Among numerous challenges facing restaurants of all types is retaining top talent. Retention is a strategic goal within organizations that's discussed among groups and departments on a regular basis. In my position as Director of Human Resources for a restaurant brand, I am responsible for leading this initiative. It is especially challenging in the restaurant industry, where turnover trends are high.

The Critical First Steps

The "war on talent" is real, and to be considered by today's top applicants, your organization needs to be viewed as one that truly cares and acts on retention. What does this mean for a company? You need to be branding and highlighting the company as one that allows applicants easy access to recruiters, so they can quickly engage. How a company differentiates itself from its competitors needs to be an ongoing conversation among executive leadership. Plans regarding the corporate culture, specific programs, and how to best represent the brand are reviewed and modified regularly.

What an organization stands for and how we market this message is much more than just a mission statement or value proposition; it is alive, and we are ultimately accountable for it. Companies have to be who they say they are. Some of the best feedback I have heard from new in store managers are things like, "We are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk," and "We are genuine as to what we believe our core values to be." These are the critical first steps when trying to attract talent and keep them working for your company.

Vital Strategies in a Fast-Paced Environment

The restaurant industry is fast-paced, and in store-managers are in market demand. A restaurant recruiter has the typical challenges of turnover ups and downs and the feeling of never being fully staffed. We are constantly working with an applicant pool in which the best candidates aren't always there - because the ones we want are often already employed! It is a constant challenge to stay ahead of staffing needs while maintaining a seamless operation with minimal stress on the current staff and meeting the high level of customer expectations.

In a new blog series over the next three weeks, I will share with you the three elements that comprise a good retention strategy. The components that I highlight are ongoing and even more, must work in concert with one another to be most effective. This week, we will kick off with our first component: Recognition.

1.    Recognition

Employee recognition programs should be well-planned and implemented companywide. Service awards, fun gatherings, results recognition, community giving and volunteering events are some programs which will reach all levels of an organization. Remember, public recognition goes a long way. As the saying goes, it can often be more difficult to give praise than it is to criticize, so give praise when praise is due.

Restaurant Leaders, the District and General Manager, need to recognize their in-store management teams as part of their daily routine. Look for the good in people! Positive acknowledgement of work changes how in store managers perceive their leader and the company as a whole. Feedback on doing a job well shows you care about the work performance that was given and provides a prideful feeling of ownership and continuation of excellent performance.

Leaders who create positive relationships with their in store managers are creating a culture of positivity, where this behavior is passed through the hierarchy. Creating a culture of recognition will support other operational challenges such as reduction in call outs, improved customer experience and lower turnover. The direct and indirect costs associated with these obstacles are enough to substantiate the development and training costs for your management teams.

Week 2: "The Key to Employee Retention, Part 2: Development."

Resources: Photo Credit.