Ask almost any restaurant operator what the top industry challenge is, and their answer will inevitably be “labor shortages.” According to a 2018 study from Nation’s Restaurant News and Fourth, 67% of restaurant operators cite staffing concerns as a key cost-driver, and nearly half of restaurant operators have seen a significant increase in turnover. Talent Rewire — a nonprofit arm of the Boston-based consulting group FSG that specializes in recruitment — believes an answer could be expanding the hiring pool.
Through personalized workshops that they call “innovation labs,” Talent Rewire works with human resource teams — from companies as large as McDonald’s and MOD Pizza to smaller operations like the 100-employee Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, N.Y. — to rewire their hiring thought process by giving opportunities to a broader swath of the population.
“Most of our employment systems were designed for a majority population that no longer exists,” said Nicole Trimble, managing director at Talent Rewire. “The goal is to change our hiring practices to meet the changing demographic shifts [of job seekers]. Since unemployment is at a historic low, how do we change our practices to meet the external environment?”
Opening recruitment practices to communities populated by people of color, disabled populations and formerly incarcerated individuals is part of the training process that Talent Rewire teaches in their innovation labs.
The innovation labs are a nine-month process, during which employers and HR teams attempt to “rewire” their hiring and employee-training processes.
Teams are assessed for barriers and opportunities as they currently stand, and a pilot program is designed based on the company’s hiring goals. Talent Rewire does an onsite workshop, and the program is implemented and evaluated for results, with check-ins with employees after 30, 60 and 90 days. They also have a three-day accelerator program for a crash course in rejuvenating recruitment.
During one aspect of the workshop, Talent Rewire brings in real-life restaurant employees (or potential employees) from diverse backgrounds as consultants, and they advise companies on what they could be doing better to retain talent. Another aspect of the innovation lab is helping managers with their “soft skills,” including emotional intelligence and people-managing abilities.
“Talking to someone else’s employee, rather than your own, without the risk is an incredible way to bring in diversity training without risk,” Trimble said.
For some companies, this means rewriting their hiring practices from scratch. But for others like Smashotels — a Chicago-based hotel and hospitality management company in partnership with Hilton and Marriot that has always worked with diverse community organizations for recruitment — Talent Rewire was more about fine-tuning what they already had.
“One of the biggest things we learned is to take a look at any potential barriers we have to people applying for jobs,” Mitch Langeler, Smashotels vice president of talent and culture said. “You look at the way you do background checks and drug testing […] I think that now, after [the innovation lab], we are more open to individuals who have a story to tell rather than just automatically saying, ‘Sorry too many red flags!’ We’ve learned to slow down and have real conversations.”
But learning how to expand your recruitment circles is one part of the equation, according to Talent Rewire, and what happens after hiring someone is just as important.
“Placing people is just the beginning,” Trimble said. “What are the management practices and post-hire support? We work with groups on providing pre-and post-training for employers. One thing we do is encourage a bonus program for managers to put in place these better management practices.”
Talent Rewire’s labs try to get companies to implement inclusivity-oriented practices that they otherwise might not have thought about before, like implementing flexible scheduling, childcare solutions and not taking race or ethnicity into account when deciding who gets to work the front and back of the house.
Another specific challenge facing hospitality employees today is transportation. For example, Trimble said in New Orleans, where they’ve held workshops before, a lot of public transportation ends at 10 p.m., so for an employee without access to a car, working late-night shifts can be nearly impossible.
“Right now, the restaurant industry is looking for employees who don’t exist anymore,” Trimble said. “Historically, working in the restaurant industry has been a ‘down the pipeline’ job for other jobs, and we have to open it up to other people who might not have seen themselves as the face of a company, who would work in a front-of-the-house position.”
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]
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