There has been a lot of conversation in the media about the "battle for talent." With turnover rates for foodservice employees already reaching 110%, the need to retain talent is greater than ever for restaurants. Following a review of the data from the recently published Restaurant Industry Report: Strategies for Reducing Turnover, I reflected on this growing challenge. Here are three approaches to keeping employees engaged and committed to your organization:

1. Provide Access to Degree Programs

According to the report, the rate of turnover for employees with a diploma is half of the rate for those without one. With the talent pool shrinking, providing a diploma program to employees demonstrates commitment, supports those who are motivated, and can increase their tenure within your organization. And many strongly branded organizations, like Starbucks and McDonald's, are taking the lead on providing this benefit to their teams.

To implement this strategy, companies can:

  • Partner with high school and college diploma program provider to obtain scale and receive support from experts in the education industry
  • Support a high school or college diploma study group by helping employees who need their degree to connect with each other
  • Celebrate the educational achievements for those who graduate through recognition and other events

2. Offer Personal Development Courses

Employees have a desire to develop and grow outside of the specific requirements of their day-to-day job. Acknowledging this need, 43% of respondents from the survey reported offering communication skills training to their employees. Developing "employability" skills like communications helps increase customer satisfaction while simultaneously increasing your bench strength for filling other positions in the company. Start offering these opportunities by:

  • Encouraging managers to lead developmental discussions in team meetings, sharing their best practices around topics like communications, coaching, customer service, and time management
  • Offer optional courses on a quarterly basis by bringing in outside speakers or working with your chamber of commerce or Small Business Development Center
  • Have employees train each other by organizing study groups, book clubs, or other developmental meetups
  • Leverage an external partner to make courses available for your employees to take on their own

3. Create a Career Path for Your Employees

Of the top reasons why hourly restaurant employees leave their job, "limited career advancement opportunities' is reported as the second highest. While this can be challenging in a single-site restaurant, creating pathways for development is critical to keeping the highly motivated employees that make your organization successful. This seems to be a bit of a blind spot for some of the participants in this study, with only 1-5% of hourly employees getting promoted. Here are some ideas to help them improve:

  • Create levels within your organization that allow employees to grow, such as offering a senior server role that requires the employee to coach, mentor, and train new servers
  • Develop solid bench plans for your organization to know who has the potential to get to the next level and invest in their development
  • Allow management shadowing for employees you know have the potential to take on more

With clear data that engaging employees decreases turnover and costs - including a 72% lower cost per hire - retaining employees is more important than ever. These tips should not only help you achieve these savings but drive improved business results through better and more consistent customer service, teamwork, and a stronger and more effective organization.

Recommended for You: Developing a Career-Ready Workforce, Part 1: Understanding Power Skills and their Role in the Workplace

Resources: Photo credit.