This week, PizzaMarketplace continues a five-part assessment of human resources topics by expert Alan Guinn. Guinn has spent more than 25 years in the foodservice industry, both in operations and in consulting. Currently he is chief executive and managing director of The Guinn Consultancy Group Inc.

OK, Mr. Manager, it's the busiest time on the busiest day for you.

Everyone is rushed, but smiling, and everyone seems to be doing a good job. The customers seem to be happy, all the employees showed

Alan Guinn

up for work today on time, in proper attire, and all of a sudden — WHAM!

That was the sound of the back door slamming as an employee walked off the job.

Let's think about this real-world experience for a few minutes — yes, right now — because when it happens, you react instinctively, and generally, with a negative, knee-jerk response.

You wonder, "What just happened?"

Was the employee stressed because he was not properly trained or seasoned to handle an extended service/order fulfillment period?

Or were the signs there, all along, that you were cruising for a problem and that the problem could occur at any time?

We've talked about key critical competencies to be identified during the interview process. We know you've invested time, effort and energy in attracting great job candidates. We're hoping that you know what you want in employees — not simply warm bodies to fill the slots. After all, if you don't know the mix of talents and personalities you're seeking and hire to those standards, how can you honestly expect your employees to feel comfortable in the working environment?

Dissecting the problem

I'm assuming your training program follows a pretty standard pattern of bringing core competencies to the mix of behaviors trained, along with some hands-on instruction, coaching and performance demonstration. You've surely remembered the old adage, "Telling me what you do is great, but showing me is better."

I'm assuming your management and leadership qualities would be classified as above average as well.

So what could have happened here?

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Let's determine that answer by understanding what created the experience.

In 90 percent of the cases where this happens, someone had a "fly-by." Both of you talked "at" each other, instead of "with" each other. What the employee said to you or others was not what was heard. Worse still, in this situation, what was heard was not what was meant or even actually said. Active communication was not practiced.

As a manager, you were so involved in the working process that you overlooked some staffer's needs or we simply didn't address a challenge faced. You didn't take that deep breath and the time to think through what you heard or saw and realized it needed to be addressed.

Let's face it, so often in our attempts to maintain a professional, arm's-length distance from our employees, we inadvertently alienate them. And when they try to communicate a problem to us, often what they say is not what we hear. The bottom line is that we don't understand each other.

It's not easy

The "old days" of simply talking an employee into a position, briefing them on the specials and/or enthusiastically telling them about the latest promotion and letting them get to work are fading away. Foodservice managers are faced with a variety of ever-changing situations that often keep them from doing what matters most: creating the ambiance and environment designed to meet and exceed customer expectations, while keeping employees happy.

Do your subordinates feel like they are part of the team, the group that pleases customers and brings profits to the business? Or do they feel like they may be part of a growing number of

start quoteAs a manager, you were so involved in the working process that you overlooked some staffer's needs or we simply didn't address a challenge faced. You didn't take that deep breath and the time to think through what you heard or saw and realized it needed to be addressed.end quote

problems in your operation?

If they don't feel they're part of the team, your employees likely will become alienated and exit your workforce. Human nature being what it is, they probably will exit your workplace at the worst possible time.

As we identified in an earlier segment of this column, your current employees should be your best advertising for additional staff. If they leave your operation unhappy and unfulfilled, you've wasted an extraordinary opportunity.

The key to successful interaction — beginning at the initial interview process and continuing through hiring, training, positional placement, and attainment of a mutually fulfilling work relationship — is honest, open, and ongoing communication.

Open communication builds trust. Trust builds confidence. Confidence in actions and performance leads management to embrace empowerment. As lower-level subordinates demonstrate those abilities we train and groom them to perform, our role in management becomes one of planning and measuring results versus plans.

Begin at the interview, hire the right candidates, then work to develop a culture of trust and empowerment.

* Read also:
HUMAN RESOURCES: Hiring and keeping employees, Part 1
HUMAN RESOURCES: Hiring and keeping employees, Part 2
HUMAN RESOURCES: Hiring and keeping employees, Part 3
HUMAN RESOURCES: Hiring and keeping employees, Part 4

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