4 tips to develop leaders in a high turnover industry

4 tips to develop leaders in a high turnover industry

By Laura Headley, training director, Chick-fil-A, Ocoee and Winter Garden, Florida.

It has been well established that the limited-service restaurant industry has one of the highest turnover rates. At over 100-percent turnover, it is no wonder that many of these restaurants have not established leadership-development programs. Yet, by creating an environment that fosters leadership, companies can help decrease the rate of turnover. 

Expending effort in developing the employees' skills acknowledges that the employees are valuable. This feeling of being valued instills a sense of pride in and loyalty to the restaurant. Furthermore, developing the employees offers them the opportunity to grow in their current position while also opening the door for them to seek raises and promotions. Having the potential for upward mobility will drastically increase their desire to stay. Additionally valuable, retaining these employees will reduce future hiring and training costs.

It's clear developing current employees has its benefits. So how is it done? Here are four tips for developing leaders in a high- turnover industry:

1. Get your current leadership on board.           

It takes a leader to create a leader. In order for your leadership development plan to work, the current management staff has to be on board with the goals of the organization. This means that the vision and goals must be clearly communicated to the management staff. As they will be integral in observing and pinpointing which employees have the potential to become leaders, make sure they are also equipped to both be leaders in your organization and to develop future leaders. Furthermore, you must clearly communicate the costs of high turnover and how leadership development can help reduce these costs. Once your management staff is on board with your plan, you can use them to implement it.

2. Reward good behavior.

It is all too easy to notice what employees are doing wrong and to issue discipline, but it is harder, although more important, to acknowledge when an employee does something correct. Recognition goes a long way in a culture where tasks are not expressly difficult and accuracy along with good customer service is considered to be the normal function of an employee. You know how much value your employees add to your restaurant and that without them you wouldn't have restaurant. Rewarding their good behavior is a simple way to let them you know you don’t take them for granted.

3. Make training work.

Many operators and managers choose to forgo extensive training as it is costly both in time and money. As a result, too many quick service employees wind up being trained for one or two positions and then left there for the entirety of their employment. While cross-training and improving the current skills of your employees may be temporarily costly, these practices will save you money in the long run. Spending a little extra on training your employees will increase their productivity, increase their job satisfaction, lessen turnover and lower the costs associated with recruiting and training new hires as you will not be needing new hires since you are better able to retain your employees. 

4. Let your staff take initiative. 

The quick service industry is not exactly known for its high freedom environment. In order for operations to run smoothly and efficiently, most restaurants operate under a very regimented and specific system. Management teams follow familiar approaches and apply whatever methods have worked for them in the past. However, in order to develop your team into leaders, you have to allow them room to take initiative. Listen to your work staff's thoughts and ideas. While you and your management staff may have good systems in place, allowing your team to step up and be creative thinkers can greatly benefit your restaurant and your staff.

It's not impossible to retain your quick service restaurant employees past a year. Food service careers don't have to be simply stepping-stone jobs, rather they can become valuable, life-long careers. Enticing your employees to stay with your restaurant by acknowledging them and allowing them to grow will only benefit your restaurant. Putting in effort to develop them into leaders will drastically reduce your rate of turnover and help your business succeed. 

Topics: Staffing & Training

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