More Than Just a Paycheck: Employees Want to Feel Valued at Work

There is a popular notion that customers keep a business’s door open. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

With so much talk on the customer experience, no one has paid much attention to the employee experience. And it’s proven costly.

Whatever you want to call it – employee attrition, turnover, churn rate – it’s occurring at such an alarming rate that employers are scrambling to fill open positions in every sector of the hospitality industry.

What’s really going on?

A recent article by the LA Times, “Employees Are Quitting, Sometimes Without Other Offers. What Can Companies Do to Retain Staff?” claims employees aren’t quitting their jobs for better pay. The article cites a survey of both employees and employers, and the results suggest there is a major disconnect in how employers view this mass employment exodus.

The data doesn’t lie.

In the survey, more than half of the employees who already quit their job said they did so because they didn’t feel valued by their bosses or organization, not because of compensation.

This means employees aren’t jumping ship for better pay. In fact, the article cites a staggering 40% of employees that recently quit their jobs didn’t have a new job secured before leaving.

This may come as a surprise to some managers, but a time where American workers are reprioritizing what is important in their lives, it’s safe to say a paycheck isn’t going to cut it any longer. Employees yearn to feel like a valued member of the team. They don’t want to work in what feels like a toxic environment. They are actively seeking out job opportunities where they can advance within an organization, and they want to contribute to the greater good of the company they work for.

In short, employees want a purpose. And you can give it to them.

Right now, the balance is tipping in the employees’ favor. Like salesmen, managers must set themselves apart from the competition. How can you gain an advantage needed to retain a full staff, so your operation doesn’t suffer?

Develop a differential advantage.

Maybe your operation can’t afford to offer higher wages or benefits in the form of insurance, retirement, profit-sharing. The good news is (according to the LA Times survey data) you don’t have to.

What you ought to do is consider the ways that might appeal to the values and needs of your employees.

Consider these options:

  1. Conduct an employee satisfaction survey (just like with customers, you need to know your employees’ true perceptions and not just guess).
  2. Implement an employee recognition program to acknowledge a job well done.
  3. Enhance existing training programs so employees feel confident and comfortable with company expectations, standards, and procedures.

It’s worth emphasizing to managers that this is nothing new. For decades, employees have left companies for these exact same reasons, but the numbers have exacerbated considerably over the past year.

This isn’t a war on wages. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is this: we all want to feel as though our lives have value and meaning, inside and outside of work.

Don’t miss an opportunity to show that to your employees.

Dealing With Employee Burnout & Difficult Customers? Try a Little Tenderness.

It seems the restaurant industry just can’t catch a break.

If you’ve been out and about this summer, you may have seen signs popping up in storefronts and restaurants saying something along the lines of, “The world is short staffed. Please be kind to those who showed up.”

Well, there’s a reason for it.

Still reeling from the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, most restaurant operators are trying to recoup financial losses from lockdowns, overcome food shortages and backed up supply chains, and triumph in the face of a very real labor shortage. To top it off, now we are seeing increasing reports of customers behaving quite badly.

It’s a lot to take on, particularly for front-line staff.

Anyone who’s ever worked in the hospitality industry knows difficult customers are nothing new, but in a post-pandemic world, the intensity of these encounters can feel overwhelming and undeserved.

In a recent article by SFGate called “SF Bay Area Restaurants Are Still Struggling. Returning Customers Don’t See That,” Madeline Wells details some of the unpleasant incidents experienced by restaurant staff throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The article includes anecdotes of customers yelling and being openly rude or leaving unwarranted negative online reviews and filing fraudulent claims with their banks as retribution. One bakery owner put it in simple terms by saying there’s been “a huge rise in people just forgetting to be human.”

Food shortage, labor shortage, and now a shortage of kindness.

So, how can you help your team avoid burnout from unpleasant customer encounters? Part of the solution is acceptance; the same challenges that existed yesterday will still be here tomorrow. Your customers’ behavior is not likely to change right away, so accepting that these types of encounters may still occur is the key.

Next, create a culture of compassion.

Show your team that you care about them and, at the same time, find meaningful ways to encourage them to pay it forward. If your team can extend compassion and patience to a demanding customer, a positive shift can happen all around.

Keep in mind, your employees and your customers have gone through a lot since the pandemic started. We know that COVID-19 has increased the demand for mental health support and services, and many have struggled in ways that we will never know – isolation from family, loss of employment, sick loved ones, and a very real fear of a future that is still unknown.

Most importantly, remind your team that they are not the actual target of the anger or frustration. Encourage them to do their best in handling the situation, and also empower them to recognize when the issue should be escalated to a manager.

We can’t be expected to know the motivations behind a customer’s angry outburst, but we can rely on compassion, patience, and kindness in handling the encounter.

Remember, a little tenderness can go a long way.

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