Enhanced unemployment benefits have started to run out. So where are the employees? 

The quick-service industry finds itself in a place that would have been difficult to predict when dining rooms shuttered last spring: Revenue is as high as it’s ever been, yet operators are finding it nearly impossible to staff a restaurant. And while enhanced unemployment benefits—which have often been pointed to in explaining the lack of available workers—are on the cusp of running out, the problem does not seem to have subsided. 

“In a lot of ways, many industries, including restaurants, underestimated the labor shortage,” says Neema Ardebili, vice president of global franchise & strategic partnerships. “They thought the pandemic would end, enhanced unemployment would end, and things would return to normal. But there are so many different changes that have happened in the mindset of the workforce. Employees are now looking for flexibility, a career path, and benefits. Nothing is back to normal.”

Ardebili speaks with operators every day about the labor crisis they are facing. He sympathizes with how much of a challenge it continues to be, but he also believes operators have to get out of their comfort zone and be creative in order to attract and retain the best employees. Here are three tips that he and his colleague, Lisa Skelly, vice president of franchise partnerships & strategy for global enterprise sales at ADP, share with operators looking to win the labor market. 

“Pay Is Not Enough”

Operators have reported to Ardebili that they can’t get candidates to show up to interviews, even after they’ve advertised a higher hourly rate. He says those operators need a new approach, suggesting that they try to make the candidate feel important prior to, during, and after the interview. 

“What if you started proactively calling the candidates and telling them you couldn’t wait to meet them on their interview day?” Ardebili asks. “That’s what the best companies in the world do. Maybe offer to some or all of their cab fare, or give them a free meal voucher to use after the interview. These are things that don’t cost you much, but they make the person feel like an important part of your day, and that may make them want to become a team member.” 

This is part of ADP’s philosophy that it tries to impart to its thousands of clients in the quick-service industry: “Pay is not enough.” Employees are now looking for the flexible schedules and other perks they see advertised in other industries.

“It’s time to offer financial inclusivity and flexibility,” Skelly says. “Offer your employees access to wages, paying them the same day digitally versus cash tips. Maybe you need to experiment with offering your hourly workforce PTO, or traditional benefits you didn’t previously offer. You don’t have to do all of that, but if you are looking for ways to attract employees and make them want to stay within your organization, just offering them more money isn’t necessarily going to work.” 

Culture is King 

Culture is a buzzword used to describe something that many top employers are thought to possess. It’s time for the operators of the quick-service industry to showcase or enhance their great cultures now too, Ardebili suggests.

One way to build culture is to establish a system where management is checking in with employees and having one-on-ones so that everyone feels like they are doing work that matters and that they are getting recognized for a job well done. ADP offers an app called Standout that helps track, week-by-week, what is working for employees and what isn’t. It also offers a quick way to check the pulse of your organization and measure your employee’s engagement.

“Data shows that employees want to feel like they have a career path,” Ardebili says. “The best way to create a career-path culture within your organization is to have formal reviews and help develop employees. Make them feel empowered, give them that ownership mentality.” 

ADP also offers a coaching tool to help educate managers on how to implement and maintain a culture. It can be useful for brands who have gone through a merger or acquisition, but it can also be a great way to reboot a culture and inspire managers to create a stronger culture. 

“Some managers might not know a ton about how to motivate and get the most out of their employees,” Skelly says. “Help educate them, hold them accountable, and figure out what their weak spots are, what they might need help with. With the right advisors and consultants, this can be an empowering exercise rather than just tearing them down and telling management what they are doing wrong. It’s one of those things that starts from the top down.” 

Partner With Experts 

20 percent of the American workforce has its paycheck processed by ADP. This makes ADP the leader in payroll services, but it also gives the company a leading edge when it comes to providing human resources support. With decades of experience working with the top restaurant brands in the quick-service space, from small, emerging brands with just a single unit to large, complex multi unit brands across the globe, ADP identifies as the leader in helping brands attract and retain talent, “from the job posting, to retirement.” 

When quick-service brands partner with ADP, many of the solutions that help attract and retain employees are offered free of charge. That includes features that help find and attract employees, like benchmarking data and analytics that help offer regionally specific payment comps to help brands understand what they should be offering in each area. Other features include early access to wages, employee perks and group purchasing, a digital payment solution, and mobile applications that help leadership easily communicate with employees.

By offering perks and discounts free of charge to employers to offer employees, it’s like putting a little extra money in their employees’ pockets. “These are things that frontline workers haven’t always had access to,” Skelly says. “If you can provide those things and show your employees that you’re prepared to invest in them, that goes a long way toward making them feel like they belong to a culture they want to be a part of.” 

For more info on winning the labor battle, visit the ADP website


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