Another Employee Tool in the HR Shed

In all my years in the restaurant/bar/hospitality industry, I have never run into the hiring situation that we are in today. I don’t have one customer in any state who has all the employees that they need. Some clients have 90 percent of the staff they need, but most are closer to 50 or 60 percent.

As I have written in the past, the most important thing you can do is to hold on to the staff you have.  You have given raises and days off and have overlooked staff coming in late or calling out at the last minute. All of these are Band-Aids. The question is: How can I determine what is important to my team and what will make them more dedicated to my operation?

The answer is to give each individual employee what they need and not necessarily what they tell you they want.

Distinguishing the “need” from the “want”

There have been great employees in the past few years who have left positions, many of them without a new position to go to, even after we offered them raises of 20 or 30 percent. To me this was crazy, and I really felt that there was something that I and my clients were missing.

I have never been a big one for applying psychology to our industry. However, after the past two years of not finding employees and losing some of the best staff I have known, I knew I had to move outside my own preconceptions about personality assessments and motivation analysis. There are quite a few companies out there that offer this type of testing, and I found one that I felt hit the mark for me. The testing gives me a great overview of what motivates an existing employee, and the test only takes 10 to 15 minutes.

If money is not the motivator, what is?

I have found that the most important part of these assessments is talking over the results with the employee. The first reason is that the employee feels that you are taking the time for some really important one-on-one time with them. Employees who feel respected by owners and managers are more dedicated and, therefore, stay on the job longer. We have not even gotten into the assessment, but we have already affected the employee in a positive way.

Here are a few ways that the assessment helped us motivate and keep staff.

How are staff most productive? In one example, we gave the assessment to a lead production cook who started early in the morning and worked by himself for the first four hours. In the first paragraph of the assessment, we learned that this employee would be MOST productive when partnering with another person. This means that, while he was productive, he could be happier and more productive with a prep partner. We changed the schedule to have the prep people come in earlier and work in teams. Production is up and no one has left. No raise required!

What are their barriers? As we learned what would make the employee happier and more productive, we spent time reviewing a key portion of the assessment that focuses on making the employee more successful. This is a great long-term lesson for the employee because it will make them better at their job and therefore more valuable in the job market.

In one example, the employee learned that they were not being challenged enough and they were having difficulty expressing their feelings to management. A frustrated employee is one who will leave sooner rather than later. This really opened the lines of communication for both the employee and management. We now touch base with this employee every day in a more meaningful way. No raise required!

What about teamwork? Another thing the employee and manager learned was how this employee could work more productively with a team. What we learned from his assessment really applies to all our staff. They want to understand the rules and structures in advance and, at the same time, they don’t want to be overwhelmed, which makes them feel like they are failing. We also learned the importance of setting up simple methods of communication so that the staff could let us know what they need. No raise required.

After assessment, managers become better communicators

I have reviewed many studies that show people quit their jobs for many reasons, and money is far down the list. The No. 1 reason that employees leave their jobs tends to be lack of training or lack of respect.

After giving a number of these assessments to employees, the managers learned that overall they were  poor communicators. They are great at telling people what to do, but not great at saying thank you or giving feedback. Please note that I said feedback and not positive feedback. What we learned through these assessments is that employees want feedback that makes them better at their jobs.

Certainly, these assessments are great tools for understanding the needs of the employee. However, an assessment is not magic. It only works if we as managers and owners are willing to look at ourselves critically. If the assessment shows that the employee is not getting enough feedback or training, that’s our problem, not theirs.