The catch 22 of our industry right now is that we don’t have time to make time for our future selves. By now we all know what is happening in the job market as a whole, and especially in the hospitality industry. “The Great Resignation,” as it is being dubbed has 40% of Americans thinking about quitting their jobs. The rate of the return of customers has rebounded much faster than the rate of return of employees. Employees who were furloughed may have picked up other jobs, or may not be willing to return. The employees who stayed on with us through Covid are burnt out or maybe they were thinking about a career change in early 2020, but couldn’t make that happen at that time. Additionally, many Americans continue to lack stable child care and have left the workforce completely.
That leaves those still working, responsible for covering 2, 3, 4 or more positions. The managers are covering shifts, the owners may even be jumping in to wash dishes. This does not leave a lot of time – the one thing we all need more of! We need time to review applications. We need time to interview. We need time to onboard, train and develop.
Warm Body Syndrome
Instead, we are stuck with “warm body” syndrome; hiring whoever just to have extra hands at our disposal. While this will ease some of the stress in the short term – your future self will not be thanking you. We are just looking for the person that will cover the shift right now, and I can promise you, they actually won’t. According to a recent Gallop poll 61% of employees are disengaged, including 14% that are ACTIVELY disengaged (U.S. Employee Engagement Rises Following Wild 2020 (gallup.com)). Employees that are disengaged have a higher rate of absenteeism. What causes an employee to be disengaged? Lack of connection to the mission/culture and lack of training and feedback. All the things that take…you guessed it – time!
Increase your wages. A seemingly simple solution that many have considered. “If I increase my wages, I will get more qualified candidates,” which unfortunately does not relieve the “warm body” syndrome, it only means you are paying more for that warm body. Another common approach to ease the stress in the short term is to throw those newbies to the wind. In times like these, we forget the importance of our onboarding process. We need a new hire to start working yesterday and be fully trained today.
The stress feels like you are sprinting in a marathon right now. However, this marathon will become a rollercoaster if we look for resolutions of immediate gratification rather than long term solutions. By increase rates of pay in hopes of a higher volume of applicants, warm bodies to cover shifts, and lack of onboarding and training resources, you may give yourself and your staff a few moments of respite, but when the turnover begins, you will be right back to the start. When the new, highly paid warm body sees the next job paying a dollar more – they will jump ship. They do not have any loyalty to your location.
On the same note, the new employee that has been working for a few weeks but hasn’t had a tour of the facility, doesn’t know where the employee bathroom is located, doesn’t know the menu very well, but is serving on their own, will not get the right sense of your culture. They don’t know how much you care about the well-being of the staff or the genuine desire to provide great customer service. They will only know that you are too busy for them, and they will start looking for another job.
Slow it Down
It may seem impossible and perhaps even counterintuitive, but this is the best time to understand that things will be stressful for a bit, and you should intentionally slow down now. Slow down the hiring process until you find the candidate that you are looking for. The one that clicks with your culture and brings a new energy. The one that gets you excited about your business again.
Slow down your onboarding. Now is the most important time to hone in on your onboarding process. Show your new hires why they want to work with you, give them a taste of your culture. Start your new hire on a day where you have the ability to give a personalized tour and complete paperwork, even if that means letting more paperwork pile up on your desk. The paperwork is guaranteed to be there the following day whereas your new hire is not! This intentionality will give you an opportunity for connection, where the employee can ask questions and become engaged with you and your business. Remember, we are working in a zoo right now –a new hire starting off with that level of chaos can quickly feel overwhelmed and disengaged.
Slow down your training. Have them train during slower periods. Have them train in rotations with your current staff. An employee cannot be successful in the long run, with limited training. This will only cause the need for the employee to ask basic questions, many of which would normally be covered in training, causing a sense of annoyance or frustration for immediate supervisors, which then is interpreted as “I don’t have time for you” to the new employee. They will not continue to ask questions – they will either “mess up” or quit.
Identify Your Opportunities
With mass hiring comes the opportunity to have classroom style trainings. This is a great opportunity to create a cohesive team. Do some team building and teach them to rely on each other. Through empowerment and building the team, you will be bothered a lot less with redundant questions, allowing yourself more freedom to work through the massive amount of back-up logs for your PPP loan forgiveness application!
I know this sounds hard – “easier said (or written) then done,” right? Yes, it is. But do you know what’s harder? Pushing as hard as you are with no end in sight, with no game plan, for short sporadic bursts of immediate relief only to find yourself back to bussing tables in a month or two. I’ll take the sprints now to stay off the rollercoaster, and my future self will be saying thank you!