Let’s face it, hiring in the restaurant and hospitality industry is never really easy. Even when it’s an “employer’s job market,” filling open positions is a difficult, often times unpredictable, challenge. Today’s tight job market adds more difficulty to this challenge, as most job seekers have multiple job options.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the quit rate for employees in the restaurant and hospitality industry is 4.9%–more than twice the average for all other industries. Clearly these employees realize that they have employment options, and they’re exercising them. Restaurant and hospitality employers are facing two obstacles in trying to meet their employment needs: employee turnover and job applicant volume.
Job Applicants for Restaurants and Hospitality
A labor shortage has affected nearly every industry, however the tight job market has been especially unkind to restaurants. Often times these businesses seek to employ entry-level employees who will earn near minimum wage, or they need skilled workers who face little competition in the job market. So finding interested job seekers–let alone applicants–is very difficult for these employers when a) compensation is unattractive, and b) qualified workers are scarce.
That being the case, the industry relies heavily on a workforce that skews younger. Often it’s these employees in the 16- to 24-year-old age group who can afford to take minimum wage roles or who are actively training for more skilled roles. The bad news here is that according to the National Restaurant Association, there will be about 1.2 million fewer 16- to 24-year-olds in the labor force by 2028.
Employee Turnover in Restaurant and Hospitality Industry
Complicating the situation is the fact that many employees in the restaurant and hospitality industry don’t stay in one place for too long. There are a number of factors that can cause turnover, but for restaurant and hospitality employers it primarily boils down to one truth: the employer needs the employee, but the employee doesn’t need the employer. It’s upon this background where small conflicts and disappointments in the workplace can cause an employee to abruptly quit.
And there’s no getting around it, restaurant and hospitality work is stress-filled. This work can quickly wear down an employee, triggering a fight or flight response. It should be no surprise that often the response is: “It’s not worth the fight. I’ll get the same job in a new place, with new people.”
Attract and Retain Employees in Restaurant and Hospitality Industry
Employers of restaurant and hospitality talent are not helpless. Increased competition for talent within the industry and the pinch of trying to provide high value to customers by keeping costs (i.e. employee wages) low are daunting challenges. However, employers who look for creative ways to recruit, manage, and engage employees can succeed in a tight job market. Here are five creative ways for employers to do just that:
1 Target Your Employee Personas | Support Your Employee Persona
Develop personas of your ideal employees, and then build an employer brand to support them. The persona should not be a description of your current or past employees, and they should answer questions like:
- What types of problems would the employee solve and how?
- Why would the employee choose to work at your business?
- Why would they stay?
If the answers to these questions are “I don’t know”, then there is work to be done in regard to building a work culture and operation that deserves the ideal employee you are seeking. Too often, crappy culture and poor operations scare off good employees and job seekers. The mediocre employees stay around until it’s too uncomfortable. And the bad employees are likely the ones who power the poor culture and processes.
2 Billboards Where They Make Sense | A Perk That Works
Depending on where you live, billboards are still thriving in the United States. We often see them on the side of highways, perched atop buildings, or uniquely displayed in thriving urban areas. These expensive locations work to bring awareness to large brands and usually support a fully integrated marketing campaign. Don’t post your help wanted sign here!
However, there are many other billboard locations within metropolitan areas or between small towns that are much more affordable… and noticeable to the people you want to notice them. The catch here is that you must successfully achieve the following:
- Develop the right message and imagery for the billboard
- Place the billboard in the right location
- Offer an enticing perk (and easy method) to respond to the advertisement
While all these points are important, having a great perk is key in order to convert a job seeker to an applicant. Here’s an example of a billboard advertisement located in a working class neighborhood of a large metropolitan area–20 miles away from the wealthy suburb in which the hiring restaurant is located.
3 Shorten Your Job Applications | Onboard with Care
How often do you come across a process or resource that is obscenely inefficient, and yet you continue using it because of momentum or tradition? The job application is an often overlooked inefficiency for employers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. It’s a product of the distant past carried forward to today and grossly out of place in an industry and job market where the job applicant possesses nearly all the leverage.
Employers challenged to fill open positions should be trying to make it easier to apply. Yet job seekers are expected to fill out 15-minute apps with short answer questions, provide the address of their high school alma mater, and scrounge around for other non-essential information that will ultimately have no bearing on whether they are hired. It’s no surprise that employers complain about low applicant volume! So here are a few tips to get more applicants with your online job application:
- Only include the essential questions on your job application. These will likely vary based on the role, location, and type of business, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that every question is essential.
- Consider breaking your application into two parts. The first part of the application will filter out those who do not meet minimum requirements. The second part of the application–perhaps delivered via text message follow up–will solicit more background and serve to identify the best applicants.
- Ensure that the application looks and works well on mobile devices. This may be obvious to some, but it’s surprising how many job applications are not mobile-friendly. And this is important, as 45% of job seekers use a mobile device for their job search–on a daily basis.
A quick, smooth application process is worth nothing if the new hire is greeted by a slow, disorganized onboarding experience. So ideally, the first few weeks of employment should match the expectations created through the hiring process.
4 Shoot Them A Text | Maximize Face Time
In much the same way that employers are clinging to outdated job applications, many are reluctant to move away from phone calls and email in communicating with applicants. While those are still effective channels, they lack the immediateness that text messaging can bring to communication. Receiving and reading all happen at once with text. Add links with the message, and now the applicant immediately knows their application status, next steps, and how to act.
Beyond the practical utility of text messaging, the channel also allows employers to show more personality. Engaging with applicants in a familiar, comfortable way can immediately warm the relationship and set the stage for a more relaxed onboarding experience–that is, if the the onboarding experience matches the tone and feeling created through text recruiting. This means employers must maximize their initial face time with a new hire. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
- Use video chat or in-person meetings for final candidate interviews.
- The language used in recruiting should be the same used in onboarding.
- Do not use text messaging to communicate feelings or sincerity.
While text messaging is great at getting an applicant’s attention, providing them with resources, and communicating the “brass tacks,” it’s not a substitute for face time. Especially when seeking to convey gratitude or appreciation, it’s worth finding the time and opportunity to communicate feelings in person. And when doing so, the new hire should feel as if the person (or people) who recruited them via text is the same person speaking to them in real life.
5 Embrace the Gig Economy | Be the Best Gig In Town
Job seekers have become more comfortable with risk and uncertainty as the gig economy has evolved. This confidence has spilled over to full-time jobs, meaning employees are now more comfortable spending a few months working at one location, only to move to another. Why do they move? The reasons are many and varied, but they might include a job that: pays a bit more; provides a cooler workplace; serves different clientele; is located closer to home or public transportation; or is just, simply, different.
To confront this new mentality, employers can choose to embrace the gig economy and accept the fact that they will be hiring for the same role every 3-6 months. And to the degree that an employer can meet an employee’s needs, the employee may stay longer. Going one step further, the employer can resolve to be the best gig in town by offering a great workplace, competitive pay, and practical benefits like transportation stipends. Here are few ideas for helping to ensure that your new hires dig your gig:
- Ask job applicants to describe their ideal workplace.
- Solicit any concerns about the workplace from new hires upfront.
- When employees leave, ask them why they decided to leave and where they’re going.
Asking questions of applicants and employees regarding their needs is one of the first ways an employer can show that they care. The next step would be to actually meet those needs, although that won’t always be possible. Beyond the impact that this will make in strengthening the employee-employer relationship, discovering the needs of employees will help the employer refine its work culture and protect against “bad fit” hires or early turnover caused by the greener grass down the block.
Hiring Software for the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry
There’s no doubt about it; the restaurant and hospitality industry is in a tough spot. Finding, hiring, and retaining talent is never easy, especially in a tight job market. However, by leveraging technology and making some common sense changes that cater to the job seeker and meet the needs of employees, employers can successfully (and profitably) staff their establishments. Hiring software can support these efforts in several ways, but most importantly it must:
- Offer integrated text recruiting that allows you to quickly get responses
- Support two-step applications that allow you to speed up the initial application process
- Provide insights that help you identify your best hires, so you can hire more like them
The above features will help you differentiate your organization from the competition; however, the groundwork of caring about employees and work culture must be taken care of first. Hiring software is there to help you maintain your focus on the people. This is accomplished by automating much of the hiring process and recording data to provide you with powerful hiring insights.