Engage Your Team and You’ll Engage Your Customers

This adapted from "Manage to Engage. How Great Managers Achieve Remarkable Results."

We all know we feel valued when others make us feel valued. And in the restaurant business, particularly coming out of a pandemic, it can be tough from both sides – enabling the boss to help people feel valued and engaging teams to feel valuable. We also know there are a lot of people working who just don’t enjoy it – they are far from feeling valued at work, or in corporate speak, they are not engaged. The stats prove it with some surveys telling the story of only two out of ten people really feeling good about work. Other surveys show more than half of people in the workforce right now are considering jumping ship to other opportunities. Worse still, while some people are searching for work, others are opting out and deciding they’d rather make their money through unemployment benefits or pandemic support than return to jobs they didn’t like before the pandemic and still don’t. 

How we form and harness connection is being rewritten in this post pandemic world. How we connect must be more personal, more frequent, and less formal.

Add to that the even greater health and safety issues now piled onto restaurant businesses, and you’ve got an industry perfect storm. Existing teams not motivated to work, a potential workforce not interested in the restaurant business, and a healthcare crisis that looks to not subside anytime soon. We’ve got an engagement issue, a skills shortage, and new health and safety issues complicating an already difficult situation.

Even tougher, is that often restaurant management haven’t necessarily been trained in how best to manage their teams, even before this tumultuous year. Perhaps some are foodies with a passion to open a restaurant but never studied management, or others just haven’t had the time to really get training – after all, the restaurant business is a 24/7 affair that needs you to watch every nickel and dime. The focus is on keeping bums in seats or rather, take out flowing and doors open, conserving the cash you have rather than worrying about how your people feel about work.

Something’s got to give though. In today’s business it’s people, productivity, and profitability in that order. And the boss has a direct impact on all three – particularly their people. So, let’s explore what that means, because people should always come first:

  1. The boss has the greatest impact on people’s engagement in their work. A persons most important relationship at work is with their boss. Yes, they need a fair-trade in terms of reward for their work, and yes, they need to work with a great team, but those tips relied on to supplement minimum wage will not make up for a manager who doesn’t manage to engage. At least 80% of how someone shows up at work – their level of engagement – is dictated by the boss.
  2. The best bosses go #HeadsUp. Great managers are visible and have presence. They are active in the business and value people connection over internet connection. They raise their heads up from their devices and connect with their people and teams, as well as their customers. They know what is going on and are there to help overcome barriers to people’s success. They check-in not up. They ask ‘how things are going?’ and ‘how can I help?’
  3. A great boss practices employee relationship management as much as they do customer relationship management. Great managers know how much an employee is worth, and that it’s worth investing time in building great relationships with their people and teams. When they do that, they show they value them. Creating value may be key to financial success but making people feel valued will create business success – retention improves and so do your service levels.

How we form and harness connection is being rewritten in this post pandemic world. How we connect must be more personal, more frequent, and less formal. It is also much less autocratic. Take a minute or two to look at your dining room tables (patio tables if you’re still in a form of lockdown). What do you see? Perhaps you’re seeing a group of people speaking about their day, no hierarchy, no limits, just chatting about what’s going on in their world. One diner might be talking about a frustrating thing in their life and their friend sitting across the table might jump in to help solve their problem. Another is talking about what they’re looking forward to doing next. Still another is offering up advice on how to get that next promotion. They might even be talking about a new technology they’ve encountered or a new App, teaching their buddy how to use it. That’s what life at work should be like. Conversations that flow across a lunchroom table rather than a meeting room table. People connecting.

If you want to achieve productivity and profitability in your business, you need to connect with your people in a more meaningful way – ways that enable productivity and profitability.

As the boss, you’re the person who can facilitate those conversations, and the better the conversations the better the results. You can look, listen and learn from each conversation and with it grow the relationship with your team members, fix the problems that get in their way of their work, and help them develop. You also create the ecosystem that either works for people or against people at work – the quality of the food that is served, the technology that supports people, the workplace that helps them do their job. That’s the other 20 percent of the equation. Remember – having a good connection with your boss is 80% of engagement, the other 20 percent is in the workplace – the infrastructure or ecosystem. As the boss, you control both how people feel and how effectively they can work. 

Value in business today comes from who you know and who and how you connect with them. Connections build whole new forms of capital – personal, social, intellectual, operational, financial, and reputational. Connection is about how we relate to other people. If you want to achieve productivity and profitability in your business, you need to connect with your people in a more meaningful way – ways that enable productivity and profitability. They all go hand in hand. When you connect with people at work you feel you’ve got a buddy or a team who are ‘in it together.’ Great connection provides a sense of belonging. We take energy from one another when we connect. We achieve results.

To connect you must work on all your management muscles – collaboration, community building, and connection included. When these three C’s interlock effectively, the best companies feel they’re business gets in ‘the zone’ and they achieve remarkable results and a level of competitive advantage that is hard to copy.  An engaged restaurant team means your customers are engaged and they’ll look forward to coming back. Let’s face it, customers go where engagement flows and the boss holds the key.