By Jordan Ekers
Where are your most engaged staff? Where are you seeing signs of burnout? How much of your workforce is about to quit?
No idea? You’re not alone. When an organization employs thousands or even hundreds of thousands of frontline staff, it can be hard to stay connected, particularly in the foodservice-and-hospitality industry. When workforces are spread across the country (or beyond), there’s a major risk of fractured communication and a non-existent sense of community.
However, you can’t afford to miss out on that connection. The Great Resignation has hit an all-time high, and it’s hitting the foodservice-and-hospitality industry hard. Last year, job openings hit a record high, nearly doubling pre-pandemic numbers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, according to The Deskless Report, 38 per cent of foodservice workers and 32 per cent of hospitality polled currently want to quit. Why? Compensation is certainly part of the discussion, of course, but there’s so much more than money driving frontline staff to leave. It all comes down to connection.
Long gone are the days when frontline workers were motivated solely by a pay cheque. In fact, when asked what makes them feel engaged and motivated at work, 55 per cent of frontline workers polled for The Deskless Report said a sense of purpose, and 38 per cent said a sense of community. The problem is they’re not getting it. According to our research, 63 per cent of frontline workers said they want to know more about their company’s brand vision, and 60 per cent of workers would like to have a stronger community with employees outside their location.
And it goes beyond community and brand vision. Frontline workers don’t feel heard. While 67 per cent of workers said that feedback is very or extremely important to them, the Deskless Report found that 39 per cent of frontline workers don’t feel heard, and 22 per cent said they’re never asked for feedback.
In other words, there’s plenty of room for improvement. If you’re looking for a way to mitigate the impact of The Great Resignation, building a strong connection with your frontline staff is a great place to start.
What does that connection look like? It means strong two-way communication channels that ensure all voices are heard. It means baking your company vision into everything you do. It means community-building and recognition. All in all, it means giving your staff a reason to come to work and truly perform.
Still need some convincing? Here are three reasons why a stronger connection to your restaurant staff will help you stay staffed:
We’ve already explored some of the core drivers impacting frontline worker productivity and engagement, but every workforce has its own unique motivations and frustrations. Fostering strong communication and feedback channels builds a sense of trust with your workforce and allows you to learn what your workers want and don’t want at scale. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 employees or 100,000. If you have the right platform in place, you can keep a pulse on what your workforce wants and needs to provide the support they need to stay engaged, safe and productive.
Burnout in the foodservice industry isn’t new. In fact, it was tied with hospitality as the number-1 industry for burnout prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to PayChex Worx. Coming out of the pandemic, though, burnout and mental-health issues are top-of-mind for employers like never before. Unfortunately, an article by Bruce McAdams and Monica Gallant in the Journal of Human Resources in Hospitality and Tourism shows that foodservice organizations aren’t properly equipped to handle the mental-health issues that are emerging. While this can have a direct connection to turnover rates, it can also cause company losses through disengagement, low productivity and illness.
The good news is when you foster a closer connection to your staff, you’ll be able to put programs and initiatives in place to mitigate employee burnout and avoid turnover, boosting employee engagement and even improving your employer brand. It might be as simple as creating public and private feedback channels for staff to share their frustrations about the post-pandemic or under-staffed work environment. Simply creating that clear line of communication from head office to each worker can have a tremendous impact.
Closely linked to mitigating burnout is using your connection to your staff to anticipate turnover. That said, you can take steps to prevent it.
For example, with the right frontline feedback channels in place, you can keep a close eye on dissenting or negative voices to provide a welcome ear for staff with ideas on how to make the workplace better. With robust communication technology, you’ll be able to quickly identify ewd flags like specific locations, regions or individuals that have stopped engaging with your communications or your community as a whole. When the warning signs start to show, you can reduce the impact by re-allocating support to the staff that need it most, before they leave.
If foodservice leaders aren’t connected to their frontline staff, they can’t be expected to successfully address and mitigate The Great Resignation. Fostering that connection at scale is possible with the right tools, effective communication and feedback channels.
Jordan Ekers is co-founder and COO of Nudge, the top-rated communications platform for frontline employees. He’s worked with many of North America’s leading retail, foodservice, and hospitality brands to design transformative approaches for executing the brand promise and empowering frontline teams. Ekers is a Forbes Council Member and has been a speaker and conference chair at major industry events, such as NRF’s Big Show and the Future Stores series, as well as a guest on BNN Bloomberg.