How operators are tackling today’s labor pains

During a panel at this year’s Menu Directions conference, two operators shared their recruitment and retention wins and what this generation of employees wants from their employer.
Menu Directos Labor Panel
The Labor Shifts session at Menu Directions this year highlighted recruitment and retainment strategies implemented by operators. | Photo courtesy of Scott Mitchell

Hiring and retention continues to be a challenge for onsite operators. During a panel at FoodService Director’s (FSD) annual Menu Directions conference held last week in Atlanta, LaTosha Marks, Senior VP of Human Resources at Proof of the Pudding, a catering and food management services company, and Jennifer Sims, VP of Human Resources at Goldbergs Group, a food service provider and food manufacturer, shared their thoughts on the state of labor during a panel led by sister publication Restaurant Business Editor-at-Large Peter Romeo.

Here are five insights that were shared during the conversation.  

AI could be a useful tool for recruitment…

At Proof of the Pudding, the team started using an AI recruitment tool earlier this year. The program works by sending out a text to certain demographics Proof of the Pudding is trying to target and lets them know about a job opening that they might be interested in.

“If they're interested, they reply back, ‘yes,’ and it immediately goes into qualifying questions. Those qualifying questions are text back, and then from that point, they're automatically set up with an interview with our recruiter,” said Marks.  “Now, our recruiter can interview up to maybe 30 people in one day.”

While the new tech has helped the team reach more people, it still isn’t perfect, Marks said. One of the issues with the program is that employees don’t always show up later on for their in-person interview with the recruiter.

 “I don't have the solution to that,” she said.

…but ‘old school’ methods still work

At Goldbergs Group, however, more tried-and-true recruitment methods seem to be the most effective.

“Word of mouth is our best way of actually recruiting,” said Sims. “Along with word of mouth, we do provide referral bonuses if the new employees stay a certain amount of time.”

Employees want more flexibility…

Since the pandemic, Marks has noticed that employees want more flexibility with their work, with many hires asking if they can work remotely. While that isn’t an option for most employees at Proof of the Pudding, the team still looks for ways to provide that flexibility that employees seek.

 “The thought process of working and how they work with the flexibility has changed a lot, and we have had to find ways to adjust to that mindset,” she noted.

The interview process has also evolved in recent years, Marks said, and potential hires are using the time to ask questions about what they will get out of the job.  

“We're not interviewing them anymore, they're interviewing us,” she said. “Probably every interview I've had, they interviewed me more than I interviewed them.”

Marks shared that at Proof of the Pudding, the team is really trying to show a “more human side” during interviews and use that time to figure out what potential employees really want from their work and what is going to keep them happy on the job.

…And they’re also harder to engage

Both Sims and Marks have also noticed that since the pandemic, employees lose interest much quicker than in the past.  

“What I noticed as a trend is just a little bit less patience,” said Sims.

At Proof of the Pudding, the team has made efforts to try and engage new hires. One of the ways they’re doing that is by reaching out to them by phone every week to check in on how things are going.

Employers should be aggressive with career paths

At Proof of the Pudding, the team has doubled down on asking employees where they see themselves in the coming years. They’ve also included additional questions during performance reviews, such as asking where employees want to live, so that they have a better understanding of what direction the employee wants to go with their career.

“Some people are very aggressive about their career, they'll tell you, but then you have others that are really hard workers, and they're dedicated, and they may not say, so now, we're having the front-line managers ask that question,” said Marks.



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