Nov. 29, 2016
By Ashish Gambhir, president, MomentSnap
Cut off the head, and the body will die — so the adage goes.
But what if the head is just — bad at being a head? What happens to the body then?
There’s no need to wonder, because we have a true-to-life example in the employee-manager relationships at thousands of restaurants across America. Attrition rates in the service industry are at 100 percent per year. The reality is clear: when the head is bad, the body finds a new one.
If it sounds unlikely, consider the empirical evidence. Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, cites one study where an astounding 61 percent of participants who said they had "bad bosses" were actively looking for a new job.
And there are more than a few bad bosses out there. In a recent MomentSnap survey of 2,000 individuals, 70 percent of people who identified as frontline hourly workers said that they were at least partially dissatisfied with work due to some type of management issue. When the majority of frontline workers have a problem with management, something is seriously amiss in managerial selection procedure.
With onboarding costs running anywhere from $2-8K per employee, the stakes are high. The light at the end of the tunnel: this problem can be fixed, slowly and methodically. The solution lies in recognizing leadership qualities in top employees from the start, nurturing the right employees with the right experience and skill sets, and ultimately ensuring that those individuals are the ones who make it into key management roles.
Here are three concrete methods of ensuring your management funnel produces Top 10 percent leaders.
1. Watch for proactivity. It’s easy enough to "mail in" performance in a fast casual environment. Whether it’s laziness in food prep, slowness on the production line or a bad attitude at the cash register, opportunities to slack off abound. Workers accustomed to lower-demand QSR spaces often enter a higher-caliber fast casual restaurant assuming the same level of productivity is acceptable when the opposite is true: it is the quality and elevated service of restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread that distinguish them from fast food hubs like McDonalds and Burger King. The employees that appreciate this distinction inevitably stand out, bringing their full game close to 100 percent of the time in order to underscore the brand image. This sort of performance indicates a deeper thinking about service and company identity than most employees have — a quality that is absolutely crucial for a store leader to possess and be capable of disseminating throughout the ranks. Proactive workers act as an example to peers and an asset to the everyday flow of store operation. They should be groomed and allowed to take on extra responsibility when possible.
2. Promote internally. When managers hop between restaurants, their sense of brand identity can easily become muddled, making it difficult to adjust to store culture and even more difficult to effectively govern workers. That’s not to say that high-quality external candidates should be ruled out completely; certainly there is a place for flexible managers who are willing to dig into the vibe of the store and acclimate to the new environment. In nearly every case, though, an internal candidate who demonstrates proactivity and has been delegated responsibility in the past will be exponentially better equipped to handle a managerial position. Not only are veteran workers experts about store operations, they have also spent time immersed in the culture and have earned the respect of their colleagues — something an external candidate can never arrive with off-the-bat.
3. Consider the opinions of peers. At times, though, a qualified, proactive internal candidate will prove not to be the best choice. This is because when promoting internally, GMs and other higher-ups should always consider the perceptions of peers. An individual could be the dream employee on paper, but none of that matters if other workers don’t respect that person. Friction is the antithesis of productivity, and when there is a serious disconnect between even the most proactive of managers and the workers she oversees, productivity and service will take a massive hit.