Andy Cook, Harbor Foodservice Restaurant Solutions Group Consultant
Bringing people back
This is a prickly topic. While this is a national statistic not PNW focused, it’s still indicative to our region; contrary to popular narratives, only 1 out of 10 restaurant workers are stating that unemployment stimulus as the primary reason they’re delaying a return to their restaurant occupations.
It’s never just one thing. While the stimulus is still an undeniable factor, don’t overlook the primary reasons of the other 9 out of 10:
Childcare/Support: school closures and/or limited in-person scheduling structures the choice between caring for and supporting their kids’ education vs returning to work (even for more income) is a no brainer… family first. Combine this with all the employees who occupy our workforce for supplemental income and our access to them dwindles further.
Health Concerns: Both concern for the health of the vulnerable people in their lives and themselves is top of mind. At the time of this writing, 15 months of anxiety, uncertainty, and slow (or fast)-motion trauma is leaving many more than hesitant to expose themselves to biological or social hazards.
Lost Faith/Uncertainty: The stop/start/half-start rollercoaster you’ve been struggling with as a business owner & manager has been experienced by them too. This is more of an emotional stance rather than a logical one, but if it’s valid to them, it’s valid.
New opportunities: For the optimistic, they’ve used their pandemic time to go back to school or shore up their credentials to pursue new employment opportunities, for the more pessimistic, they feel let down by the industry and have lost the faith. This holds true for retail workers too; a fair number have shifted to warehouse or groceries. (If the bookies are laying odds, I’d wager we’ll get many of them back, just not as soon as we’d like them)
Adapt to the dynamics
Try to find out what their caution points are and determine if you can accommodate.
If it’s childcare related, find out a schedule that might work for them, or designate a section of your restaurant their kids can remote learn on your Wi-Fi network. For those pursuing new opportunities, offer a limited schedule for supplemental transition income, or promotion opportunities. The insight you’ll gain will help you become the employer you’ll need to be ahead of the industry’s pending transformation.
Take advantage of Washington Employment Securities Department’s SharedWork Program. It’s Covid designed to provide an employment structure that will keep your employees qualified for unemployment stimulus while NOT affect your experience rating. It’s currently in place until September 4th, 2021. https://esd.wa.gov/SharedWork
Most of us have our preferred platforms for job postings that work for us -until they don’t. According to feedback from a variety of PNW restaurateurs, some platforms seem to be more promising than others, there are methods to get more out of preferred platforms, and many have tapped little known alternatives.
Using official job board resources: Many of my clients have reported that Indeed.com has given them success. It’s been 3 to 1 more successful for FOH than BOH and varies depending on your region.
It’s a pay-to-play online world, whatever job boards you use, putting money behind the post will amplify its exposure and will stay closer to the top of listings.
Maximizing Social Media: A LOT of people are using social media, to maintain their users, the social media platforms won’t flood everyone’s feed with job posts. To get more out of the effort, refer to the pay-to-play dynamic. Boost to “Follower & their Friends” with a geographic radius around you. This will ensure that it lands in more feeds over a longer period.
Alternative Job Platforms: Try NextDoor.com it’s simple and geared for communities and neighborhood associations. For best results give it a light touch and communicate like you’re part of the community, not a business separate from your community.
WorkSourceWA.com: Is a free recruiting resource for WA employers. It will help you create job posts and distribute them to multiple platforms including Monster.com
Offline Job Posting: Hanging a “Help Wanted” sign as a cure to your labor pains will keep you hurting for a long time. But that doesn’t count out other in-house opportunities. Craft your message of employment opportunities with clear call to actions and place them where people are looking like a sign in your lobby, inside your menu, a pop-up on your website’s menu page, or talk to your regulars.
2nd Chance Organizations: There are qualified and motivated people working to transition into better lives. Reach out to local organizations who help the homeless with job opportunities and/or incarcerated people re-acclimating to the workforce. One thing to consider is discovering early if there are addiction recovery concerns if you’re an establishment that serves alcohol and how great a risk to their sobriety proximity may present.
Improve Your Application Protocol
Just like the bygone era of a help wanted sign, the labor market is different. Being “Ghosted” by candidates has become ubiquitous to the process, we can’t fix that, but we can minimize the scale and make its burden lighter on us.
Examine what your intentional or accidental application/interviewing protocol is, identify the barriers, and flatten them. Restaurants who employ some of these techniques endorse them with gusto:
In Person Applicants: Interview them on the spot. If you or your leadership aren’t available empower your staff to start the process with a few provided questions and a method to record the exchange
Be Hospitable: Treat prospects like guests, introduce them to staff and regulars who are present at the time. Have them order an appetizer or give them a basket of fries. Give them an advanced sense of belonging.
Remote Interviews: Don’t waste your time or theirs by scheduling in-person interviews when you don’t have to. What can be accomplished on a phone call, text, or a video chat platform (Zoom, Facebook Messenger, etc.)
There isn’t one labor pools, there are many labor pools. When fishing for labor consider incorporating some of these strategies, tactics, techniques, and ideas to improve your bait and gear.
The information, insights, resources, and ideas shared are intended to be motivational. The real value comes when new ideas and aha moments are aimed at a goal and powered by a plan. I LOVE my career as a Restaurant Consultant with Harbor Foodservice, if I can help you or your team personalize any of these ideas, I’d welcome the experience with you.
Contact Andy Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org