In some cases, foodservice operations might be losing their leaders not to a bigger paycheck or better culture elsewhere, but to a job that pushes them outside their comfort zones. Almost three-quarters of job-seekers said they were in search of a challenge, according to a January survey from executive search firm Korn Ferry International Inc. We spoke with industry leaders to get their take on how to challenge employees to improve retention. Here’s how they’re helping supervisors take on new roles without overloading them.
Last September, Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax County, Va., hired Rodney Taylor as director of food and nutrition services. The district asked Taylor to catapult the program to be one of the best in the nation. Taylor shared his vision with his top-level managers and asked them to sign up for a project that they would be passionate about. He continued down the organization chart, asking team members to each lead an initiative. “We were able to do in one year what took 13 years in previous operations,” he says.
At Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pa., the foodservice team is tasked with rolling out new initiatives surrounding patient experience and employee engagement. Foodservice Manager Keith Kemmerer says the key to making sure his team is engaged but not drowning is weekly meetings and quick five-minute huddles. “We mostly discuss the wins that we’ve been seeing lately,” Kemmerer says. “But that communication allows everyone to help each other out.”
Taylor wants to demonstrate that fresh, local foodservice programs can be established in all school districts, not just Fairfax County. To get employees on board with the undertaking, he tried to give them a different perspective. In his first meeting with staff, Taylor asked them to think about how they would want their own kids to be treated. “I told them, ‘We’re going to serve [students] not just food but love through hard work,’” he says.
To help employees see a future at Fairfax County Public Schools, the department is leading interview classes, resume writing workshops and other career advancement courses. “We’re making sure everyone has the skills to move to the top,” Taylor says.