Employee retention is something business owners have long contemplated well before COVID branded businesses as “essential” and caused owners to downsize their teams to stay afloat.
Retaining and hiring employees who not only enjoy their job and do it well, but also display core values and create a positive atmosphere in the community, is hard to accomplish.
Chicken Salad Chick in Mason, Ohio, is a franchise that has successfully retained its team pre-, during and post-pandemic. The below tips are meant to help business owners who may be looking for solutions to a hiring, retaining and strengthening relationships with employees.
Look to these four actionable skills when trying to win back employees and retention.
Pour into People by Building Relationships
The employees on your team are just as important to build relationships with as the communities you serve.
Building relationships that include an empathetic way of viewing circumstances, experiences and actions is essential to making your business a “people-first” environment. Get to know your team and what they’re interested in, as well as what motivates them. Learning their goals helps you see things from their perspective, making you more aware of what they could be going through or working toward at any given time. When employees have an empathetic leader, they feel heard, valued, and essential to the success of the business. This could look like talking through an employee’s future career plans to help build up their work experience accordingly, or it could be through showing support of something they’ve mentioned as a value in their daily lives. By pouring into relationships, your employees will be empowered to stay and grow in their positions via the supportive environment you’ve created.
Transparent Communication is Key
Providing your employees with an open environment from the start allows them to trust in their leaders no matter the circumstances.
When an unexpected event like the pandemic comes up, rather than feeling insecure about their worries, they should feel able to come forward honestly with concerns and to ask questions. Don’t act as if everything is perfect if there is something happening that’s out of your control; instead, talk to your team and make them aware of the situation so they know you’re working toward a resolution. An open work environment and an open leadership team instills a communicative and responsive culture for employees, and eliminates the fear and unease that can come with challenges. Combined, this results in increased satisfaction and retention.
Build Your Team from Within
New talent from outside isn’t always the answer when it comes to hiring. If there are strong contenders already within the business, look to them and find like-minded individuals that they know and have an established relationship with. We have an internal referral program for employees that includes a referral bonus for the employee once the new hire has worked 15+ hours a week for at least 90 days with our location, and all of our hiring since the original hiring wave in 2019 has been family or friends of our current team members. Hiring family members, neighbors and friends of current employees can produce a strong crew of employees that remains committed to the business and the community.
Giveback and Invest in the Community
Giving back and investing in the community means that you need to think beyond the four walls of your business. Invest time and go the extra mile to provide support for local schools, hospitals, and other businesses. For example, Chicken Salad Chick created a ‘Community Drop’ program for franchisees to give back, and we worked to adapt this program to fit our own community needs by creating a routine chicken salad drop-off in the local schools and in neighborhoods around Mason. Your investment in the community pays off when hiring from that very same community you serve. Remember, people prefer to gain a sense of purpose from their work, so when you infuse giveback into your business, this will go a long way regarding team satisfaction.
These four actionable skills of relationship building, utilizing transparent communication, building your team internally, and finding an actionable way to get involved with you community will set you and your business up for success when trying to retain and strengthen your employee base.
Beth and Mike Heydt are owners and operators of Chicken Salad Chick in Mason, OH. Through Beth and Mike’s leadership, the Mason location has proved a pandemic-proof business, allowing the restaurant to avoid hiring challenges that many QSR restaurants faced amid the pandemic and have yet to overcome. They have solely hired new employees from family and friends of current, trusted employees since they opened the business, and part of their original team of hires when they started in 2019 are still employees today.