Restaurant industry wages reached an all-time high in recent months, but the sector’s turnover rate suggests it’s not enough to retain talent. For workers to stay, restaurant employers need to do more than just increase compensation.

Frontline workers are leaving their jobs in droves as they face burnout, inadequate benefits, and long, unpredictable hours. Even though the restaurant industry has a historically high turnover rate, over the past two years we’ve all seen an escalation in existing issues. This has impacted workers, making them realize they want more from their employers.

In an attempt to attract and retain talent, many food service establishments have tried offering sign-on bonuses or increasing wages — and neither seem to be very effective. While providing higher pay is a compelling way to show employees you value their work, it’s no longer enough to make them stick around. So, what will entice restaurant employees to stay?

It’s time to take a closer look at the benefits you’re providing employees. Today’s workers demand an engaging workplace environment, career advancement opportunities, and modern technologies that enable them to work efficiently and effectively. Does your retention strategy reflect this?

Restaurant employers, stop making these 3 mistakes

The past two years have reshaped the restaurant industry—the seismic shift toward off-premises dining, the adoption of technologies to digitize operations—the list goes on. But one thing has remained constant: Restaurant workers are quitting at a rapid pace and employers are struggling to fill open positions.

From COVID-19 concerns to inadequate benefits, employees in the restaurant industry are fed up. Restaurant owners need to stop making these mistakes—here’s what you should be doing instead.

Mistake #1: Using outdated tools and technologies

Digital tools are just as important for frontline workers as they are for their desk-based counterparts, yet only 14 percent of organizations say their frontline workers are digitally equipped to effectively perform their jobs. Nearly 70 percent of frontline workers still use paper scheduling, which makes the task difficult and inaccessible when last-minute changes are needed. Additionally, most restaurants use outdated training models that make onboarding inefficient and exhausting.

Instead of stressing over schedules and chasing someone down to ask a simple question, arm your restaurant employees with digital tools that support real-time communication,  as well as access to scheduling and training. By providing a digital workplace platform, workers can manage their schedules and easily fetch information that helps them complete day-to-day tasks. These types of technologies are mutually beneficial because they boost operational efficiency while helping mitigate burnout.

Mistake #2: Only looking for external candidates

When you’re struggling to fill an open role, the ideal candidate could be right in front of you. Internal recruitment is a cost-effective and easier way to fill open positions because it reduces the time and costs required to hire and onboard candidates. You’ll also already know the candidate and they will be familiar with how the business operates and its brand standards. Additionally, employees at companies with high internal mobility are more likely to stay at the organization longer.

Promote internal mobility within your organization by providing engaging training modules that employees can complete at their own pace on their own time. For example, if you’re searching for a restaurant manager and a hostess is interested, they can complete the managerial training curriculum for the career advancement opportunity at hand. With a digital workplace, training lives alongside standard operating procedures, company news, task lists, and scheduling on a single app in the employee’s pocket—ensuring these functions are top of mind. In addition, you can establish a channel for two-way communication where you can ask employees for feedback on anything from sentiment to career advancement opportunities, and post internal roles before seeking external candidates.

Mistake #3: Not providing robust employee benefits

Restaurant employers have tried everything to win over job candidates, from increasing wages to offering sign-on bonuses. Unfortunately, these efforts haven’t been successful in bridging the labor gap. While fair compensation is critical, workers want more than just higher wages. They want an engaging work environment, respect, and flexibility.

The pandemic has proven workplace flexibility is essential, but restaurant jobs require workers to be on-site—so you must offer flexibility in other ways. A digital workplace enables you to standardize training across regions and allows workers to pick up extra shifts at other locations. This is a flexible option that gives workers control over their economic well-being. And since wages are typically set in stone within an establishment, you can also provide early access to earned wages—ahead of the typical, bi-weekly “payday”—using tools like ExpressPay.

Invest in your employees or risk their departure

Unfortunately for restaurant owners, labor shortages aren’t going away anytime soon. Instead of waiting it out, it’s time to rethink your current workplace practices and how you treat workers. Do your employees know you value them? Are they equipped with the proper tools to effectively do their jobs? By creating an engaging, people-first environment, you can mitigate burnout, boost retention, and make your restaurant a place where employees are proud to work.

Steven Kramer, cofounder, president and CEO of WorkJamhas more than 20 years of executive leadership experience driving business results and developing disruptive technologies for the retail industry. In 1999, Steven co-founded iCongo, a leading global software provider for omni-channel retail and B2B commerce solutions, which merged with hybris Software in 2011 and became the largest independent provider of e-commerce solutions with 27 offices worldwide, 1000+ employees and more than 600 customers. Steven was part of the Executive Management team and Board Member at hybris. hybris Software was purchased by SAP in 2013. Steven holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University.

While innovating in omni-channel and the connected consumer, Steven identified a gap between traditional workforce management systems and how retailers actually hire, schedule and manage their hourly employees. With this in mind, Steven co-founded WorkJam and is responsible for the strategic direction of the company.

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