Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor
You can certainly conduct your own surveys to find out what your staff thinks about working for you (and if you think everything is wonderful, perhaps a survey would be enlightening.) However, the odds are that the reasons for any staff discontent will be found on the following list. If you want to dedicate time and money to improve your operation, direct it toward the following areas:
Lack of recognition or reward
The number one thing that workers want is appreciation for the work that they do. When it is not forthcoming or when exemplary performance is not rewarded, it takes the heart out of conscientious workers.
Lack of teamwork
Super stars or individuals who are only interested in advancing their own agenda are just as damaging to effective teamwork as are workers with lesser skills who insist on going it alone. This sort of selfishness will kill the initiative of team players and drive them away because they know that exemplary guest service is a team sport.
Incompatible management style
When the prevailing management style is at odds with an individual's personal style, it can be abrasive. A laid-back person will have just as many problems with an intense, hard-charging management style as an intense person will have with a laid-back approach.
Occasional personality clashes between people are normal, but a continuing confrontation will wear out even the most patient person. Be suspicious of people who are regularly involved in on-the-job upsets, regardless of whose "fault" the conflict is.
Quality of life issues
People are working to make a living - they have to have some time to live! Quality-of-life issues are becoming more important as workers realize there is more to happiness than just money. If your staff or management cannot have time to spend with their families, are unable to take a day off when they need it or are burning themselves out routinely working 60+ hours a week, they will eventually find another job.
Lack of control
This is a greater irritant at lower levels of the organization, but nobody likes to feel that they do not have any say in how their work environment operates.
When workers feel overwhelmed and out of control ("in the weeds"), the resulting stress makes productivity and responsive service impossible. There is a practical limit to how long anyone can operate effectively in this sort of environment.
In the absence of effective leadership, it is not uncommon for an operation to fragment into cliques. When playing the political game becomes more important than taking care of the guests, good workers will leave.
Pay vs. effort
This problem arises when people feel they are not getting paid enough for the level of work they are doing. It is an equity issue. Confronted with this problem, workers have three options: stay on the job and continue to harbor their resentment, reduce their output to a level they feel is justified by the pay or seek another job.
When your staff is not "in on things" or does not know what is happening, their level of personal security goes down, they feel abandoned or unimportant, and they become disenchanted with the company.
The saying goes that "it is hard to fly with the eagles when you work with turkeys." If you fail to hire high quality staff, you will discourage your better workers. Similarly, if you cannot fill vacancies and constantly require your staff to work short-handed, the good ones will inevitably head for the competition.
Lack of orientation
Workers who do not receive a thorough orientation to your company never fully understand the game or their place in it. Eventually they will quit out of frustration.
Lack of training
Failure to train your staff undermines their personal security and delivers a message that they are not very important to the success of your organization. If you don't care, why should they?
To be effective, workers need direction, encouragement, feedback, and reinforcement. If supervisors allow policies to be broken, tolerate standards being compromised or fail to act when action is needed, they lose the respect and support of the staff.
Lack of leadership
Leaders provide a shared vision and inspire their staff to accomplish things they didn't know they were capable of. Leadership is the glue that holds the staff together. All the management skills in the world cannot make up for lack of leadership.
Poverty is relative. The person with the least, no matter how much they have, always feels cheated. Typical job inequities are differing treatment of comparable workers with regard to pay, workload, or privileges.
Lack of management understanding
In this case, understanding deals with the depth of human feeling that managers bring to their work. Managers or supervisors who don't listen, show no compassion or have no rapport with their crew will alienate people and drive them out of the company.
Workers facing the same routine day after day will eventually be distracted by a lack of personal growth or development. This will not bother the poor performers, but the lack of professional challenge will push the good workers away.
Lack of job security
If workers feel that their jobs are relatively safe or that they may get "blind-sided" by a reactionary termination, they cannot make a long term mental commitment to the company and its goals. This causes them to become increasingly estranged and feel "out of the loop." Productivity, guest service and retention all suffer.
No opportunities for advancement
Exceptional performers need a sense of motion - a feeling that they are accomplishing something and improving themselves. This is usually demonstrated by their earning new skills and is reflected by their being promoted within the company when the opportunity arises. If qualified workers are not offered the first shot at job openings or if vacancies are routinely filled from outside the company, you will lose the good workers.
Not enough hours
People have to be able to make a living. If they cannot get enough hours to meet their expenses, they will have to take a second job or leave. A shortage of hours is particularly irritating when schedules reflect politics rather than performance.
Lack of benefits
Staff benefits, particularly health insurance, continues to be an issue in many parts of the foodservice industry, particularly among independent restaurants. At this writing, there is no nationally-mandated health care coverage. For workers with families, the lack of employer-supported health insurance can be the factor that sends them looking for other employment.
Interestingly, one of the principal causes for hourly workers leaving is high management turnover. A major reason departing managers give for leaving was high turnover among the staff! This is a situation that will only get worse if allowed to continue.
Lack of standards
The best workers have high professional standards. They will not long tolerate poor sanitation practices, lack of commitment to guest service, sloppy personal appearance, and so forth.
Lack of respect
You cannot build loyalty if you talk to your staff as though they were stupid, handle them like children or treat them like potential criminals. If you find yourself habitually expecting the worst from your crew, you will probably get it!
Lack of feedback
You can't play to win if you don't know the score. High achievers always want to know the goal, how they are doing and how they can do better. If your style is to look for problems and if your feedback to your staff is usually negative, you are part of the problem.
Sexual harassment is determined in the mind of the person who feels harassed. Just because you do not believe you have sexist attitudes or policies does not mean that others will not have adverse reactions to your choice of words, gestures, jokes, uniforms, and so forth.
This is another type of unequal treatment. Understand that many minorities are often extremely sensitive to behavior and attitudes that seem to them to be racially influenced. Whether or not their interpretation is accurate from your perspective, you must be sensitive to the fact that racism, like sexual harassment, is determined in the mind of the person who feels discriminated against.
Several reasons for leaving are, in fact, personal. It is not unusual for people to move out of the area, decide to change careers, graduate from school, retire or decide to devote more time to their families. Be warned, however, that "personal reasons" can be a catch-all category that departing staff may cite to avoid a confrontation with management when their real reason for leaving comes under one of the previous categories discussed.
(Excerpted from "From Turnover to Teamwork" by Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994)
for more information contact:
Bill Marvin, The Restaurant Doctor™
PO Box 280 - Gig Harbor, WA 9835
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