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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.

About Sean Conrad

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and food lover who knows that good people management practices mean good business. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.

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  1. Sean,
    I wish i could say there was one I valued more than another but all of these are great things that every restaurant owner should be doing. Thanks for the post.


  2. Thanks for the kind note Jared,

  3. Great pointers, Sean. They seem obvious, but they are so easily overlooked in a fast-paced, high pressure environment. Add would add only for manager who work with a multicultural staff (as so many do in a good number of regions) to address cultural differences (apart from the language barrier) and promote cultural awareness among the staff. This will make for a much more effective team enviroment.

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