7 Strategies To Improve Employee Retention

Ben Beddow

Ben Beddow

Published September 4th, 2021

There’s the growth of takeout and delivery service, menu innovation like in-app ordering, bussing your own tables, and futuristic technological innovations such as bartending robots and intelligent burger flipping machines; but employees are always going to be the backbone of the food service industry and the restaurant experience.

The industry is in the midst of a staffing crisis. “Help Wanted” signs are posted in the windows of restaurants across the country right next to signs reading “Closed xxxday and xxxday due to understaffing”. There are many fingers being pointed as to the cause of this but an underlying and undeniable factor is high turnover. Annual turnover rates in the hospitality industry have been averaging above 70% for years now, meaning that, on average, a restaurant will lose 70% of its workforce every year!

Hiring and training new employees is an expensive process that has been further complicated by the labor shortage. Alongside hiring, restaurants need to be focusing on the employees they do have and how to improve employee retention; building a retention plan and structure to help them reduce their turnover, improve employee retention, and turn their current employees into longterm staff members. So, what are some tried, tested, and innovative employee retention strategies, employee retention ideas, and employee retention techniques that owners and mangers can utilize in their locations? 

Table of Contents

    Maintaining A Healthy Working Environment

    It seems like “job satisfaction” has been one of buzzword of the decade and in the high stress, fast paced, customer service environment of restaurants; meaning that owners and managers need to build a healthy work environment into their employee retention strategies in 2021. Focusing on creating and maintaining a health work environment is a one of the formost ways of how to improve employee retention and motivation.

    Be in Touch

    Restaurants function on human interaction and employees work shoulder-to-shoulder, in constant communication with each other, through their whole shift.  These high levels of interaction require an understanding of, not only, an employee’s capabilities but also who they are and their breaking points. Being in touch and knowing each of your employee’s limits and when they’re under acute levels of stress can help managers plan and help them operate within their limits, increasing their job satisfaction on a day-to-day basis, and learn from their employees as for how do you improve employee retention and motivation in a restaurant.

    “Open Door” Policy

    An open door policy gives an employee the opportunity to approach their managers and to let their issues be known. This can lift a huge weight off the employees shoulders and allows the manager to provide support for them through conversations with them and others and through scheduling practices. This open door policy needs to be reiterated to employees regularly and should apply to both personal life issues and workplace issues. 

    Breed and Be The Positivity in The Workplace

    “S**t rolls downhill” is a well known idiom that everyone who has worked as a line level employee in any industry will understand. This is not only true with tasks but also with attitude. If a manager has a dour and negative attitude it will inevitably infect everyone in the workplace and go against and strategies to improve employee retention that have been put in place.

    Managers and owners need to lead the charge of positivity by eliminating negative responses and being the problem solver, alongside encouraging and empowering their employees to do the same. Lastly, managers should lead the charge out of the negativity trap when everyone else’s attitudes start on a downward spiral.

    Always Be Polite

    “Please and thank you are free” is an age-old saying that doesn’t come without merit. If managers bring politeness into the workplace it will be noticed and echoed by the employees. It is beneficial to create a culture of gratitude and respect amongst employees; especially in such a high pressure environment. Even if employees don’t notice when it is present they’ll definitely notice when it isn’t and restaurant employee retention will improve with the politeness of the staff towards each other.

    innovative employee retention strategies

    Actively Encouraging A Work-Life Balance

    innovative employee retention strategies
    innovative employee retention strategies

    Employee’s shouldn’t feel overly demanded of by their workplace; after all, we work to live, not live to work. Allow employees to have input into their schedules, and try to settle on set schedules to allow everyone to better plan their lives. Discuss vacations and encourage employees to undertake certain things in their own life that benefit or please them. This is one of many innovative employee retention strategies that are being put to use today.

    Another consideration for some locations is “on call’ scheduling. Instead of bringing an employee in and promptly sending them home that employee can be “on call” until a certain mid-shift point in time and if they haven’t received a call by then then can rest easy and do what they want with their time. This gives managers a labor saving flexibility and leaves employees with more free time and lower levels of frustration.

    Keeping Promises

    If promises keep coming up empty then employees are sure to jump ship. Whether this be with certain equipment, other job tools, or vacations and scheduling matters promises need to be kept. Keeping the dialogue open with employees with regards to promises is also important in case things go wrong and this level of commitment and openness is one of the more noticeable ways for how to improving staff retention.

    how to improve employee retention and motivation

    Being Praiseful

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    Much like always saying please and thank you a few simple yet honest and meaningful words of praise can do wonders for someone’s morale, their sense of achievement, and the level of pride they take in their day-to-day work. Accolades shouldn’t be handed out freely but “credit where credit is due” is an important mantra for all manager to remember, but they are an excellent way of increasing employee retention.

    Promoting Internally

    The benefits of internal promotions speak for themselves: They know the location, employees, systems, and operations intimately, and the manager knows the employee. The location gets to retain a great employee and can also promote someone else into their previous role. It also shows other employees that there is the opportunity of advancement available for them too and. Promoting internally is one of the leading strategies for improving employee rentention. Promoting across locations can also have the same benefits and the same effect.

    how to retain employees

    Letting Go of Toxicity

    employee retention ideas

    Just like negativity, a bad attitude can spread throughout the workplace quickly. This toxicity often comes from just one or two individuals and needs to be eliminated where possible. Everyone deserves their chance but no one deserves the right to bring the team down. Give these employees their chances, taking their personal situation into account along the way. But if the toxicity continues to flow then, unfortunately, the fit just isn’t right. This is one of the more inovative employee retention strategies for how to improve employee retention, because it focusing on letting go of employees who are having a detrimental affect on the workplace environment.

    Encouraging Mentorship

    The range of ages, skill levels, and experience is highly varied in each individually unique restaurant across the world. Encourage long standing employees to take newer employees under their wing; partnering them up for training helps to facilitate this. This gives longstanding employees recognition of their achievements and knowledge, and the authority to answer questions while also fostering a healthy environment of information exchange and making sure no one is afraid to ask a question.

    innovative employee retention strategies

    A Final Word

    In our last piece we discussed attracting and retaining employee and all of the points discussed there are highly relatable here. Increasing the successful retention of employees begins by implementing employee retention ideas and techniques from the beginning of their employment. The benefits mentioned in our previous article can also be implemented during employment, not just at the beginning and doing so can have a huge impact on workplace morale and positivity.

    Uncovering the secrets of how to retain employees and how to improve employee retention and motivation is a jewel in the crown of successful restaurant management. Constantly working on improving employee retention strategies is key to continuing to improve staff retention. The points above, and in the aforementioned article, go a long way to increasing the employee’s happiness and motivation levels, reducing turnover, making the owner and managers lives easier, and helping a business run more profitably.

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