More than 50% of your managers are unsatisfied and looking for a better opportunity.

The  overall US economy may be lagging, but your industry has been hiring new staff at a time when the average manager is unsatisfied and looking for a change. The paradigm shift to a “candidate’s market” is most certainly underway. If you want to win the war for talent and value your current staff, then the key for you is RETENTION.

Following are a few workforce statistics¹:

  • The percentage of employees happy in their job has declined from 69% in 2009 to 54% in 2012
  • 67% of the workforce  in the Americas intends to look for a job with another employer within the next year
  • Only 44% of the workforce feels valued by their employer

If those numbers don’t motivate you, these might:

  • The number of Americans working at hotels, motels, and casino hotels rose 3.2 percent in March from the same month in 2010, to 1.6 million, outpacing a 2.7% increase for all employees, data from the Department of Labor show²
  • Eateries boosted their employment 2.7% in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2012, more than twice the 1.3% increase in the economy overall³

Provided below are five retention strategies that will be easy for you foodies to learn. Just remember C.H.I.V.E.:


Do you have a method of open communication with your managers beyond required reporting and an “open door policy?” Do they know you care about them beyond the numbers for which they are accountable? Do you know the ideas they have? Do you get their valuable front-line feedback on systems, trends, and consumer preferences?

Tom Walter, CEO of Tasty Catering, realized several years ago that he needed to more actively engage all of his employees. Among other programs, he implemented open-book management and two distinct inter-company publications. A daily brief is posted in both English and Spanish on a bulletin board in every department. The brief contains important updates as well as feedback from follow-up calls to clients. Line employees encourage each other in their successes and challenges, creating camaraderie and unity.

Every department head submits a brief report to be consolidated into a weekly communication called “Inside The Dish.” Every employee reads updates on revenue and sales metrics, pipeline numbers, culinary changes, operations breakthroughs, and everything else that affects the business. It is fact-filled. Though achievements are celebrated, it is not a “mutual admiration society.” Rather, it is a critical tool that unifies the company and gives every employee the opportunity to be heard.

Have Fun

As the leader it is your responsibility to create a work environment that is successful, but also fun. Employees who say they love what they do are having fun at their job. When is the last time you had some laughs with your staff, or celebrated some little victories?

Studies show that small staff rewards can yield high dividends. Think small, like movie or game tickets or gift cards. Recognize loyalty and performance with public acknowledgement and encouragement.

Be spontaneous. One retired casual dining franchisee I know made it a point to surprise each general manager a few times a year. He would fly into town on a Friday or Saturday morning, go into one of his restaurants, and give the GM the weekend off. The GM would get some needed rest and family time, and the owner would work the shifts, staying connected with the staff and the customers.

Invest in Rest

Your staff performs in one of the most challenging businesses. They work long hours, weekends, holidays, overnights and holidays. They deserve a break, and they know it. In 2009 and 2010, everyone pulled double-duty to get through the recession. Now, they need, want, and deserve a rest.

Get your managers the staff they need so they can be professionals, and live a professional lifestyle. Though weekend days off may continue to be rare, provide two days off and structure your team so those days can be consecutive. When I was in operations, it was “normal” to work a six day, 70-hour week and then come in on my only day off for a mandatory staff meeting. It was normal until I burned out.

If your company’s business and human resource models are built on over-working salaried management, you are missing the bigger picture. You will have better everything – guest service, sales, productivity, innovation, cost control, everything – with a better-rested and supported staff. You will also save hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars annually in costs and expenses related to higher employee turnover.

Value Your Staff

Every human has an innate desire to feel valued and respected, yet only 44% of the global workforce feels valued by their employer¹. If you have to ask yourself whether or not your company values its workforce, then your company does not value its workforce.

In a July 31 article, Mark Royal, senior employee research principal with global management consultancy The Hay Group, wrote about value sentiment as a major factor in talent retention:

“If organizations want employees to do and deliver more, it’s essential that they have confidence that they are valued as people, that their extra efforts are recognized and appreciated, and that there is a reasonable balance between rewards (tangible and intangible) and contributions.

The “stayers” [employees who indicated that they are committed to their companies for more than two years] rate the care and concern for employees displayed by their companies much higher than the “leavers” [employees reporting intentions to leave within the next two years] (62% versus 39%).

And they also report greater levels of satisfaction with the fairness of their pay in relation to the work they do (53% versus 31%).”


Mr. Royal also cites that 67% of the “stayers” report that their supervisors provide ongoing coaching for development, as compared with 45% of the “leavers.” Enriching their minds will give your talented managers the confidence, esteem and respect they desire.

Encourage continued education and create programs for your company to pay for continued education. Create a reading club with meetings or scheduled conference calls to discuss business books that will empower them to excel. Reward participants to validate their efforts.

Trade associations are also great resources for employees to deepen their professionalism. Reimburse expenses to local chapter meetings and national conferences, but require detailed reports on what they learn and practical applications for your business.

If you don’t engage your managers, somebody else will. The odds are they’re already at least researching opportunities. If retention strategies are not part of your strategic plan, you are planning to fail!

¹ Kelly Services Global Workforce Index, April 2012

² Bloomberg Business Week, May 2012

³ National Restaurant Association, July 2012

Joseph D’Alessandro is the founder and president of Strategic Hospitality Search, a successful national-scope executive and management search agency based in Chicago.

Strategic Hospitality Search | StrategicFIT | @shsagency | 630.837.0400

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  • My experiences in pursuing a career in Hospitality management inspired me to abandon the path because of executives who ignored the very issues you address. The seminal barrier to focusing and implementing the programs and solutions you suggest is perceived as financial. And understandably so. My failure to convince superiors that investing time and/or money on solutions you present is only short term, but without them them dissatisfaction of the staff will remain a long term problem. I have seen what an initial investment in proper training and then supportive actions with day-to-day team nurturing activities can do to lift overall job satisfaction. It is the foundation of Disney success.

    This executive level attitude towards a service culture guided the design and my approach to a new taxicab service model that I am constructing now. After the prototype is launched I can only hope we find hospitality managers throughout the country who heed your words and recognize the intangible benefits of supporting the new fleets with loyalty for their service. Visit the Community Ambassador Benefit Fund page on Facebook to see those benefits and understand that the new system inspires selected drivers to accept the service standards of the Hospitality industry and complete a circle of service within that community. Might improve the attitudes of any property's staff by participating in the fleet's success. BTW....I think the NRA should spearhead the effort as a way of demonstrating leadership with reducing incidents of drunk driving through more reliable on-demand transportation service. Perhaps if you have the ear of someone at the National office up there....


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