How to Find and Retain Great People

coffee-shopIt seems that everyone we speak to at the moment is finding it more and more challenging finding and retaining staff.

The additional stress of recruitment and training on a small business like an independent coffee shop can be enormous.

When someone leaves a small team, the team goes through a mourning phase and unless there is an immediate replacement, then the slack and extra shifts need to be taken up by those remaining. When someone new starts, it takes a while to train them and for them find their place in the team. You then experience the other three phases of team development; ‘storming’, where there is unrest until the new hierarchy is established, ‘norming’, when the team settles down and then ‘performing’  when the team is back at full steam.

When someone applies for a job in a coffee shop they underestimate the amount of training and skill needed to do the job well, sometimes they see it as a short-term stop gap until they get the real job they want. The combination of these two false assumptions can cause a misalignment between the needs of the job and the employee, which then will show itself in a bad performance.

Training is a costly exercise, with a massive impact that the coffee shop owner needs to understand.

For the first few weeks, new starters will need training and coaching; so will not contribute to the overall productivity, they will, in fact, reduce the overall productivity of the team as they need the constant attention of another member of staff. So the trainer’s effectiveness will be reduced by up to 50%, and the trainee is not contributing at all. The cost of this training can be the equivalent of 1.5 weeks of a staff members wages.

As the week’s progress, the training cost impact reduces slowly but it may be eight weeks until the new starter is fully capable without needing support from others.

The temptation is always to let them do too much too soon and relax the direction they receive from the trainer too early. This relaxation in supervision has the potential to damage your reputation because of the mistakes they will inevitably make. Ultimately, this may result in your guest’s getting inconsistent or poor quality service. While some understanding guests may forgive you for this others, others will just not come back!

So how do you go about finding amazing people to work with you?

The very first thing you should consider is the culture and atmosphere in the business. The ‘star’ hospitality employees have the pick of practically any job they apply for, and they will only be attracted to a business that will be fun, friendly and inviting. So take a good look at your business if you are not getting these star employees applying to work in your coffee shop.

You need a robust recruitment process in place as well and always be on the lookout for good people. Just because you don’t have a vacancy today, you will still need to collect CV’s.

How do you identify the right people for you? Having a person specification is important and will make selection easier. Spend some time writing down the factors that make a good employee, for example; their personality, their level of energy, are they optimistic, resourceful and able to work independently? We have put together the composite of a perfect employee based on the best traits of people we have employed in the past.

Having a set interview process is important too. The questions you ask are important, and you should have an understanding of a good answer. This process should provide you with a framework to work with and enable you to identify any red lights. You should always get them to work a trial shift or a ‘stage’.

Once they start, your induction and training should be structured and measurable to provide a framework for the new person to work within and compare themselves. Don’t be afraid to set the rules out clearly for everything from dress standards to serving friends. Having rules that everyone understands and agrees with will become part of your businesses DNA and make life much simpler in the long run!

The one most neglected part of the new starters journey is of the reviews. Sitting down with your new team member over a coffee and taking the time to understand how they are getting on, will be the most critical 15 minutes in your newbie’s first weeks. Agree and record their achievements and next steps; this will ensure clarity on both sides and protect you in the event of any fall outs that may occur in the future.

Once the newbie becomes a fully trained up member of the team, it’s often a lack of development or prospects that are the trigger to them looking to leave. So training and development should not come to a halt when the new starter training is complete. Take time to understand what the team members want to learn or perfect, and find ways to enable it. External barista training, certification or diplomas can all play a part in enabling the team to grow.

What should you pay? For us, the answer is simple, as much as you can afford and sometimes more than you can afford. If your pay rates are at the top end of the norm in your location, you will attract and retain the best people, who will, in turn, generate you more income through delivering a better customer experience.

A final note about employment contracts. There are still too many small coffee shops and cafes failing even to issue contracts and terms and conditions of employment, let alone having job descriptions. If you are in this camp, then you are leaving yourself very vulnerable.

Your employment contracts will protect your business as well as the employee, and they should always include proper notice periods of not just one week but longer depending on seniority, we would recommend a minimum of 2 weeks notice. Having a non-compete clause included will also deter your fully trained staff being poached by your direct local competitors.

In summary, making your business a great place to work will attract the best staff; having a robust recruitment criteria, as well as a structured training and development program, will get your new team members trained faster. Then with regular progress reviews and providing the opportunity for future development, you will see a reduction in labour turnover and the accompanying stress, resulting in an increase in sales and bottom line profit.

Do you need help fixing your recruitment and retention? We can provide the solutions you are looking for, so get in touch for a chat and see how we can take the stress out of your business.

In partnership with cafesuccesshub.com

Andrew & Claire Bowen

Andrew & Claire Bowen, The Coffeepreneurs, are the Authors of the Amazon best seller, ‘The Daily Grind - how to open and run a coffee shop that makes money’. They are also the founders of Cafe Success, ‘The ultimate resource for coffee shops’. They own and run their own independent coffee shop, Java&Co, based in Oxfordshire, UK. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, they have been franchisee’s, regional franchisees single and multi site operators, as well as developing their own chain of independent coffee shops. They make coffee shop owners more money, by helping them 'Start Up, Scale Up or Tune Up' their coffee businesses.

    Andrew & Claire Bowen has 25 posts and counting. See all posts by Andrew & Claire Bowen

    2 thoughts on “How to Find and Retain Great People

    • Once again, a great read; thanks.

      As an outside contractor I am frequently bewildered by the lack of understanding I witness on the part of the business owners I’m there to assist. So often they hire people on, give them a once-over on everything, then sit back and wonder why the new hires aren’t masters at every task.

      When a client insists that I train their people during service rather than after hours I know they don’t have a real appreciation of the complexities of the barista’s job.

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