Did you know that only a small fraction of your employees bring their “A” game to work every day? Only about one in five do. The rest? At best they are bringing their “B” or “C” games to work—at worst, their main goal is to keep from getting fired.
In the corporate world, countless companies dedicate a sizable chunk of their annual budgets to solving employee engagement issues. Restaurant operators don’t typically spend a lot of time or money in this area. But as an industry plagued by high turnover, you face a similar problem: how to get an ever-shifting team of employees to function at a high level.
In reality most engagement issues (as well as performance and behavioral problems) can be solved through conversation. Five conversations, to be precise.
But most managers don’t talk to their staff frequently enough, don’t know how to talk to them or what to talk about. Managers don’t know how to plug into their employees’ minds and figure out what they really want, and what they need to be fully engaged—and productive.
There are no psychic forces at work: getting into the minds of your employees to glean the information needed to increase not only engagement, but productivity in your workforce can be as simple as conducting the following five focused conversations.
There are two types of feedback that fall under this conversation. First, give praise where praise is due. Studies have shown that a vast majority of employees do not feel appreciated enough for the job they do. Praise, it seems, is a scarce commodity in the workplace. So if your staff is doing a good job, be sure to let them know.
Conversely, one of the key factors in employee engagement is the ability to have your say. Be receptive to your staff’s feedback. Who knows? They may just come up with a brilliant idea that makes a huge difference for your restaurant.
Most performance issues stem from a disconnect between what the manager perceives as meeting objectives and what the staff member perceives as meeting them. To drastically reduce performance issues, managers must both clearly define and articulate expectations. Yet few do.
Your employees need to know what they must do to be successful in their jobs, and how that success will be measured. And you need to have a clearly defined yardstick by which to objectively measure performance. Aligning their expectations with yours will result in less frustration and anxiety—on both your parts.
3. Career development
Many studies list career development within the top three factors that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or look for another job. Yet, many managers avoid this topic like the plague for one of three reasons:
• They don’t understand how to manage their own careers.
• They are afraid that if they help their staff manage their career better they will surpass them.
• They are afraid to talk about career development because they don’t feel they can meet the employee’s expectations. This is especially true in restaurants where little vertical career opportunity is available.
Helping staff manage their careers makes good business sense. Ensuring that they understand what opportunities exist at your restaurant (something they may not recognize without your help) will inhibit them looking outside of it.
Find out what your employees’ priorities are and have open, honest conversations around how your organization can help them achieve them—even with any constraints you may have. Suggest and recommend internal opportunities to learn, grow and develop and they will at least delay—if not avoid—looking for external ones.
Motivators and strengths
4. Underlying motivators
The underlying motivators conversation helps to uncover those intrinsic factors—known as currencies of choice—that science has shown to be much more highly motivating than extrinsic ones such as pay and benefits. By tapping into each individual’s currencies of choice you will help uncover what they need to go the extra mile. Conversely, once they do, they need to be recognized appropriately for it. The old adage, “Praise in public, correct in private” is only half true. Many people don’t respond well to public recognition.
Identify the drivers of each individual staff member to unlock productivity and unleash potential. Then recognize them appropriately when they do go that extra mile.
According to The Gallup Organization, teams whose members play to their strengths most of the time are:
• 50 percent more likely to have low employee turnover.
• 38 percent more likely to be highly productive.
• 44 percent more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores.
Strengths can be defined as the innate abilities or behavioral patterns that are neurologically hardwired into our brains between the ages of three and 15. The context of the behavior will change over time, but the patterns remain the same. So children who share their toys in the sand box at age five may very well become 15-year-olds who volunteer at the local charity. And 20 years on they may become the 35-year-olds who are the most collaborative in the workplace.
If you can help your staff determine behaviors that come naturally to them, you will find that their stress is decreased, they become more engaged—and, of course, more productive.
There is no reason to spend mass-amounts of time and money on “engagement” programs when all it takes is tapping into the minds of your personnel. By first hiring the right staff and then employing the five FOCUSed conversations outlined in this article, managers will significantly increase overall employee engagement.
Kim Seeling Smith, author of Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity, is the founder and CEO of Ignite Global.