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6 statistical solutions to the labor crisis

Recent research may offer a salve for what ails employers.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Foodservice operators tend to wring their hands when they consider their staffing challenges. But if they dried their eyes long enough to peer over some statisticians’ shoulders, they might spot a batch of solutions. Here are some of the aids that came to light when reviewing a variety of recent reports.

Hurl your old review process

Once-a-year reviews just don’t cut it anymore, according to the experts. Research indicates that only 3 in 10 people think the old-guard approach is a help to employers and employees. The better practice, they concur, is maintaining a continuous dialogue, with regular temperature checks and feedback on performance. Chipotle Mexican Grill has opted for something in the middle: a discussion-type review every quarter.

Go a step further: Include positives in those check-ins. Restaurant employees who don’t feel appreciated are twice as likely to quit within a year, according to GM Connect, a collaboration between researchers Gallup and TDn2K.

Engage your managers

When a manager is invested in a job, the hourly workers they oversee are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves, says GM Connect. And when a staff is engaged, absenteeism drops 41%, turnover falls 24%, accidents decline by 70%—and sales are 20% more likely to rise, the research found. The problem: Only 27% of restaurant managers are engaged, compared to a rate of 67% for supervisors across all businesses.

With that in mind, hire coaches, not bosses.Teaching a task does far more to boost performance and cut turnover than barking orders to get it done, Gallup found in a study conducted last year.

Change the conversation

Word of mouth is the preferred way of finding a restaurant job for millennials, according to a study from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF). And which places do they choose? Those with the best reputation as a place to work, of course. Yet pride doesn’t exactly abound among the hourly workforce. Only 1 in 4 (26%) have enough pride in the place where they work to recommend its products and services to family and friends, according to GM Connect.

Talk mission, not mistakes

It’s a cliche by this point: Young adults want to work for a cause, a common good, and not merely for a paycheck. That may be a truism in today’s restaurant industry, but its importance can’t be overstated. Glassdoor, a website that provides employees’ reviews of employers, surveyed the most-praised companies to see what they had in common. The primary shared trait: a sense of mission among the staff. The best-reviewed companies were also lauded for providing a clear set of values and a sense of community.

Pay good money

Once upon a time, compensation was low on the list of reasons why a young person took or left a restaurant job. (And phones once sported a rotary dial and attached wires.) Wages have soared in importance as the keener competition for new hires has widened the gaps between what two companies might be willing to pay. In its study, the NRAEF found that higher compensation is the most effective way to cement an employee in their current job for the next six months.

Another idea: Help employees with their school tuition. Chick-fil-A canvassed employees who participated in the chain’s scholarship program to see if the $15 million distributed as of early this year had affected the recipients’ career plan. Ninety percent said they intended to stay with the chain even after they earned a diploma.

Be proactive

More than half (52%) of employees who leave a job say their employer could have done something to keep them, according to GM Connect.

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