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What The Spice Girls Taught Me about Employee Retention

Not pictured: All Spice
Not pictured: All Spice

Employee turnover is stressful, expensive and time consuming. How are you actively improving your employee retention?

In 1998, Ginger Spice quit the Spice Girls due to conflicts of interest and exhaustion. The group never fully recovered and a couple years later, one of the biggest girl bands of all time, ended — leaving half of the millennial generation deprived of learning about Girl Power through the inspiring lyrics of teen-pop. Just like the Spice Girls, a restaurant runs better when it has a functioning team. If you have a hard time keeping those all-star performers, and struggling with employee turnover, then it’s about time to take a look at improving your retention strategy. Actively improving your employee retention rate is worth the effort — not only to keep the team you have now, but also to attract talent when you are hiring.

So here are 5 strategies that could help improve employee retention.

Create an interview process
It might sound like a lot of work, but having an interview process that can be replicated by managers and improved over time is a great way to identify candidates who are good cultural fits. Begin with your job description: have a section that lays out core values and who you are as a restaurant, and what you are looking for in a candidate. This will help attract like-minded people by giving them an idea of what’s important to you.

Creating documentation for others to follow creates consistency in your interview process — helping your team better identify candidate unicorns. Consider creating an Interview Document that lists some signifiers of a good hire, and some general interview questions that you think should always be asked. This will show your managers how you expect them to interview and recognize when a candidate should move forward in the interview process. It can be a good idea to create the same kind of documentation for employees who will oversee working interviews, that way they know what qualities they should be looking for — other than that they liked the person.

Train and educate
Training is an important strategy for retaining employees. When you have a solid training plan, you’re setting your employees up for success and supporting them in learning how things are done at your establishment. Well-trained employees have confidence and a sense of satisfaction that they can do their job well and contribute to the team. Which I think we can all agree, makes a person actually like their job.

Training shouldn’t stop after the first few weeks — continuing to educate your staff is a great way to demonstrate that while working with you, they can develop and grow in their career. In the past, I’ve had managers ask employees what aspect of running a business they were interested in and then cross training them. Whether that’s taking over an aspect of product buying, creating the restaurant’s website or even helping them succeed in obtaining food and beverage certifications that will advance their career.

Confront toxic behavior
Toxic behavior can be a real culture killer — and company culture is a big part of employee retention. No matter the pay, no one likes to work somewhere they feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or disliked. As an owner it’s important to actually interact with your staff to identify behaviors that are unacceptable and address them right away.

Train managers to identify unacceptable actions and how to address them in a professional and effective way. If you know your values, then you know what you don’t stand for and it’s important to show your employees that those values aren’t just corporate bullshit, but actually things you stand by. While confrontation is never fun, it builds respect and cuts out those that don’t share in the company values.

Employee appreciation
One of my favorite parts of working in the restaurant industry was the feeling of comradery that is sort of unique to restaurant work — but it’s hard for everyone to get together when you’re working all the time. Creating the time and space for you and your staff to have a little fun and get to know one another can help build your company culture and a “family” atmosphere.

Showing that you appreciate your employees by closing shop for a day and letting them interact is a great way to retain employees, but it’s not the only way. Employee appreciation can come from creating perks, like finding businesses that will swap services so you can give your employees gift cards to a local coffee shop or discounted yoga classes. It takes a little research and motivation to implement something, but once you do you’ll find showing a little extra appreciation can go a long way in making your employees happy.

Promote from within
Promoting from within is a great way to really combine all these other strategies. When you provide more opportunity for your employees, that’s something you can put in your job ads to attract more professional candidates. It’s a way of educating your employees to advance their career, it rewards positive behaviors and lastly, it’s a form of showing an employee you appreciate what they bring to the team.

Most of us who work in the restaurant industry want to grow. We want to explore other areas of working in a restaurant — creating this trust and opportunity for your team is a great way to increase your employee retention.

There are a lot of unique strategies employers have used to tackle employee retention. These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about what could be improved in your work culture to create a more welcoming environment that encourages growth.

Ashley Lange

Ashley Lange likes to cook, loves to bake and is always day-dreaming of her next meal. Ashley has spent the last 10 years in various roles within the food industry and is currently a server in Portland, Oregon.

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