Catering to an After-COVID Workforce: Two Changes, One Goal
In the last quarter of 2021, the quit rate for the food service and catering industry hit a record 6.8%. The cause for alarm was not just the numbers, but the timing. While more jobs were opening, more employees were leaving. Jobs had recovered, and working conditions had been deemed safe enough for a return to in-person activity. But it wasn’t enough reason for the workers to come back.
The gulf between roles offered and available workers has caused employers across all sectors to pause, but the need to re-engage workers in the catering industry is particularly urgent. Luckily, with time to listen and reflect, the adjustments workers are asking for are clear, and they won’t require employers to sacrifice their still-recovering post-COVID budgets.
Following is an overview of two important areas of focus, one for the short-term and one for the long-term, for employers who are committed to meeting the new needs of a post-COVID team.
Short-Term Reward: Adequate, Efficient Compensation
Workers have made it clear —a rise in wages is needed across almost all sectors. When employees reconsidered their post-pandemic priorities, they explored the possibility to work across multiple industries. The result is a higher level of wage competition; employers need to offer rates that are compelling not just within their own industry, but also compared to other industry silos.
But the reward of higher wages can be amplified by using two concurrent strategies. First, implementing a no-work minimum approach—allowing workers to sign up for shifts as often as they’d like without having to meet a quota of hours worked per week—means that work doesn’t come with so much of a sacrifice. So far, no-work minimums in the catering sector are increasing show-rates and decreasing turnovers, saving employers valuable resources in training and recruiting.
The second strategy to be added on to higher wages is frequent payments. Workers appreciate fair pay for their hard day’s work. They appreciate that fair pay more if it comes quickly. Same-day payments, if possible, help employees take charge of their own financial lives. When the reward for working a shift lands in an employee’s bank account hours later, the sense of trust and benefit is stronger than it would be with weekly or monthly payments. Employers can engage third party solutions to help make same-day payments easy and cost-effective; the reward they’ll see among their teams will be well worth it.
Long-Term Engagement: Employee Autonomy
Competitive and frequent pay is a powerful incentive in the short-term, especially if that compensation structure is offered without tying workers into rigid schedules. But solving the larger problem of long-term worker engagement will take more targeted solutions on the part of catering and foodservice professionals.
Research has shown that training is an important part of an employee’s experience, whether that employee is part of a contingent workforce or a salaried role. If increased compensation and frequent payments can reduce employee turnover, catering employers can invest more into their team member’s training experience. Using enhanced learning technologies, catering professionals can bring new hires up to speed on their service roles. Successful onboarding sets an employee’s expectations for their time with the team, and leaves no questions unanswered. When the new hire feels informed and valued, they’re more likely to have a positive experience in their role.
Employee investment can extend far beyond the onboarding stage. For workers in the food service and catering industry, a key to long-term engagement is providing the resources they need to continue to grow and learn in their roles. Offering access to workshops, culinary courses, sommelier certifications, or other areas of employee interest will make employees more invested in their path for advancement within the food service industry, reducing the amount of job seekers who are considering switching sectors to look for new and improved roles.
The labour shortage in the food service and catering space is urgent, and employers need to make quick adjustments to address the problem as it stands. To that end, ensuring that wage offerings are competitive relative to all sectors is a necessary first step. Frequent payments and autonomous scheduling will multiply the positive impact of higher wages offering workers a timely and appropriate financial reward for the shifts that they chose to sign up for; the work that works for them.
Those changes have proven to result in less worker turnover and more worker affinity. Employers can then afford to invest more into their training and continuous learning offerings to improve team engagement over the long-term. Ensuring that the onboarding process is extensive, and that opportunities for exploration and advancement are part of the role, will help employees feel valued and committed to the team. Not every post-pandemic hiring strategy needs to be put in place all at once, but when employers plan for both the short and long-term, they’ll be in the best possible position to succeed.
About Steve Anevski
Steve Anevski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Upshift, an industry-leading staffing platform that connects businesses with pre-vetted W2 employees. Backed by Recruit Holdings Inc., Upshift has a success rate over double the industry standard.