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Going Beyond A Pat On The Back

.. o meet with me today at the start of the meeting can set a respectful tone and facilitate the employees acceptance of responsibility. Other common mistakes Steinbrecher focused on was the assumption of a child-parent posture, as opposed to taking on a mature, unemotional tone. Also, the employee should be asked and not told what the problem is, and should be made to commit to a specific plan of resolution. Several companies, realizing that the needs of a younger generation (generation x and younger) differ from those of older workers.

According to Barbara Kaplan, Director of Human Resources for Fridays International, parent company of TGIFridays, You need to provide a work environment that creates freedoms, and not restrictions, she said. Kaplan plans and provides workers with alternative work arrangements, such as flex scheduling, and provides the employees with leisure activities such as movies and sporting events. Other techniques include finding employees affordable vacations, and most importantly, giving them the keys to a career path. Kaplan stresses that companies should develop a network of experts that employees can turn to for career advice and lifestyle goals. They [employers] need to provide the basics for future planning.

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As stressed earlier, the main motivating factor in this industry is the almighty dollar, or some version of other compensation. In fact, according to the National restaurant Associations data, as of 1997 the average wage of the hourly, non-tipped employee is approaching 46.75 an hour, a rise of over 25 percent over last year and more than $1.60 over the minimum wage. However, some national employers, such as Starbucks, are paying even higher wages, sometimes in excess of eight dollars an hour. In addition, with more incentives appearing in the retail industry, such as bonuses and commissions, the food service industry is quickly partaking measures to keep people from being lured away. Atlantas FranCorp , the souths largest franchiser of Churchs Chicken franchises, and the nations largest black-owned food company (with over 250 units) has taken a different approach.

According to Carl P. Jackson, president and CEO, new incentives must be undertaken: We have started a plan to pay quarterly bonuses to all employees. Although its contingent upon sales, it does provide a way for employees to do something more andwill be vital to the team building processes and give them a taste of the business world. In addition to salary, fringe benefits, such as medical and dental insurance, paid vacations and 401k plans are becoming important benefits in the industry. With many other sectors offering these incentives, the food service industry has been quick to follow suit. Starbucks has proved itself the leader in this category, providing full medical and dental coverage to part-time employees with a minimal co-payment.

In addition, partners (the Starbucks term for an employee) receives 1 week paid vacation after six months, and have the ability to purchase stock options. Many companies have quickly followed suit. Even smaller ioperations have seen benefits as an integral part of the recruitment and retention process. Barbeque Shaq, a Hartford, Connecticut based chain has initiated similar measures, despite having only 22 units. Dave Holberg, president of the company, gave an insight as to why he took on the additional burden: In this industry, there are many factors for retentionwith an industry-wide turnover rate of about 150 percent, I knew I had to offer more. I found out that 30 percent of those that left said benefits were an issue. Well, my results speak for themselves less than 65 percent last year.

And the additional expense is justified with a decrease in training expenditures. One are where restaurants have excelled in meeting the needs of employees has been in a department that is often overlooked that of group needs. There are many aspects to this need, but in general, it can be broken down into two sections: teamwork and belonging. Appealing to belonging needs deals with integrating employees into the fray; essentially, the best way for this to happen is to initiate the process from the beginning, usually in training. The teamwork issue is a bit more difficult. With so many different attitudes, ideas, and motivations, it becomes difficult for the restaurant manager to pull everyone together. However, one way that the industry excels is in the extensive use of games and contests.

Contests can develop the teamwork element, build excitement, and boost profits. However, with savvy employees, new approaches have to be used if they are to work. Contests also give management the opportunity to focus improvement issues. For example, Katzingers Delicatessen, a deli chain in Ohio, wanted to reduce food costs to below 35 percent. The chains management told employees that if the costs could be reduced, they would distribute one-half of the savings among the employees.

The plan was wildly successful, with each employee having a great time and earning in excess of 500 dollars. The same concept was later used to develop a customer service related campaign. Another example of this was used by John Spomoar, Jr., president of Norco Food Systems in California. The company was experiencing high levels of tardiness and absenteeism. To help put it in check, he came up with the idea of playing poker.

Each employee who arrives on time each day gets to pick a card. Those who are late or who dont show dont get a card. At the end of the week, all of the employees who have five cards get to make a poker hand. The winner gets to take home a pot supplied by the company, usually $20 25 dollars. Says Spomar: Tardiness dropped by 40 percent, so I guess the possibility of winning, combined with the element of competition jogs them out of bed in the morning.

The final factor to be discussed is the element of fun, which is a topic that is often forgotten about. If all of the elements are in place, a fun environment can be enough of a motivator to hold people in their job. Barbara Kaplan, a national authority on the industry, states that nearly forty percent of those polled state that fun is the top reason they got into this business. We owe to them and ourselves to provide that environment. If many of the principles of the preceding information are adhered to, the basic needs of the employees can be met, and additional needs can be addressed with a bit of creativity and ingenuity. If programs are developed that ingenuously employ the use of incentives, contests, and competition, and the job is designed to accommodate the worker, one thing will happen a cohesive fun environment will ensue.


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