Make an IMPACT on Your Retention Efforts

Waiter taking an order

Retention comes down to understanding the basic things all employees value and positively IMPACTing them.

The media is filled with stories about today’s competitive labor market and the difficulty employers face in finding and keeping good employees. But many of the foodservice operators I’ve met in my travels across the country are doing just fine with recruitment and retention. If you’re not, it’s time to learn from their example and adjust your internal marketing strategy.

Marketing is about creating a differential advantage: a benefit or group of benefits that customers value and believe they can’t obtain anywhere else. When it comes to your internal customers—your employees—the most important advantage is a good boss.

So any strategy change must begin with you. Step one is to trust yourself. You may have doubts and apprehensions about trying something new. Let your experience, insight and intuition guide you—you know what works best for your business.  

Step two is to raise your expectations. Don’t accept that things “are what they are.” Everyone wants to do better!

Once you’ve conquered these steps, you can move on to devising a strategy based on human behavior. Study after study has demonstrated that what employees want from an employer is universal, and it cuts across all ethnic, generational and racial lines. The key is to approach people in ways they value. 

The IMPACT strategy for retention

I love to use acronyms to help people remember ideas. My IMPACT leadership strategy is grounded in proven methods for getting and keeping people on board.

I. Keep your team INVOLVED in the thinking that supports what they do. Nobody knows how to improve a job better than those who do it, so watch your people in action. If someone does something differently, ask questions: Why did you do it like that? What brought about the change? Why does it improve things? Enlist the employee in incorporating the change into other people’s routines—the person who originated the idea will be a great advocate for it. 

Involvement also refers to the principles people believe in. Brainstorm causes you can all get behind as a team—like promoting the favorite charity of a different employee each month. This deepens the bond and commitment employees have to their employer and fellow workers. 

M. Position yourself as a MENTOR in terms of career development and promotional opportunities. A mentor is simply a guide, someone who helps a person get through unknown territory. Most successful people can point back to an individual who changed their life just by taking an interest in them and their career.   

P. Any of us can find someone who earns more than we do, so money ultimately tends to be a dissatisfier. Still, PAY is an issue that must be addressed. Remember that compensation takes two forms. Dollar pay rarely needs to be superior, but it must always be competitive. You can usually find information about prevailing local pay rates through your chamber of commerce.

The other form of compensation, one that never dissatisfies, occurs when we are asked to bring our unique talent to the table along with our work skills. Everyone has a special gift or passion—music, writing, planning, decorating, or any of a hundred other things. Allowing a person to bring their passion into the workplace is a great way to cement loyalty. A bartender once told me that she would pay her employer for the chance to help keep the grounds looking fresh—she loved gardening that much!

A. APPRECIATE your people and tell them so in a crowd. Few things stimulate productivity as much as well-earned and publicly awarded affirmation. Unfortunately, managers don’t typically do affirmations well. “Good job” is not enough. For an affirmation to drive behavior, it must single out a person by name, be given in a timely manner, be specific about the achievement being praised and vividly describe the outcome of the achievement.

C. CHALLENGE a person to be their best with a goal that is unique to them, one that allows them to perform at a higher level, learn a new skill and develop themselves under your guidance. Reinforce these goals through frequent one-on-one interactions that keep the employee on track.  

T. TRUST is the hardest thing to develop between two people and it’s also the easiest thing to lose. The best advice I ever received on trust was from a mentor who always reminded me that, “If a dog will bring you a bone, he will take one away.” She meant that I should never talk to one person about another’s work habits—the person you’re sharing confidences with will wonder if you’re doing the same about their work habits. 

Remember, most employees don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. A successful retention strategy starts with a boss who knows how to make an IMPACT.