4 ways to mitigate employee turnover risks
Think about it. We've all been there. You're short-staffed, maybe training new employees, when the lunch rush hits. Your employees are doing their best to keep up – but what's being sacrificed for the sake of speed? While trying to fill dozens of orders, employees may not be able to understand and appreciate the importance of not letting certain standards slip.
Even the best trained staff can take shortcuts that seem innocent. However, a culture of shortcuts can lead to big, systemic problems down the line as those shortcuts get passed on to new hires.
The turnover rate in the hospitality industry was nearly 73% in 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association. That's up from 56.4% in 2010. Employee turnover has always been an issue, but today's restaurants continually battle to fill positions and get staff trained and in place quickly – this gap can potentially put your brand's food safety practices and policies at risk. It only it takes one mistake or complacent action to result in a critical situation for your business or to permanently chase customers out the door.
Complicating an already historical issue are new competitive concerns for restaurants: rising minimum wages, generations of teenagers and students finding other means of employment, and an increasing number of restaurants. In an ultra-competitive marketplace, knowing how to manage the potential gaps employee turnover can cause is a game-changer. From food safety to operational policies and procedures, risks lie around every corner. However, there are things you can do to mitigate the dangers of this happening at your business.
1. Offer robust training
In a fast casual restaurant environment, there are several categories of employees: older and younger, seasonal hires, and full-time workers. Everyone learns differently, so your training program needs to speak to each staff member. In addition to hands-on training, many restaurants are implementing online training, video training, and even virtual reality training to fully immerse employees in their brand culture. Most importantly, remember that training shouldn't be a "one and done" approach. Continual and ongoing training efforts are essential to constantly remind your employees of important food safety, operational, and brand standards. Remove language and education barriers with visual job aids and reminders. This could be something as simple as a sign reminding people to wash their hands, or the use of a colored cutting board and utensil system to reduce cross-contamination risks (green cutting boards for produce, yellow for chicken, etc.).
2. Take a preventative approach
Adopting a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan can help identify potential biological, chemical and physical hazards and identify critical control points (CCPs) in the food preparation process to mitigate risk. This systematic approach, a proactive tactic used widely across food manufacturing and food service industries with incredible success, can help flag potential problems before they become problems. A HACCP hazard analysis may help you identify that using pre-cooked proteins or pre-washed produce could reduce the risk for cross-contamination. A HACCP plan involves employees in the documentation of the CCPs so they verify procedures such as proper final cook temperatures are reached or foods are cooled within the required time parameters.
3. Review bonus structure and incentives
Believe it or not, some bonus programs foster a culture of gaming the system, rather than inspiring behavior shifts. Take drive-thru speed of service goals as an example. You set your goal at two minutes from order to customer delivery, but many restaurants know that during the busiest times, they won't meet that goal. So, to appear as though they are meeting the goal, staff might process the ticket and ask a customer to pull into a parking space. Then, when the order is ready, the staff walks it out to the customer's car. This helps the restaurant meet their individual goal, but it's not increasing service for the customer.
4. Conduct third-party reviews.
Third-party assessments provide an objective source for you to spot potential risks early and implement a corrective action plan. The best third-party assessment programs will also be able to integrate into your operations and serve as an additional training resource, performing on the spot micro-learnings to help your employees understand the hows and whys behind standards, whether they be regulatory or internal policies. A third-party auditor also has their finger on the pulse of the overall industry and can provide constructive insights into how your business is performing in food safety, workplace safety, and customer experience as compared to other industry benchmarks. Health Department visits are essential, but are not nearly as comprehensive as having four audits a year that can check on your progress and drive long-term behavior change, even amid turnover.
All businesses experience turnover. However, by staying proactive and supporting your team with the training, incentives, and assessments they need to succeed, you will significantly reduce your potential for risk. With these programs in place, your business will be able to maintain a consistent work environment for your staff that will, in turn, create a reliable experience for your customers at every visit.
Doug Sutton is the President of Steritech, leader in food safety and service excellence assessments for a range of industries, including hospitality, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores. Through benchmarking a client's performance against its peers, correlating assessment scores to voice-of-customer feedback and same store sales, and by providing insights that help clients focus on what matters most to their customers, well-designed assessment programs can help clients mitigate risk and drive consistent, safe operations.www