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Ever had one of those late nights where you are sitting at your desk, after a long day of frustrations and don't know where to start. You find yourself staring at a pile of half-completed order forms, dozens of shift change requests and job applications — but all you can think about is the fight the wait staff and kitchen staff had during the dinner rush. And you think, "Why am I in this business?"

You're not alone.

A member of my Marketing team, who manages our search engine optimization, recently brought to my attention an interesting new search suggestion: "I dislike my staff." The idea offers endless possibilities, such as, "The staff is out to get me," or, "My staff is driving me crazy."

While the suggestion was made in jest, the joke originated with a real search that led a company to our website. I've removed the company name and posted the search as it showed up in our weekly report.

The googled phrase led this frustrated, late-night searcher to a PeopleMatter Institute (PMI) blog post titled, "I Hate My Employees." The blog is about engaging your staff to improve employee relations.

What many restaurant owners and managers sometimes fail to remember is that getting good employee attitude, engagement or satisfaction is a two-way street. Hiring the right people is critical, but continuing to build and invest in the work relationship is equally important.

Family Ties

If friends are the family you pick, staff is the family you develop. They may not all be the people you would choose to spend a Saturday night with, but your team should be people you don't mind spending a lot of quality time with.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employed American spends 8.6 hours working or doing work-related activities. And restaurant managers work 32 percent more hours than the average American. Add in 7.6 hours for sleeping and you've accounted for more than 67.5 percent of your day. Meaning during the week, you spend far more time with your co-workers than with your friends and family.

Family Feuds

Just like any family, there are going to be disagreements and annoyances among your staff. That's what happens when you spend so much time together. However, if you are having bigger problems with your staff, it's likely they aren't happy with the work environment either.

According to a study of nearly 20,000 job quitters, the second most likely reason your staff leaves is lack of respect or support from a supervisor. In fact, half of the top 10 reasons can be directly tied to poor supervisor relations.

These turnover costs can add up quickly. Replacement costs range from 25 to 80 percent of an annual salary for entry-level employees, and average around $2,300 an employee. The best way to increase retention and avoid significant labor losses is to reinvest in the staff you have working for you.

Family Traditions

Just like setting aside time to spend with family, it's important your business leaders set aside time to concentrate on the needs of your employees. Focus on developing a culture that encourages your team to thrive and supports career development.

The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council reported that clear organizational direction and supervisor feedback can increase hourly employee retention by 71 percent and managerial retention up to 123 percent. In addition, PeopleMatter Institute's '2011 HR Tech' survey found adopting electronic communication methods can reduce turnover by 17 percent. The PMI study also found that incorporating an online talent management system can improve culture satisfaction by 7 percent.

Results like these show that if you are frustrated with your staff and wondering how to turn things around, it is time to open up your communication channels. Restaurants adopting more innovative communication methods are also more likely to emphasize engagement and culture.

In the end, it's up to you to cultivate the attitudes you want to see in your restaurant staff.

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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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