Successful staffing 2: 5 ways to keep staff engaged and feeling part of the team

Key Points

  • Creating a sense of teamwork improves day to day operations and generates real business benefits
  • You need to play an active role in encouraging staff to act as a team
  • Open communication, clearly defined roles and responsibilities and avoiding micro-managing can all help in this process
  • Encouraging staff to spend time together after-hours and actively rewarding excellence can make a big difference   

ONE OF THE BEST WAYS to ensure your foodservice operation is running efficiently is to create a sense of teamwork among staff. After all, foodservice is made up of both ‘food’ and ‘service’, and both have an important role to play in keeping customers coming back.

When your staff are working as a team, day to day operations run more smoothly, employees are more supportive of each other, morale improves and the business itself benefits. In contrast, lack of teamwork can lead to poor service, mistakes and unhappy customers.

You can’t just hire staff and assume they will work well together: you have to play an active role in making it happen. Here are five initiatives you can take to turn your staff into a tighter-knit team:

* Make sure all staff members know where they fit as part of the team: You’ll likely already have an idea of each staff member’s strengths and have assigned their duties accordingly. But to ensure they’re working as part of a team, you need to have those duties clearly defined – any ambiguity around who is responsible for certain tasks can lead to problems such as resentment and employees passing on their work to others whom they see as ‘junior’ to them. When everyone knows not only what they’re supposed to do but the responsibilities that their position entails, there can be no arguments which leads to a more harmonious working environment. An employee handbook or work manual which sets out this information is a good idea, because it can be kept on the premises for anyone to refer to when needed.

* Foster an atmosphere of open communication: In an environment where staff are scared to speak up, it’s difficult to foster teamwork – instead, people will tend to separate into different groups. Such an atmosphere also encourages gossip, which is the enemy of open communication. The way to avoid this is to actively seek input from staff and encourage their participation at all relevant levels of the business. You can even provide them with an opportunity to do so anonymously, perhaps via a suggestion box in back of house. Make sure they know they won’t be penalized for speaking out and show them you’re taking their suggestions seriously by implementing any which have merit and pointing this out to everyone.

* Avoid micro-management: A good manager of people is someone who hires the right staff for the job, gives them the tools they need and gets out of the way so they can get on with it. Some people may need more supervision than others, but nothing is worse than a manager or business owner who is micro-managing – whether it’s looking over staff shoulders or correcting their work, especially in front of others. When you micro-manage, staff can become focused on pleasing you instead of focusing on your customers – and that’s not good for business.

* Encourage staff interaction after hours and at social events: Nothing builds camaraderie like the opportunity for staff to ‘debrief’ together at the end of service over a few drinks. It’s good to encourage attendance – without making it compulsory, which can build resentment - and allow staff to relate to each other as equals and learn a little more about each other’s lives. The more staff members get to know each other, the more likely they are to form friendships and ties which will help them work well together. Christmas functions and birthday parties also present a great opportunity for staff to get together – and wherever possible, take them offsite to a different restaurant than the one they’re working in, as everyone benefits from a change of scene!

* Identify and reward excellence: In a well-running team, staff notice when one of them goes the extra mile, so create an opportunity for this to be rewarded – such as a system whereby staff can nominate each other for employee of the month. Remember also that the pursuit of excellence doesn’t only apply to staff efforts on behalf of the business or in relation to customer service – it can also be how staff are helping each other out back of house. Small rewards such as gift cards won’t cost you much but can make a big difference to staff – everyone likes to be recognised for the effort they make, and your public acknowledgment of this will build a stronger team and encourage more staff members to follow this example.