Why Managers Shouldn’t Mistake Employee Happiness for Employee Engagement

There is no doubt restaurant managers want their employees to be happy – after all, happy employees are good for business, right?

While that may be true to a certain extent, managers should expand the focus of their attention. There are many reasons why workers find themselves happy or unhappy on the job – all of which are entirely out of a manger’s control. Everything from problems at home to running late and getting stuck in traffic can contribute to an employee’s happiness level while on the job. To run an efficient workforce, managers need to turn their attention to issues they can control: employee engagement.

Employee engagement is an irreplaceable part of a successful workforce because it brings agility to operations, which in turn improves productivity.

A recent poll found that only 34 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged on the job, highlighting the fact that there is room for improvement. Employee engagement is crucial to the success of restaurants (and hospitality in general) because it feeds into almost every aspect of the business. Engaged employees are more motivated to succeed for themselves and the restaurant when they’re prepared for the demands of their job and management is helping them meet their career goals. As a result, engagement has been linked to positive business outcomes such as reduced turnover, better performance, higher productivity, improved overall customer experience and most importantly – better bottom line results. 

For these reasons, managers should focus on how to engage their employees and work with them to achieve careers goals such as reaching their desired salary or learning new job skills. This way, they can feel more empowered in their role and contribute to an improved guest experience. While managers should understand the importance of employee engagement and its impact on their restaurant’s business, they should also understand how to put engagement into action using the steps below:

Develop Trust with Employees

ADP Research Institute recently conducted a study that shows a worker is 12 times more likely to be fully engaged if they trust their team leader. An employee will have greater overall trust in management and be more engaged when they know the purpose of their role and when their manager works to ensure their contributions and strengths are valued. Managers can create trust with activities as simple as weekly check-ins or using technology such as mobile tools to connect in real-time. 


Hear the Voice of Your Employees

Periodic surveys—like those available through UniFocus’ software platform—tell employees they’re valued. Managers should want to know what’s going on with each person and use the survey information to identify rising issues to address them before they become pervasive. And, as restaurants become more data-driven, there is a growing need for technology that supports its workforce and translates employee perceptions into hard data. 

Implement Predictive Scheduling

Software technology to predict and effectively schedule staff allows employees to have more control over their work day. They can also plan personal time in advance, which ultimately results in a better work-life balance—a benefit that many employees look for while on the job. In addition to providing a more stable schedule, predictive scheduling offers benefits such as fair tip distribution because it puts staffing at the optimal level for service and operating standards. 


Ensure Regular Communication with Employees

Regular communication with employees, especially through technology, creates open avenues for them to feel valued, heard and supported. This is an important factor in measuring and improving employee engagement. Communication should always include regular feedback on performance. The right technology can support these efforts by ensuring real-time feedback is readily available. 

Support Employee Cross-Training

Managers can create a richer work experience when they provide a training structure that allows the development of new skills. When an employee can act on job combinations at a low-volume level, they can meet customer needs, feel more fulfilled in their role, and impact the restaurant’s bottom line. Also, having the ability to work at other restaurant sites when the need arises enriches the job experience. 

Take Generational Preferences into Consideration

Typically, Millennials and Gen Z workers prefer benefits on the job such as flexibility and work-life balance. On the other hand, boomers and Gen X employees have other needs such as more schedule stability week to week. Keeping these preferences in mind will allow engagement activities to resonate well with all employees. 


Leverage the Right Technology

Many restaurants are adding technology to their operations which can have a positive impact on employee engagement. These technologies make communicating with employees and servicing guests more efficient. Technology can also help employees not only deliver the best product, but also help enhance the guest experience. For instance, if a customer dines at a restaurant using a credit card, their purchase information is saved in the system so during their next visit, the server can recommend the wine they previously enjoyed, making the customer feel valued. 

Each employee has a unique view on what makes them engaged at work, but there are common threads that contribute to a satisfied workforce such as the manager-employee relationship and on-the-job growth opportunities. These threads are created through workplace culture and supported throughout an organization, which is the largest factor in ensuring productivity and a positive customer experience.  Employee engagement is an irreplaceable part of a successful workforce because it brings agility to operations, which in turn improves productivity. When employee engagement is combined with a disciplined approach to labor management, restaurants can have a powerful advantage that drives productivity and improves their bottom-line through a customer’s intent to recommend and return.