There can be an equal debate about this...you could make a case for both these statements...the customer is the most important part of your business or your staff is the most important part of your business. Let’s explore making the case for your employee...your employees could be looked upon as the most important because when you have the right staff you’ll in turn have happy customers. You can achieve this with one simple mindset; hire slowly and fire quickly. (Keep that in mind, and I’ll tell you why...)
In the beginning, meet with people more than once when interviewing them. Check their references. Be clear about policies regarding absences, tardiness. Seek out hard-working, honest, proactive, problem solvers and in return be a good employer to them. Show them respect, get to know them, know details about their families, do they have kids? What are their interests? Mark their birthdays, work anniversary or milestone dates on the calendar and get them a cake or a card to show your appreciation for all the hard work they do for you. If someone has worked for you for ten years, get them tickets to a game or show, or perhaps just hand them a $50 bill, which for some reason seems to be one of the sexiest rewards an employee can get. And for goodness sake, go up to them and tell them they’re doing a great job! Here’s a big word of advice to live by, “Congratulate publically and reprimand privately.” This works, and it’s respectful.
When it comes to the tough decisions or discussions, just be honest, don’t procrastinate. Lead off with, “this is going to be a tough discussion” Be a good boss, if you tell them on a regular basis to come to you if they have a problem (which you should) then you must be available when they actual do. Just mean what you say. And remember the little things...Always say good morning to everyone, offer coffee, buy them lunch sometimes, lead by example, take out the trash, sweep the floor, show them that nothing is beneath you...make your dishwasher feel as important as your operations director. A good gauge of character is how you treat people when noone is watching. When the cleaning crew comes in at night, say hello to them, they’re no less important than you, they have children, parents, etc.
Be flexible, sometimes childcare is an issue, be understanding. There may be a situation that would disrupt their job performance. Gather this info during your vetting process before you hire them. You want good people, you want people to stick around. Think about it. When someone asks them what their job is like. You want people to describe you in a positive light as a boss...firm but fair is not a bad description.
Acknowledging them, doing extras when you can… you may not like this example but we’re from Boston and while the rest of the world may hate Tom Brady, we love him here...so I’m gonna use it. After the game Tom gets up to the podium, “Tom, you threw for 8000 yards today and 47 touchdowns” Tom always deflects the question to the people around him. Be humble…”I’m blessed with a great staff, we need to continue to work hard, stick to our core values and do a good job together.” When you’re hiring people look for people who are trainable, let them know how it works in your operation, everyone may have their own job descriptions. For example, the term “That’s not my job” will only get you escorted to the exit door real quick. Everyone is capable of doing everyone’s job, make this part of your culture. Encourage people to learn more and grow in their positions. And always, always, hire from within first!
LET’S BREAK IT DOWN -
Managing people effectively is a multi-layered skill set that develops over time. It can be challenging, frustrating, infuriating and rewarding. When any group of people are together regularly, conflict is inevitable. I often remind members of The Corporate Caterer community, “You may feel the people you are working with are impeding your progress, but you will have challenges to face and issues that arise with any group of personalities you are managing.”
How you motivate one person may not apply to another. Employee A may need regular guidance whereas Employee B may perform at their peak when given a lot of autonomy. Managing a staff effectively is no small task. We work in an environment where oftentimes the unexpected is commonplace. Amidst this organized chaos, skillful supervisors recognize that communicating the same message to different people must be tailored to individual personalities.
It starts at the top.
Owner-operators, managers, and supervisors wear many hats. In a given day they may need to play the role of mentor, teacher, psychologist, disciplinarian, decision-maker, factfinder, problem-solver, motivator and mediator.. To successfully build a solid team with minimal turnover, consistency in managing employees, just it applies to your food and services, is a key ingredient. If your staff can rely on you to communicate with them and respond to their situations with consistency, they will know what your expectations are for any situation and they should anticipate the consequences of not meeting your expectations.
If we want our employees working to reach their potential, we have the same responsibility. Committing to being the best boss possible is acknowledging that we, like our staff, are a work in progress. While nothing beats real world experience, making the time to read books, blogs and articles about anything related to “the art of managing a staff,” taking conflict resolutions seminars, consulting with human resource professionals and colleagues, including friends and advisors in different professions, is time very well spent.
The Corporate Caterer also offers private coaching services that deal with this, and other topics that are customized to your own operation.
If I am having an internal conflict about a particular employee situation, I sometimes ask a friend, family member, anyone who’s opinion i value for their opinion. Inquiring, “I’d like to ask your opinion about a situation I am having with an employee and get your feedback,” has led to useful insight and different perspectives through the lens of someone completely disconnected from your day-to-day operation.
Unlike our employees, we do not always have the guidance of a manager to assess our performance. As a result, being open-minded and motivated to improve as a boss is an important obligation you have to your business, your staff, and yourself. We are all a work in progress. If you are going to talk to talk, you need to walk the walk.
If you expect your employees to be enthusiastic, conscientious, and customer service driven, those in charge must cultivate an environment where nothing less is expected. Staff takes cues from their supervisor(s), as they set the bar for what is and is not acceptable. Decide what the underlying principles of working for your operation are going to be. Then live, breathe, and enforce them. Find the balance between empathizing with and coaching your employees, while creating a culture of high-standards and excellence.
In an industry notorious for turnover, keeping a core, very solid, (= well-trained) team of employees together is a slice of the success pie. There is an interesting parallel between long- time employees and long-time customers.
REASONS WHY LONG-TIME CUSTOMERS HAVE STAYED WITH YOU
Treated well (Good service) Quality product (Good food) Good value (Reasonable prices)
REASONS YOUR LONG-TERM EMPLOYEES HAVE STAYED WITH YOU
Treated well (Feel appreciated)
Quality product (Safe, comfortable, well-equipped work environment)
Good value (Fairly compensated)
In many ways, how you treat your “internal customers” (employees) should be similar to how you and your staff are expected to treat external, paying customers. Moreover, do not underestimate the branding and sales impact of your employee’s perspective of working for you. They will talk about you as ta boss, and their opinion of your business to family and friends. Depending on what they say based on first-hand experience, can either attract or deflect business.
PROVEN SUCCESS STRATEGIES
During the early stages of your business, you will likely be wearing many hats. As you get settled in and build a team, learning to let go and empower employees is critical if you want to focus on growing your operation. “You are the leader of your business,” explains Eileen Spitalny, co-founder of Fairytale Brownies, a $10 million a year mail-order baking company. “In the beginning, we baked every brownie and washed every pan. But you need to trust people, give them parameters, let them learn on their own, give them feedback and be there as their mentor, not over their shoulder.”
Both Spitalny and co-founder David Kravetz acknowledge that letting go did not come easy for them, “Looking back, we waited too long to let go, and now we realize our team members are going to grow with the more responsibility we give them.”
Part of learning how to let go is deciding to empower your employees and give them decision-making authority. Deciding how-much authority, how-often and what situations, however can be challenging.
After reading a how-to book on management skills, Fairytime Brownies were inspired to launch a “$100 Empowerment Policy.” This gave any team member (employee) the authority to spend up to $100 of company money to solve a customer problem without having to ask. “Interestingly, it’s taken a long time to actually get them to give up the money and a lot of times we’ll have to remind them,” explains David Kravetz. “95% of the problems can be solved with $100, whether it’s re- shipping a gift or refunding – and they don’t have to come to us to ask. It’s money well spent.”
For Steve Bell, owner of Pacific Cabinets, a multimillion-dollar cabinet business, alignment of values and the right attitude is more important than experience. “If people have the same core values that we have, if they have a great attitude, if they have the capacity and willingness to learn, then we can hire them and teach them anything they need to know about the business.” This philosophy can be applied to positions such as delivery staff, prep-people, and customer service representatives.
Training, Training, Training is the key. A thorough, systemized training program for all your staff is so important when I am working one-on-one with food service operators who want to achieve greater success.
Truth be told, the vast majority do not invest the time to put effective training programs in place. “Trial-by-fire”
Is more common, and it is not an effective methodology for growth and long-term success.
Next time you are on the receiving end of consistently great service, make note. It could be a restaurant, hotel or vacation experience when you say to yourself, “Everyone who I come into contact with, from bussers to hosts to bartenders to servers to management is just so courteous and professional - I guarantee you that is the result of a well-executed training program.
Next time you are staying at a hotel, and you notice that everytime you pass by, whether it be a housekeeper or maintenance person, or someone wiping down mirrors or staircases and they look at you and say, “Good morning, Sir” or “Good afternoon, Ma’am,” I guarantee you that is the result of a well-executed training program. Those same standards and level of hospitality are possible in any business, especially yours, if you invest, or get help implementing a training program.
A new-hire trial period is an effective option to incorporate. Marie R., Director of Corporate Catering of Via Lago Café and Catering, a $5- million a year restaurant and catering company in suburban Boston, uses a four-week trial period to access new hourly employees. “You can only learn so much during a 45-minute interview”, Marie says. “For non-management new-fires, four weeks is generally long enough to gauge whether someone is the right fit.”
On the other side, Alan J. aka “Crazy Al,” the visionary founder of Via Lago Café and Catering is less patient. “If it becomes clear early on that you made a bad-hire, which we all do – cut bait. Over the years, I have seen managers spend way too much time, energy and valuable resources trying to fit the wrong person into the position they were hired for.”
He adds, “You can teach certain skill sets but you can’t change someone’s personality or make-up. If there’s another position for them in your organization that’s better fit, that’s an option you can explore. But if your gut is telling you that someone is not working out, letting them go sooner rather than later is acting in best interest of your business.”
Developing a strong staff starts with the hiring process. Some positions may require years of prior, direct experience, while other may require little, or even none. Well written recruitment ads will assist in the process. If your current ads aren’t bringing in the right people, you need to change the descriptions that provide general and specific requirements to potential job applicants. This will help limit the number of non-qualified candidates who apply.
You may be surprised how often someone will apply for a position they are not capable of fulfilling. Collect resumes by email and filter thru them. Before you begin scheduling interviews with potential candidates, conduct a mini-interview with them on the phone. This allows you to confirm they meet all minimum criteria so you don’t need to spend 20 minutes interviewing them before you learn they don’t have a car and there is no public transportation to your business.
14 SOFT SKILLS
Effective job ads seek applicants that possess a dynamic mix of hard and soft skills. Soft skills are personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social behaviors that are shown to be just as important for indicating job performance potential as hard skills. Following are fourteen examples:
- Strong work ethic
- Positive attitude
- Good communication skills
- Time management awareness
- Independent problem-solving skills abilities
- Able to work independently and as a team
- Willingness to take direction, including how they can do a better job
- Learns new information quickly
- Works well under pressure
- Punctual and dependable
- Able to multitask
It is difficult to objectively assess an applicant’s soft skills. Consequently, it’s important to ask interview questions that further assess these traits. Also, you may want to ask applicants to assess their soft skill abilities through a customized job application.
HOW TO HIRE AND RETAIN
How can you keep great employees? A study conducted by The U.S. Department of Labor reveals that the highest-valued employees seek the following benefits from a job:
- Career development and growth opportunities.
- Regular feedback about their performance.
- Opportunities to make direct contributions and be recognized for doing so.
- Employer that recognizes the need to balance work and outside life.
- Employer that is consistent and compassionate
- A good salary or wage and an opportunity to increase it over time.
- Benefits tailored to their individual needs.
HOW TO ENGAGE
The primary purpose of engaging your employees is to cultivate a high work ethic and a commitment to your business goals, standards and expectations. To ensure such engagement, as an employer you need to pay close attention to communication; following are five strategies.
* Be clear about your company’s goals, mission, vision and brand; and communicate this information frequently to your staff.
* Regularly communicate how well an employee is doing and how well your company is doing. The latter is important if you want your employees to feel like they are part of a team with a shared mission, vision and goals.
* Recognize different people are motivated in different ways. Seek to understand what motivates each employee.
* Ask questions and listen to employees. Ask them what they need and how they are doing. Also, be prepared to follow up, If you ask an employee if they need anything to make their job more manageable and they tell you they need sharper knives, act on this– quickly.
* Empower your staff to do their best with good leadership, resources, training and feedback.
KEY RETENTION STRATEGIES
Good retention starts from the moment an employee is hired until they leave your company. Changing some employment practices can have a positive impact on retaining great employees.
Recruitment and hiring. It’s worth spending time and effort on recruiting. If you hire the right person odds of retaining the employee are increased.
First Impressions. First impressions matter to customers and new employees. Treating your employees well during critical early stages of employment is proven to improve retention.
Provide Good Training. Providing your employees with proper training during the orientation and ongoing are key factors in helping employees grow and stay motivated.
Performance evaluation. Developing a systematic performance evaluation program is important. When employees know what they’re doing well and where they need to improve, both they and your business benefit.
Pay and benefits. Most people work to make a living. In addition, an employee’s compensation can impact their ability to focus and perform optimally at work. If you don’t offer a livable wages you will likely face continuous employee turnover.
Communication. Employees like to feel like they are truly part of the team. Effectively communicating is important to ensure they have the necessary information, knowledge and skills to perform to their highest abilities.
Leave. Regardless if an employee quits or is “let go”, it is important to make sure (as much as possible) that they leave on good terms. This increases the chances they will recommend your company to others (both customers and potential employees). Additionally, it will minimize the number of unemployment claims that are filed, which may help keep your insurance rates lower.
For many employees, receiving recognition or appreciation from their employer can be even more rewarding than the paycheck. It can also provide the fuel needed to go the extra-mile for their employer and the business. Bottom line: showing your employees that you appreciate their hard work can go a long way.
10 ACTS OF APPRECIATION FOR EMPLOYEES THAT CAN GO A LONG WAY
- Acknowledge an employee’s employment anniversary.
- Acknowledge their birthday with a card, gift certificate, and/or cake.
- Acknowledge significant achievements outside of work.
- Occasionally surprise an employee with a small gift or note of appreciation.
- Occasionally surprise them with a paid day off.
- Say “Thank You”.
- Prepare them a meal.
- Ask for their opinion.
- Share all positive feedback they receive.
- Give a raise or bonus when earned.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR EMPLOYEES
Along with showing appreciation, there are other things you can do to get the best out of your staff. Following are some thoughts and suggestions.
HOLD REGULAR STAFF MEETINGS
A great way to keep your staff motivated and on track is by holding regular staff meetings. This is a great time to reiterate goals and acknowledge staff members that have gone the extra mile. During the meeting make sure that you keep a written log of issues discussed and maintain a list of topics for the next meeting.
ASSIGN EVERY TASK TO A SPECIFIC PERSON
Unfortunately, simply saying “Everyone clean your carts” doesn’t work. It is much more effective to assign tasks to a specific person(s). This provides an important level of accountability.
Savvy Tip: Create a reusable laminated daily tasks/side work checklist with a column for the employee’s initials. Make it clear that the entire checklist needs to be completed by the end of the day.
UNDERSTAND STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS
Take time to learn and understand each employee’s strengths and limitations. Most employees are best suited for specific positions — you can’t force what isn’t there. Also, recognize that no one who works for you is you. Stop hoping they will be.
OBSERVE AND BE WILLING TO SHAKE THINGS UP
Just because your employees have done something a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t mean that it is the best or most efficient way to do it. Regularly observe who is doing what and ask yourself if there is a better way. Besides, sometimes it’s good to shake things up.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT INSTINCTS
Listen to your gut instincts. The worst feeling is acknowledging, “I knew I should have [fill in the blank], but I allowed someone to convince me otherwise.” I am not suggesting that experienced managers do not make mistakes — we do. But having to look no further than the mirror will help for the next time a similar situation arises.
INVOLVE YOUR EMPLOYEES
Remember that your staff can be a tremendous resource for feedback and information. I suggest periodically asking for their ideas to make your business better and more efficient. People feel valued when asked for their opinion. Who knows better about the ins and outs of the operation than those in it every day? And I guarantee that they will have a vested interest in the success of any of their ideas that are implemented.
PREPARE & TRAIN YOUR STAFF
In order for your employees to have the best shot at success, you need both a training methodology and a written job description for each position. Great customer service skills are very trainable. If you want this reputation for your business, invest the time in written, thorough training.
ESTABLISH PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
You and your staff will tremendously benefit from establishing performance standards. These standards need to be specific, measurable, and realistic.
PROVIDE REGULAR PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
A format for employees to self-evaluate their performance is a great tool. It gives both the worker and supervisor an opportunity to compare their perspectives as part of a formal performance appraisal. Structured annual reviews are encouraged for the following reasons:
- They are the forum for discussing an employee’s overall performance. Past successes and future areas of improvement should be documented.
- They are an opportunity for supervisors to define upcoming goals for the employee and the organization
- They might shed light in an area where an employee needs additional training.
- They can be used a measuring stick for wages/benefit adjustment.
HOW TO RETAIN GOOD PEOPLE
Talented, skilled, and productive employees are valuable assets. There are few things more draining to an organization than constant turnover – especially when it comes to top performers. A revolving door of staff is probably an indicator of some fundamental and significant weaknesses in the underlying culture of the business. Not only can it be daunting and emotionally draining to regularly train new people – it is also expensive, time consuming, and has a negative impact on sales.
Take Preemptive Action
Chances are that all of your employees will move on at some point. A lot of exceptional people find it necessary to change jobs and even career paths periodically. Red flags should be raised, however, when evidence of dissatisfaction among top workers is a recurring theme. Having a finger on the pulse of morale and regularly checking in with your key personnel can serve to maximize how long they stay with you. Taking preemptive action by simply initiating a discussion oftentimes will encourage a change of mind.
Understand Why People Quit
There are many reasons why people quit a job. Following are the findings of a survey of “outstanding employees” who left their last company. They were asked to indicate the top four reasons for leaving.
Didn’t like working their boss/management
A more lucrative compensation package
Concern about future of firm
A more flexible schedule
Recognizing Work/Life Issues
This is a biggie. Studies suggest that employees “highly value an organization that encourages a work / life balance as an important part of the company culture”. As a supervisor you set the tone. If it appears that all you do is work, your staff may feel they need to act the same if they wish to get ahead. But if you show them that you respect their personal lives, this will set a positive example. Part of this involves walking the walk by respecting your own time outside of work. By doing this, you will have a more productive workforce. Accommodating them when they have a family emergency or an unexpected crisis can go a long way.
HOW TO CREATE AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK
An employee handbook is an important communication tool between you and your employees. A well-written handbook sets forth your expectations for your employees and describes what they can expect from your company. It also should describe your legal obligations as an employer, and your employees' rights.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA.Gov) offers a guide that will help you write an employee handbook. Every business that has employees, including drop-off catering operations needs an employee handbook.
Here are just a few reasons why:
- It allows everyone to be on the same page.
- Helps to prevent confusion, misinformation, and misunderstanding.
- It makes it easier to communicate important employee information.
It is the easiest way to convey to new employees the following information:
- Position Description
- Expected Qualifications
- Compensation and Benefits
- General and Specific Responsibilities
- Sick/Personal/Vacation Time
- Training Schedule
- Performance Standards and Review Schedules
- Company Goals, Mission, and Values
- Grounds for Termination
It protects your business against possible lawsuits. It also proves that the employer’s policies are consistent with current employment laws. Your handbook can serve as a shield against charges of discrimination or unfair treatment.
An employee handbook helps to enforce company policies and gives the employee a basis for employee performance and conduct counseling.
CREATING AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK
If you do not have an Employee Handbook, the following checklist will help you begin the process.
- Establish project time-line with hard deadlines
- Research examples of handbooks. Choose a name for your handbook or just call it “Employee Handbook”
- Identify arching and sub-topics
- Revise outline
- Initial Draft- Write content for all topics and sections.
- Revise and edit handbook content- Round #1
- Review Draft- Ask others to review document (e.g. key stakeholders, employees, other) Revise and edit handbook content- Round #2
- Create a cover page
- Create a table of contents
- Include footer with creation date and copyright info
- Add page numbers
- Properly format any sign-off forms
- Create a semi-final draft of the Employee Handbook
- Peer Review- Ask others to review the semi-final document for clarity, format, and other Final Draft Review- Revise and edit as needed- Round #3
- Identify how many copies to print
- Gather price quotes
- Print documents and distribute