5 Tips for Onboarding New Employees

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Onboarding new employees can be a big challenge for many food service operations. There’s a lot of competition for talent and often not enough talent to go around. Turnover is also very high in the industry, and it can add up to a serious drag on your profitability as a business.

So when you hire a new employee, it’s important that you do what you can to enable them to succeed. Offering sufficient training, development and other resources can be the difference between hiring new help all the time and having a dedicated, long-term staff who actually want to help you build your business.

In order to successfully onboard and then retain new employees, here is an easy-to-remember, five-step process.

1. Teach

Arguably, the most important part of the onboarding process happens before a new employee ever sets foot in the door. It’s the preparation that goes into training them. Any good teacher will tell you that what happens in the classroom is just the tip of the iceberg; hours and hours of preparation go into a well-thought out lesson.

If you take the time to build a training program that covers both industry basics—food safety, service protocols, customer interaction—and the specifics of your unique business, you’ll be well on your way to preparing employees for success.

Remember, too, that your training plan is likely to evolve over time as conditions in your restaurant and the wider industry shift. Don’t fall into the trap of copy-pasting a generic training plan you can find online. Your restaurant and your market is unique enough that new employees likely won’t benefit from this cookie cutter approach.

Of course, you can use some of these training plans as a template, but you need to review them with a fine-tooth comb and add relevant information to make them specific to your business.

In a nutshell, you want to treat the training process as a chance to codify everything from the daily requirements of the job to the culture and values of your business. Viewing it in this holistic manner will help you get new hires off on the right foot. Get more information on building your training plan here.

2. Remind

It’s valuable to remember that very few people are able to absorb every bit of information the very first time it is presented to them. While you may grow frustrated if you see new hires making a mistake after you’ve trained them, you have to remember that repetition often helps people learn. So it’s important to build in refreshers over time.

This could come in the form of a short quarterly training session that all staff attends. It is a perfect time to remind employees about any rules or procedures that are particularly important and that may have fallen by the wayside during the daily grind.

It’s also a good chance for employees to ask questions about things that they may not be clear on or that may not have fully sunk in the first time around. Make it a safe space where questions are encouraged, and employees will feel comfortable requesting clarification when needed. Ultimately, this will lead to fewer mistakes on the floor and in the kitchen.

You may also benefit from posting certain training procedures in strategic locations (never someplace where a customer might see them.) For example, you could place reminders about closing duties near the back door and a sign encouraging employees to wash hands by the sink.

3. Automate

When it comes to daily tasks, particularly those related to compliance, a technology-based solution may be your best bet. A tool like Squadle can take much of the manual labor out of the process of reporting.

You can replace traditional restaurant logbooks with a digital reporting solution that tracks everything from business intelligence metrics to compliance checklists to staff duties and beyond.

Having an automated process for daily rote tasks like this can make it very easy for new employees to step into the routine. It can also make it easier for managers to keep track of what’s expected of new employees and ensure that everyone is completing their assigned tasks correctly and on time.

Finally, a digital solution can take a lot of the pain out of the reporting process and keep employees on track with their duties by reducing the amount of time they spend tracking down physical logbooks, deciphering others’ handwriting, transferring analog information into a digital format, etc.

4. Incentivize

It’s important to directly connect new employee expectations with incentives. People respond well when they are fully aware of expectations and when cause and effect are clearly established.

So, if you expect new employees to execute certain tasks on a daily basis, it may be helpful to tie an incentive, such as a raise or extra vacation time, to their successful completion of these tasks.

You may also want to build an “employee of the month” or similar type of public recognition tool into your culture so that new employees who demonstrate mastery of skills and who uphold the values and culture of your business will be recognized.

This can help everyone to feel like they are part of a team and encourage new and old employees to work together to achieve strides in efficiency, productivity, cleanliness, customer satisfaction and more.

5. Nurture

Finally, when it comes to successfully onboarding a new employee, one often overlooked area is career development. That may seem like something to think about down the road, after an employee has already proven him or herself.

But the reality is that, if you don’t let employees know that you care about them as people and want to nurture them in their career path, there’s really nothing tying them to your restaurant. If they get better hours or slightly higher pay elsewhere, they’ll be out the door in a heartbeat.

Instead, take a cue from companies like In-N-Out burger, which puts an emphasis on supporting employees as they rise through the ranks and continually offering growth opportunities. If a new employee gets the impression early on that their contributions are valued and will be rewarded accordingly, they’re much more likely to stick with you.

Additionally, as Jim Sullivan points out, it can be difficult to find enough A players to build out your restaurant team. Nurturing the people you are able to hire can help you turn C players into B players and B players into A players, making it a smart and cost-effective strategy for restaurants looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Turning a New Employee Into a Veteran

You want your employees to stick around. For one, it’s expensive to be hiring and training new workers all the time. And it’s much more difficult to build a cohesive culture and a positive brand with your customers when turnover is through the roof. Following our five-step method (did you notice it spells out TRAIN?) can help you take employees from green to golden in a hurry, and that can have massive positive impacts for your business as a whole.