Days will come when they get sick or want a vacation, and the more people who can help or do their manager’s job, the better off the business will be. When businesses get defensive or protective of their leadership positions, they often get caught with their pants down when that manager quits or has to be fired.

Life happens on its own schedule, and you will inevitably lose managers and experienced employees, but if you are constantly coaching up and setting your team up to succeed, you will develop a culture that minimizes stress and maximizes the bottom line.

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