Q: With the difficulty of staffing with such low unemployment it’s clear we must do a better job of developing bench strength. I’m considering many options, where would you start?

A: The job market today is hot. Turnover is high and plenty of people are leaving the industry to pursue other trades or professions. One of the imperatives to success is to have an organization that provides growth opportunities to counter balance talent loss. The best companies are those that think forward with their people. One can tell much about a company based on how much time and money is invested in teaching, training, and developing talent. Many companies wish they had the financial resources to invest in better talent development. The trap in this thinking is failing to realize the cost of turnover. If it’s true that it costs $10,000 plus to replace a manager and $2,000 plus to replace a crew member there is plenty of money to pay for additional hours and systems that will increase retention and develop employees from within an organization. To stay competitive in the war for talent consider the following:

Create an environment of learning and growth

Employees stay longer with companies that provide a path on which to grow. Expect every person in the organization to grow and train no matter what level. Each person should learn to teach, train, and develop new staff and co-workers. Owners should constantly be developing general and kitchen managers. GMs and KMs should constantly be working with managers, and managers should always be developing crew. Never a day should pass without every person contributing knowledge and value to someone else. Those working in the business have ideas and talent that must be harvested and shared continually to drive growth.

Nurture a culture of excellence to continually grow

Sweat the small stuff. A well-documented story published by Disney involved an incident between Walt Disney and one of his talented engineers. The story involves a Disneyland® Park attraction, the Enchanted Tiki Room. While the birds in the exhibit blinked, moved and sang, Walt wondered why they didn’t breathe. The engineer mentioned the breathing would likely go unnoticed and it required, “too much perfection.” Walt listened, and then relayed a centerpiece of the Disney culture, “People can feel perfection.” What has come from this legendary saying is a culture focused on over managing guest touch points. The obvious question is what happens if something is under managed. Those things that go under managed break down a culture of excellence. Insist that every touch point with the guest and employees has a definition and understanding of excellence and pay fanatical attention to those details. Maintaining a culture of excellence requires a learning and growth organization to continually shift to higher standards of excellence.

Invest in a learning management system (LMS) to track growth

For years the best companies in the world have been using learning management systems to track development of people. The result is better retention and better financial results. Thanks to modern technology what used to be nearly impossible is now easy to setup, use, and maintain. These types of systems often contain ready made courses and curriculum while simulating real life situations. While live training can be effective based on the talent of the trainer, it is often using passive learning techniques that generally delivers less than 50% behavioral retention. A great LMS can use active learning techniques which increases behavioral retention to over 50% heading toward 90% from active involvement in the process. Employees can be certified through a series of quizzes and exams in development areas further increasing behavioral retention while continually supporting individual growth. These systems also promote a common language and consistency person to person all while providing the opportunity to assess and track employee skill development.

A talent rich culture focused on excellence is experienced by employees and guests. When there is continuous growth there is an excitement and energy to the business that is infectious and makes people happy. When people are happy they want to be part of something and make it their own resulting in sustainable financial returns.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, a Seattle restaurant accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.