According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent data, restaurant employee turnover exceeds 70% a year. This, combined with historically low unemployment, means as a manager you have two primary goals: retaining your best employees and recruiting new, capable employees. While you need to do both, the better you can get at the former, the less time you need to spend on the latter. Fortunately, technology can help.
Go Beyond a “We’re Hiring” Sign
A hiring sign can be a really effective way to find high-quality candidates when you have a job opening. The people who see that sign are probably locals, so the commute should be easy. And they probably already know about your business, so they’ll be great brand ambassadors. Keep the sign. But instead of asking people to “inquire within” or give you a call, let them text to apply. Anything you can do to remove friction for a potential applicant generally translates into more applicants. It’ll be easier for you, too – by using an integrated applicant tracking system, you’ll have all your applications in one place, regardless of the source.
There are, of course, other places you should be looking for employees. In a competitive labor market, you need to meet your potential employees where they already are. That means posting job applications on job boards, Craigslist, Facebook and Google. Tools like Homebase can help – we’ll help you craft a compelling job description and post it to the top job boards for free too. When you get applicants, we’ll list them all in one place, in a free applicant tracking system (ATS), where you can also message them to set up an interview.
So, you’ll get applicants – but you’ll need to prioritize them. Distance is a bigger factor than many managers realize when predicting an employee’s performance. Living near work means fewer last-minute missed shifts and is generally a good indication that the employee will stick around longer.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I recommend skipping a phone screen of applicants. If you’re lucky, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of applicants, so it’s natural to consider a phone screen to whittle down the list. But inviting people to interview in-person is more effective as a screening tool – you’ll know immediately who will be able to show up for their shifts on time. Interview no-shows, particularly for entry-level hospitality jobs, are incredibly common – easily above 50%, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. So save yourself some time: start with an in-person interview and avoid wasting time on people that may never show up at your restaurant. People will still no-show, of course, but you’ll save time in the long run.
After you’ve found your new hires, the next step is employee onboarding. A great onboarding experience can meaningfully improve your retention rates. Be clear about your workplace rules. Get buy-in on your company’s mission and get a sense of your new employee’s career goals. When your employees know what’s expected of them – and how you’re helping them achieve their goals – they’ll be motivated to deliver a great customer experience.
Use Technology to Help with Employee Retention
Once you’ve hired and trained a great employee, your focus should shift to make sure they’re sticking around for a while. One-on-one conversations with your employees serve a crucial role in making sure they’re happy and engaged at work.
Apps can help in actually implementing a retention strategy. For example, some businesses like to offer their best employees the best shifts. For a restaurant, that might be a Friday or Saturday night. Employee scheduling software makes preferential shifts a lot easier to manage. You’ll have your whole team’s availabilities at your fingertips when you build your schedule.
Every employee on your team has a different professional goal, so it’s important to find out what theirs is. Then tailor your retention strategies around helping them achieve those goals. For example, some employees may love the flexibility of being able to work when they want to, and would love the option to trade shifts easily. Others may prefer a highly predictable schedule that doesn’t change much week to week. An employee scheduling app can help with both scenarios without adding any extra headaches for you.
Likewise, some people on your team may look at the job as a way to pay their way through school, while others may consider it a long-term career option. For the latter folks, cross-training can be a great way to keep them engaged and help them develop new skills.
Any employee retention plan needs to prioritize fostering a healthy work environment. Apps can help your team recognize each other when they go above and beyond, but you should still plan for in-person recognition as well. In our most recent survey of hourly workers, 55% of respondents said a friendly work environment is the most important factor in choosing where to work – above pay.
It sounds simple, but it’s worth repeating: building a friendly work environment – where your team feels recognized and rewarded for their hard work – will ensure your employees stay longer. Happy employees will also recommend people in their network for open jobs, solving your recruiting challenge at the same time.
About Homebase: Homebase powers team management and staffing as part of CHECK® Business Tools. Homebase helps you save time, reduce costs and make hiring easier. Recruit quality candidates, track labor expenses, simplify payroll and streamline team communications with just one tool. Learn more about Homebase by visiting team management and staffing in CHECK Business Tools.
About the Author: Rosie Atkins is the Vice President of Product at Homebase. She has held product leadership roles at OpenTable, Groupon and Upserve. Rosie’s first hourly job was working at her family’s restaurant, The North Shore (now American Seasons), where she started as a produce cleaner at age six. Her first hourly position was a sandwich maker and she eventually worked her way up to line cook and server roles. Her experience working at restaurants and in restaurant technology leadership roles has given her valuable insights into how restaurants can use technology to tackle their biggest challenges and achieve success.
Rosie Atkins, Vice President of Product at Homebase shows off her first foodservice job experience.