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5 Ways to Turn Your Staff into a High Performing Team

In a restaurant, it takes the concerted efforts of an entire team to create a great dining experience. Everyone has a part to play.

If your team breaks down, or isn’t working together effectively, it will impact your customers. But it’s also likely to impact individual employees, resulting in dissatisfaction, lower performance, tensions or animosities, and even higher turnover. All of which are bad for business.

If your team works well together, people feel supported, better enjoy their work, and are likely to be more engaged and productive. That means happier employees, happier customers, and happier owners.

Here are 5 things you can do to help your staff function as a high-performing team.

1.    Set Performance Expectations for Each Role

It’s important for everyone to know what their role is, what’s expected of them, how they interact with or impact others, and what they can expect from other staff. There are three important ways that you set and communicate performance expectations: job descriptions, competencies and goals.

Right from the start, you should create clear job descriptions for every role in your restaurant. Job descriptions help everyone understand their key responsibilities and tasks. You should also share all job descriptions with all your staff, so they understand their role on the team and their interdependent relationship with other team members. Understanding your role on the team is the first step to being part of a high-performing team.

Next you should identify the competencies (sometimes called skills, values or behaviors) that are critical to success and high performance in each role. You may find it helpful to identify core competencies that everyone should display – these help build your restaurant culture and brand – as well as job specific competencies. However you choose to do this, every employee should clearly understand what competencies you expect them to display on the job.

Finally, you need to set and assign clear goals for each employee. If you do this in collaboration with each employee, they’ll likely be more committed to their goals. Every employee goal should in some way be linked to a higher level organizational goal. This gives every employee a context for their work and helps them feel like they’re part of a team working on a larger effort.

By setting clear performance expectations for each employee you identify their role on the team, their relationship with every other team member, and give them a context and parameters for their work on the team.

2.    Provide Training and Cross-Training

To build a high performing team, it’s important to provide everyone with training in their particular role. The training can be to address identified skill gaps or to further expand or deepen existing skills. The training doesn’t have to be formal classroom training. It can include things like job shadowing, mentoring, reading, observation, podcasts, etc.

When assigning development plans to your employees, consider the power of cross-training to build team relationships and strength. Cross-training allows you to “walk in someone else’s shoes” for a period, and gives you an understanding of the workplace and team from their perspective. Having a waitress work a shift busing tables or doing prep in the kitchen can give her a broader perspective of the work that another team mate does, and how her own work impacts others. There are ways to do this effectively, on slower days or shifts, so that service to your clientele is not disrupted. Cross-training employees like this invariably gives them a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the challenges their team mates face – and results in better teamwork and communication.

3.    Give Everyone Ongoing Feedback and Coaching on Their Performance

Every employee need to hear, on a regular basis, what they are doing well, where they can improve, and what you expect from them. By giving all your employees feedback and coaching on their performance, you help improve their individual performance, and that of the team.

4.    Gather Feedback on Performance from Peers and Coworkers

In a restaurant, with its busy work environment and varied shifts, it’s almost impossible for a manager or owner to have broad and deep knowledge of each employee’s performance. By gathering 360 degree feedback from those who work most closely with each employee, you can get a better perspective and understanding of their performance. You can also better understand how they are functioning on the team, and how they are perceived by the team. This invaluable information can help you and the employee maximize their performance and address any problems.

5.    Recognize and Reward Team-Focused Behaviors

If you want to encourage strong team behavior and performance, recognize and reward it. Get everyone one board with this initiative, encouraging praise, “thank yous” and recognition for individual work well done, in support of the larger team. If you do recognize and reward good performance publicly (in front of the team) rather than privately, your acknowledgements and rewards will serve to motivate the entire team to perform. And sometimes, when the whole team is performing well, it’s important to recognize and reward the team as a whole, not just the high-performing individuals. If you want to encourage good performance, recognize and reward it.

These 5 things are really core elements of good employee performance management that fosters employee high performance. In a restaurant, where you need everyone working together as a high performing team to deliver a great dining experience, you can use these techniques to improve both individual and team performance.

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How to Recruit, Train, and Keep Top-Notch Restaurant Staff

High turnover rates are a perennial challenge in the restaurant industry, with many contributing factors. But while many restaurant owners and managers shrug their shoulders and dismiss the problem as something they can do nothing about, there are in fact several practical things you can do to recruit, train and keep top-notch restaurant staff. In a business where people are your only true sustainable competitive advantage, it’s a wonder why more restaurants don’t make the effort.

Hire the Right People

If you want top-notch, high performing staff, that are engaged and loyal to your restaurant, you need to start by hiring the right people, right from the start. Here are some practices you should adopt to make your hiring more effective:

Track the effectiveness of your “Sources of Hire”
It’s important to keep track of each employee’s source of hire (i.e. where did you get their resume from – job board ad, agency, referral, walk-in, school, etc.), then map that to their performance in the first year. Watch for trends. Do your best employees tend to come from one or more particular sources? Do problematic employee tend to come from the same source? Trends in employee performance related to source of hire can help guide future recruiting efforts and make them more effective.

Assess Key Competencies in the Interview ProcessHiring Restaurant Staff
Figure out what the key competencies are for both your restaurant and the role. (Competencies are also referred to as skills or behaviors.) Then make sure you ask questions in the interview that help reveal the candidate’s abilities in those areas. For example, if your establishment is more formal, you might want to assess potential customer facing staff on their manners and etiquette. If you cater to families, you’ll want to make sure staff are child-focused. By identifying your key competencies up-front, and assessing candidates’ demonstration of them, you increase the quality of your hires.

Consider “Cultural” Fit
Every workplace has a culture. Is yours formal, friendly, trendy, casual? Think about the work atmosphere you want to create. Now when you interview, ask yourself if the candidate will be a good cultural fit for your workplace. If they fit in, and get along with your existing team, they’ll likely stay and be more effective in their role. If they don’t, you’ll likely run into problems.

Use Employee Referrals
Your existing employees are sometimes your best sources for new candidates. Afte all, they have a vested interested in getting someone good in the new role. Ask them for referrals or recommendations for new hires.

Make Employee Development a Priority

Provide Ongoing Development
Often restaurant owners and managers think of employee training as something you do when you hire a new person. The goal is simply to get them up and running as quickly as possible. But good employers make employee development an ongoing priority. Train to refresh skills. Train to expand skills. Train to develop abilities or expand career potential. Train to keep abreast of innovations or trends. And make use of all the development media/vehicles available to you: webinars, seminars, courses, job-sharing, job-shadowing, mentoring, reading, podcasts, etc. Being given the opportunity to develop on the job is one of the key enablers of employee engagement and retention.

Support or Subsidize Ongoing Career Development
As long as the employee wants to advance their career in the restaurant or hospitality industry, you really can’t go wrong by fostering their career development. Where possible, financial support or subsidies are a great help. But you can also support career development by allowing time off, accommodating shifts, temporarily reducing workloads, offering work practicums, etc. Think of it as an investment in both your restaurant’s, and your employee’s future.

Crosstraining develops your workforce in two powerful ways. First, it broadens your available talent pool, enabling you to use your existing staff to fill in quickly when someone is sick, someone is on vacation, someone leaves, or the workload shifts. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it helps to build a more cooperative and appreciative workforce. When you know and understand someone else’s role, constraints and pressures, you can work better and more effectively with them, because you understand the impact your work has on the other.

Address Engagement Needs
A quick web search on “employee engagement” reveals a number of studies on the contributors to employee engagement and satisfaction. Among these factors are: getting feedback on performance, having a context for your work, having opportunities for development (as stated earlier) and being fairly rewarded or recognized for good performance.

Give Ongoing Feedback on PerformanceGive Restaurant Staff Feedback
Make sure your employees know what they’re doing well, so they can continue to do it, where and how they can improve, and what they need to stop doing. We all need performance feedback on a weekly, if not daily, basis so we know if we are on track and meeting expectations. This kind of ongoing feedback is the best way to foster high-performance.

Engage Employees in Achieving the Restaurant’s Goals
Research repeatedly tells us that employees need a context for their work, so they feel they are “making a difference”. So share your restaurant goals with your employees. And make sure they each have individual goals that link to your higher level restaurant goals. This kind of goal alignment has been shown to increase both employee performance and engagement.

Recognize and Reward Great Performance
While this certainly includes your compensation program, which should correlate to employee performance, not just seniority, inflation or other external factors, it really needs to go beyond this. A simple thank you, some paid time off, a complimentary meal, acknowledgement in front of peers – all these are ways to recognize and reward great performance and encourage more of it. Be creative and find consistent, effective ways to reward your staff.

These basic “people management” practices can go a long way to helping any restaurant hire, develop and retain a high performing staff. And isn’t that really what we’re all after?

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