Everyone’s talking about today’s monumental changes in quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. Yes, COVID has been brutal. But it’s also brought about positive change in how meals are prepared, priced, delivered, and served. Essentially, the downturn freed teams to reflect, rethink, and change.

Continue the momentum with meaningful change for hourly workers

The rewards will be plenty. At my company, we talk to hourly workers every minute of every day. What we hear is crystal clear: unless quick-serves change how workers are treated, they’ll never give you a second look. Or a first interview.

Given that hiring and retaining hourly workers is perhaps the top challenge you face as a quick-service restaurant, what changes can you make? Here are three realities in today’s market, and how you can anticipate and adapt to right-size your staff.

1. The Great Awakening continues to upset the apple cart

A massive shift in the employer-worker relationship is taking place in the hourly space.

Quick-service is no exception, as we see workers wielding more power in decision-making. Enlightened employees are leaving in record numbers, deciding that jobs aren’t right for future success. The slight financial cushion from the pandemic has also given workers flexibility to consider what they want out of a position, as well as time to find better-fitting opportunities.

Similarly, prospective employees are increasingly aware of, and gravitate to, quick-service restaurants that provide benefits and opportunities that align with their goals and needs. Consider it the “white-collarization” of blue-collar jobs, where better benefits play a very real role in attracting and retaining workers. The massive amount of turnover quick-service restaurants experienced over the last two years isn’t a fluke. It’s a sign that workers want more from their employers, whether it’s better pay, benefits, flexibility, or career advancement.

Rather than simply putting your offer on a hook and hoping someone bites, work to promote benefits and opportunities you offer. The effort will pay big dividends in retention, employee satisfaction, and sustained productivity.

2. Workplace flexibility is taking center stage

As the pandemic continues, so does the evolution of what workers consider to be a “typical” workplace experience.

Case in point: a recent Snagajob survey of 1,872 hourly workers found that 45 percent of respondents are looking for a more flexible work schedule in their next job. Additionally, 69 percent reported that they want to see flexible scheduling mentioned in job postings.

The takeaway is clear. Today’s workers are rejecting positions that rely on rigid scheduling, and you’re on the hook to adapt. Naturally, this is easier said than done. Especially in quick service, where employees must be on site.

The good news is that most brands have already shifted operations to account for a changing world. To build on these changes, there’s an opportunity to schedule workers according to their ability. This allows for flexibility to fill several different roles. For instance, have an employee who needs morning shifts work as a custodian for part of the week, then fill in for deliveries later in the week during evening rush. These modifications obviously require an understanding of your workers’ wants and needs. But by meeting your employees halfway, you’ll ensure you’re prioritizing their well-being and ability to achieve work-life balance.

3. Businesses are taking the next step in employee retention 

“The Great Resignation” is impacting all industries. In November alone, a record 4.5 million workers willingly quit their jobs. In the face of this upheaval, nearly all quick-serves are wondering how to retain workers. This is especially true as workers continue to jump between professions and industries to find best-fit opportunities.

To solve this, one flag you can plant in the ground is company values. Increasingly we see that Generation Z workers want to join companies with values that align with their own. Given that a large portion of the restaurant workforce is made up of this younger generation, it will serve you well to clearly and concisely state your company’s mission, philanthropic goals, and other activities. Show that you’re thoughtfully contributing to social causes.

Beyond the importance of company values, there are also incremental and inexpensive steps that quick-service and fast-casual managers can put in place to keep employees satisfied. Even small tokens of appreciation and recognition go a long way in boosting morale. Also, be sure to create a clear pathway for advancement within a company. Showing workers that their entry-level position can lead to a management career is a fantastic way to foster buy-in both in the short and long term.

Bring change to your most valuable assets: hourly workers

Build on change that’s already happening in quick-service. Bring much-needed change to hourly work with added benefits, flexibility, and understanding. You’ll increasingly attract more new hires and keep existing workers on staff. Ultimately, you’ll create a more skilled and self-sustaining workforce.

Mathieu Stevenson is the CEO of Snagajob, the country’s largest and most trusted marketplace for hourly jobs and work shifts. Partnering with 24 of the nation’s top 25 employers of hourly work, each month Snagajob connects over 6 million job seekers with well-matched and mutually beneficial employment opportunities. This includes teaming with thousands of diverse employers, from small businesses and mid-market companies to large enterprises. Snagajob’s mission is to give hourly workers freedom to work however they want, while helping fulfill life goals through full-time or part-time positions (all while maintaining complete control and flexibility over when and where they work). And because matchmaking is in our DNA, employers count on their jobs being seen by the right candidates at the right time. In a sea of job seekers and openings, we know there’s magic in the match.

Employee Management, Outside Insights, Story