At the beginning of 2021, just 8 percent of operators reported labor as their biggest concern, according to the National Restaurant Association. That figure has since risen to 57 percent, which will come as no surprise to those who are in frequent communication with restaurant leaders.
“I recently conducted a survey to see what operators might want to hear about at a speaking engagement I had at a restaurant leadership show,” says Lisa Skelly, vice president of franchise partnerships & strategy for global enterprise sales at ADP. “Really, it wasn’t even close—everyone wanted to hear about attracting, engaging, and retaining employees.”
On the other hand, Skelly suggests, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. With the end of enhanced unemployment having run out in most states, the labor pool is expected to grow. That would be great news for operators, who face a number of headwinds in every facet of operations and would surely like to imagine the day when staffing a restaurant isn’t the all consuming agenda it has become.
“There really are so many things working against restaurants right now,” says Neema Ardebili, vice president of global franchise & strategic partnerships at ADP. “It goes far beyond the labor shortage. Food costs are massively inflated, too—even something as simple as chicken has gone up 18 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. And at the same time, rent isn’t going down. None of these challenges are going to end any time soon, but one of the things I truly believe operators have control over is how they are competing to find and keep the best employees.”
As Ardebili alludes to, the question for operators might soon change from “how do I find anybody who wants to work?” to “how do I make sure I’m getting the best employees out there?” The answer to that, says Skelly, must begin with a different question: What are your competitors doing to win the best employees?
ADP is the largest payroll company in the U.S., and is responsible for processing paychecks for 20 percent of the American workforce. What comes along with that is swaths of anonymized data like, for example, how much other industry brands are paying their employees. In other words, ADP’s platforms have the capability to begin to help brands see the bigger picture on what their competitors are doing, and can help them build a strategy based around that information. The goal, Skelly says, should be to leverage this data to not only recruit and hire the best employees, but to invest in those team members and ensure they want to stay with your company.
“Things like a digital payment solution, early access to wages, mobile applications that make it easy for employees to communicate with their bosses—these are all free H.R. solutions when you use ADP to manage your payroll,” Skelly says. “We have a lot of data that shows that these types of tools are what employees are looking for. You can raise wages to the point where you’re competitive, but if you aren’t offering these other things, there’s no guarantee you’ll be the employer of choice.”
Skelly and Ardebili sympathize with restaurant leaders who have been dealing with this crisis all year, and know it’s going to take resources some restaurant brands don’t have right now in order to start to turn everything around. But that’s where ADP comes in, Skelly says.
“I know a lot of this is daunting, but you can start to turn it all around in 3 to 6 months,” Skelly says. “But first you have to identify the problems. We can help you do that and make sure you don’t feel like you’re running on a hamster wheel dealing with turnover over and over again. You have to start somewhere or you’re going to struggle with this forever.”
For more on winning the best employees, visit the ADP website.