Restaurant financial consultant Rick Braa stopped by the Washington Hospitality Association to talk about labor and the new challenges operators are facing in this new post-COVID shut down era. You can watch the entire replay here, as well as look at his slideshow. 

Braa pointed out that labor challenges right now include an inexperienced but very intelligent workforce. He heard from one of his clients recently that their bus boy one night left to become a general manager of another restaurant the next day. The workforce is demanding more money and has bigger expectations of management. 

“Things have dramatically changed in the workplace,” he said. 

He strongly suggested developing employees from within your organization. “We are running tighter and tighter on talent at the management level and sometimes when we bring in management from outside it doesn’t work out.” 

Editor’s note: Check out our Northwest Hospitality Leadership podcast for in-depth analysis and insight into leading today’s hospitality workforce. 

Braa also said that developing employees from within needs employee engagement. Actively disengaged employees work against your culture. Braa said engagement is when an employee freely gives discretionary effort. It’s the difference between whether a person can do something or is willing to do something. An engaged team member will give you a day and a half of work for a full day of pay. A disengaged team member will only give a half a day’s work for a full day of pay. 

He loves to reward these engaged employees with overtime. 

“They just get stuff done, they kick butt,” he said. 

Video: The Ideal Team Player, Part 1 & Part 2 

But mostly, team members want management they can count on. Restaurant work is hard. It gets really busy and it slows way down and your team needs to know they have someone who can lead them through those times. 

He said employees need recognition. They need to know that you care about them as people and as employees. Celebrate their big wins. Reward and recognize them. More frequent recognition leads to a more engaged team. 

People never forget what they understand. Make sure that you are training your people to understand why they are doing the job. Braa said to refine all of your standard operating procedures before everything else. Once you do that, you can start layering in technology to help improve your system. 

He suggests scheduling for 80% of what you are forecasting your business to be. He said that your folks will be more likely to stay late if they are asked but asking them to go home early because it is slow is a harder task. 

You also want to recruit continually. When you do this, you are sending a message to your top performers that you are going to move out the folks who aren’t as productive. If you let the unproductive employees stay you run the risk of losing a top performer. 

Get back to applicants right away. Schedule an interview within the hour and move quickly to hire. 

Watch the complete webinar here, or if you prefer to listen to the presentation, find it wherever you get your podcasts under the Washington Hospitality Industry Podcast.