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As the leaderless revolution, Occupy Wall Street, begins its eighth week of protesting (and its sixth outside our San Fransico offices), I think it’s time to reflect on what we can learn from the 99 percent. Whether you agree with their convictions or not, it is undeniable that they have created a buzz.

In two months “Occupy” has expanded into 70 major cities, over 600 U.S. communities and has over 900 related protests worldwide. The protestors work through poor conditions, sickness, bad weather and extreme difference of opinions. Traditional media, as well as social media, are telling their story – they managed to spark dialog.

So the question is, how do we in the food-service industry replicate that kind of intensity? Look at some areas that Occupy has optimized.

Communication is key
Not only have Occupy members organized their internal communications through teamwork and the "human microphone,” they have dominated the social media outlets to get out their message. Every morning a schedule is distributed, training is provided and policies are passed along – already Occupy’s internal communication plan outshines some businesses. To prevent disengagement and distrust in your food-service staff, develop a company-wide communication platform at supervisor and corporate levels.

Also, start using social media to spread your message. For the first five days of protests, major news outlets refused to really cover the issue. How did protestors respond? They tweeted, blogged, Facebooked and ran a full social media campaign. And it worked.

If you haven’t started pushing your brand online, realize that 93 percent of Americans believe that companies should have a presence on social media sites. (Source: Cone Communications) Social networking sites not only help get your message out to consumers, they are a growing resource for sourcing and hiring candidates.

Culture makes a difference
On Oct. 10, the Associated Press reported that "there’s a diversity of age, gender and race" at the protest. Fast Company later created an infographic that better represents the full range of diversity. With all their differences, for eight weeks, these people have been living together outside in tents. Why? Because everyday they are reminded that they are part of something – they are there to make a difference.

Your employee isn’t just a cashier, bartender or server; they’re a part of how consumers view your restaurant. Your business needs to promote a culture of solutions and exchange of ideas. A talent management system (TMS) can be used to help define your culture and give your employees a mission. Inspire them to provide the best customer service possible, instill a sense of pride in the fact they make a difference in someone’s day. Incorporating an online TMS can improve your food-service business’s culture satisfaction by 7 percent. (Source: PeopleMatter Institute)

Commitment brings success
On Oct. 28, The New York Fire Department removed Occupy’s gas generators as a fire hazard. Rather than shut down and pack it up, bicycles were rigged with a motor and one-way diode to keep the tech up. In an industry that often falls victim to high turnover, being able to garner that level of engagement would be a game-changer.

According to the PeopleMatter Institute’s ‘2011 HR Tech’ survey, the No. 1 reason employees leave customer service roles is a lack of career progression. So in order to have your employees fully committed your restaurant, show them you are invested in their career. There are 200 people sitting in New York City’s financial district in the hopes they can have a better future. Provide your employees with the steps that will lead to their advancement and provide continuous feedback. Establishing a recognition and rewards program, as well as providing training, shows your employees that you are willing to invest in their future.

The 99%
It’s hard to predict when Occupy Wall Street will end, the protesters are committed to their cause, but with the cold weather coming they face a new challenge. However, even after they’re gone, their lessons are worth remembering.

 

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Nate DaPore
Nate DaPore, PeopleMatter President and Chief Executive Officer As the spirited leader of PeopleMatter, Nate is passionate about providing team members, including his own, with a rewarding workplace experience that values creativity and innovation.
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