What restaurant leaders need to know about managing employee engagement.

Sponsored by John Wiley and Sons.

Job misery kills morale and productivity within companies, and drives up the cost of recruiting, hiring, and retraining new employees, all of which takes a huge toll on the bottom line. In an industry that operates on razor-thin margins, it is critical that restaurant managers understand that job misery at work is costly, unnecessary, and treatable.

Engaged employees, however, boost businesses. According to a study by the Corporate Leadership Council, “Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement,” employees who are most committed are 87 percent less likely to leave an organization, and they perform 20 percent better than other employees. These employees stay within the organization, help attract other quality employees, show more attention to detail, develop ownership and pride in their work, pitch in in areas outside their responsibility, and find fulfillment, enthusiasm, and passion in their work.

Leadership expert Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, believes that when managers understand the causes of job misery, they can help drive employee engagement and achieve better business results. Here, he explains what restaurant leaders need to know about why employees become disengaged and what managers can do about it.

1. What makes a job miserable? 

A miserable job is not the same as a bad one. A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder. One person’s dream job might be another person’s nightmare, but a miserable job is universal. It is one that makes a person cynical and frustrated and demoralized when they go home at night. It drains them of their energy, their enthusiasm, and their self-esteem. Miserable jobs can be found in every industry and at every level.

2. What is the root cause of job misery? 

The primary source of job misery and the potential cure for that misery resides in the hands of one individual—the direct manager. There are countless studies confirming this statement, including both Gallup and The Blanchard Companies. Both organizations have found that an employee’s relationship with their direct manager is the most important determinant to employee satisfaction over pay, benefits, perks, work-life balance, and so on. 

3. What causes employer dissatisfaction with their managers? 

The first [cause] is anonymity, which is the feeling that employees get when they realize that their manager has little interest in them as a human being and that he or she knows little about their lives, their aspirations, and their interests. 

The second cause is irrelevance, which takes root when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someone’s life—a customer, a co-worker, or even a supervisor—in one way or another. 

The third cause is something I call immeasurement, which is the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers to gauge their progress or contribution. 

4. Why don’t managers do these things? 

As simple as the three causes are in theory, the fact remains that few managers take a genuine interest in their people, remind them of the impact that their work has on others, and help them establish creative ways to measure and assess their performance. There are a number of reasons. 

First, many managers think they are too busy. Of course, the real problem is that most of those managers see themselves primarily as individual contributors who happen to have direct reports. They fail to realize that the most important part of their jobs is providing their people with what they need to be productive and fulfilled (a.k.a. not miserable) in their jobs. 

The second reason managers don’t provide employees with those three things is that they simply forget what it was like when they were a little lower in the organization. They forget how important it was to them when a supervisor took an interest in them, talked to them about why their work really mattered, and gave them a means for evaluating their progress.

Finally, many managers don’t do this because they are embarrassed or afraid to try. They fear that their employees will see them as being disingenuous or manipulative, or that by taking an interest in their personal lives they will be stepping into inappropriate territory. It’s almost as though they fail to understand the difference between the interview process (when personal questions are discouraged) and the actual work experience (treat people like human beings). 

5. How can restaurants improve employee engagement? 

Managers can adapt their leadership styles to get to know employees better, demonstrate their importance, and help them measure their performance, but the first step to developing a highly engaged, healthy workforce is recruitment. Managers can ask specific questions during an interview—and look for clues within the responses—to increase their chances of hiring engaged, team-minded individuals. I refer to these recruits as ideal team players.  

While there is no perfect tool or test to identify ideal team players, there are questions and strategies managers can use during the interview process to help evaluate candidates. Get a free interview guide to learn more.

Patrick Lencioni is a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, consultant, and founder and president of The Table Group, a firm dedicated to helping organizations become healthy. Lencioni’s books blend innovative storytelling, vibrant characters, and clear-sighted practical solutions to address the most sensitive and important pain points of today’s organizations: how to build successful teams, improve leadership, break down silos, engage employees, and ensure the health of the organization as a whole. Chick-fil-A, The Cheesecake Factory, In-N-Out Burger, Sonic, and Yum! Brands, among others, have brought Pat’s unique perspective on leadership and teamwork to their organizations.

Sponsored Content