Dealing with staff

Employee morale and absenteeism are the top personnel issues operators are facing. Schools are the most likely to say they have no employee challenges.

When it comes to human resources challenges, operators say employee morale/motivation is the most difficult aspect, according to The Big Picture research. Absenteeism also ranked high, especially in schools and B&I locations.


Absenteeism is the biggest personnel issue for B&I operators. Gary Coutre, general manager for Sodexo at Siemens Industry in Buffalo Grove, Ill., says employees are getting more creative with their excuses for calling out of work, saying, for example, “my uniform isn’t clean.” “Foodservice isn’t the most glamorous job and it’s not the most highly paid, so there’s not a whole lot of motivation,” Coutre says. Providing training and opportunities for employees to climb the career ladder are the best motivation Coutre says he can use. Another issue he’s found with absentee personnel is managing short-term employees. “We get good people coming from temp agencies, but you have to spend half your day explaining things to them,” he says. “You can’t put a recipe in front of them and walk away.”


Providing training opportunities is the most challenging personnel issue for college operators. Eric Barker, catering director for Sodexo at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., says finding time to train his student workforce is difficult. “In higher ed we rely heavily on student labor. Training is often done on the go. Training as you learn is valuable, but at the start of the semester the workforce is not well trained so service quality can be lacking,” he says.

LTC/senior living

Employee morale is by far the biggest problem facing LTC/senior living operators. Suzanne Cryst, R.D., director of nutrition services at Maria Joseph Living Care Center in Dayton, Ohio, says it’s often hard to motivate employees when they don’t understand the importance of their jobs. “It’s very difficult to say, ‘You may work in the dish room, but what you do is vital to the safety of our residents.’ They don’t always understand what their self-worth is.” Cryst says she makes sure to give daily recognition and thanks to her employees. Although she acknowledges that it’s been difficult to give employees pay raises, Cryst says pay often isn’t the No. 1 motivating factor for employees. “It’s the feeling employees get when they come to work,” she says.

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