4 ideas to get staff engaged

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Labor was top of mind for many attendees of the Association for Healthcare Foodservice’s annual conference, held last week in Scottsdale, Ariz. Here are four ideas from the event to help engage employees.

1. Create a culture of caring

Crafting an environment where employees are not afraid to admit mistakes is important to finding solutions, said Chris McCracken, director of nutrition for University of California San Diego Medical Centers.

“We're not there to get them in trouble,” he said. “We're there to make the job right and then hopefully they come to work and enjoy themselves and they do the right thing.”

When there’s food waste in the kitchen, for example, McCracken said the first step for operators is to acknowledge the mistake, then offer support. “When somebody tells me they’ve overproduced because they read four instead of five or misorder, then that's it,” he said. “We just then say ‘Hey, let's just try to get better at it the next time.’”

2. Host a Post-it party

As an easy way to encourage staff, Scott Friedman, a global speaking fellow, author and chief celebration officer at Friedman & Associates, suggested hosting a Post-it party, during which employees can leave Post-it notes with positive messages at peers’ work stations.

3. Invest in yourself  

Those in leadership positions should invest in developing their skill set, said Janet Porter, a strategy, operational and leadership consultant for Stroudwater Associates. Setting aside time to do things such as work with a meetings consultant to learn how to better manage meetings will benefit the team overall, she said.

Leaders should also ask employees what they could be doing better. “If you don't ask that question, people are reluctant to tell you,” Porter said. “You’re in a position of authority, and people respect that, but that makes them a little intimidated to really tell you.”

4. Recognize small accomplishments  

At St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center, Director for Food and Nutritional Services Anthony Baffo has a board in the kitchen that displays examples of employees doing a good job. While he encourages his own staff to submit things about their peers, Baffo goes beyond the dining team for nominations.

“When we do rounding, we ask the folks working on the floor, ‘Hey, have you seen one of my staff members doing anything in particular that they should be recognized for?’ And most people can tell me something on a weekly basis,” he said.

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