Making employees love you

Turnover hit prerecession levels last year, with three out of four vacancies coming when an employee takes another job. And when staffers leave, it costs. Replacing an hourly team member, for example, comes at a $1,100 price tag, according to Dallas research firm TDn2K. So it pays to keep staff happy. office teamwork business

That’s part of the reason that Joanne Chang works hard at maintaining the culture she’s created at her four Flour bakeries, her restaurant Myers + Chang and newly opened commissary kitchen, all in Boston. “It’s easier to hire and keep people,” she says. As she’s expanded from her first bakery in 2000, her emphasis on a supportive, encouraging culture has helped growth: Not only do many staffers stay for a long time and advance with the company, but it’s helped spread Flour’s reputation as a good employer in the community.

“You can’t just preach it,” says Chang. “It’s an active thing we do to push culture. We’re aware and present and watching.” For Chang, it starts with knowing the names of her 300-plus employees. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s come up with some nontraditional methods and programs that drive it home.

1. Ban on swearing

man paying swear jar

While this rule only is in place at the bakeries—“It’s kind of hard at the restaurant,” she says—it adds to the positive environment that brings out the best in employees, Chang says.

2. In-house “shoutout” board

woman looking message board

Each store features a white board with notes for staffers to write down when they see coworkers delivering great guest or internal service. At the end of each month, notes are gathered; upper managers pick the top five across the company and hand out gift cards.

3. Write “thank you” on every paycheck


“This era tends to text thank yous. A handwritten note goes far,” Chang says. She also writes biweekly newsletters sharing policy updates and praises. 

4. Appreciation budget

business lunch salad restaurant

Managers can reward employees for hard work. “It’s a culture of being appreciative, all in the hopes of getting staff to care about what they’re doing,” says Chang. Past examples have included lunch at a local restaurant, a massage and fun aprons to wear.

5. New hire tour

safari tour

Once a month, 14 newly onboarded hourlies and managers spend the day visiting with Chang and partners such as the produce supplier, coffee roaster and the homeless shelter Flour works with. The goal: to paint a full picture of the business. 

6. Smile and say “good morning”

smiling morning coffee laptop

Chang trains managers to say hello when they come to work. “The manager sets the tone by making eye contact, smiling and presenting themselves as here.”

7. “Pay it forward” program

pay it forward sign

Managers also can nominate a staffer doing a great job to get a bakery gift card as well as a note that details what they did well. That worker then has two weeks to suggest a fellow employee to receive a gift card, which includes a “You’re awesome because ...” note. 

8. Pie anniversary

lemon merengue pie slice

Staffers get gifts at their one-year and two-year anniversaries, but Chang also does a pie (or pi) anniversary, handing out gifts when employees reach 3.14 years with the company. “I think I know of at least 30,” she says.


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