Creating a Sub-Culture for Promotional Success

It’s not my job.

As much as we discourage the statement, the fact remains that staff members often primarily are focused on their titles or workspaces — their “jobs.” If they’re not saying it out loud, they almost certainly are thinking it, especially when asked to perform and achieve specific results. Instead of hitting your head against a brick wall, complaining about their apathy, do something about it!

While on shift, employees only go through the motions of making “mom and dad” — bar and nightclub owners, operators and managers — happy; in reality, their thoughts are somewhere else: what is happening after work, what they should do during break, etc. This is referred to as “phoning it in” — physically, staff members are present, but mentally, their minds are elsewhere. Creating a group sub-culture of employees achieves a very basic yet incredibly powerful tool: internally driven multiplied accountability.

By definition, a sub-culture is “a group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with the larger culture.” Every establishment or venue has a sub-culture living within. The bartenders, door staff, cooks and servers are in collusion against each other in some form for their mutually exclusive benefits. When the various groups separate after work, they discuss and complain about the other groups in the establishment. This dangerous, unproductive sub-culture plagues most hospitality businesses worldwide and, unfortunately, has become acceptable. However, the power of the sub-culture behavior inherent to the nightlife industry can be harnessed as an incredible united marketing force. 

When the “larger culture” is expanded beyond the walls of a bar or nightclub to encompass the entire nightlife market, the bounds of the sub-culture also are expanded proportionately to encompass the establishment’s entire staff, which inherently hold beliefs and interests that vary from those who work in other venues.

Think beyond an individual. When marketing and promotional plans are in their infancy, a group-dynamic thinking method will ensure group members are deeply invested for the entirety of the project. By turning the staff into a marketing machine, the group becomes an unmistakable part of the establishment’s identity rather than a department within. Have you ever gone to a bar on a Friday night and known within the first hour that you would be back the next week? That’s more than a few posters and handbills at work — the well-oiled machine simply is cultivating the fruits of its labor.

The methodology is as simple as the concept.

1) Hire with vision. Live it, love it, breathe it. Look for personality traits rather than skill sets when hiring staff members. Exciting, vibrant people can be taught to become great operations staff, but personality is permanent. Building a sub-culture depends entirely on the tools in the box. Will new employees fall into a group dynamic easily and use that great personality to enhance and infect the profile of the whole? “Team building” all too often is focused on experienced-based manual skill sets, such as speed and efficiency. That’s awesome if you’re a track coach! Effectively using the sub-culture model in promotions and marketing depends entirely on the synergy felt by your guests whenever and wherever they encounter any of your staff members regardless of their “jobs.” Develop the description of an ideal staff member by listing required personality traits that match your business without mentioning skill sets. Use the list to screen applicants, ensuring 100% of all potential hires feature those qualities.

2) Build promotional packages that use common strengths. Sub-culture development needs to happen easily, naturally… almost secretively. Analyze the staff using personality trait descriptors and discover common threads. These are the keys to the kingdom, forming the basis and foundation of the group dynamic. The fact that there is a unification plan in place must remain exclusively with management, or the organization risks appearing coercive and the entire effort will collapse. Once the list of common strengths is complete, use only those markers to develop promotional initiatives. This will ease the burden of having to “sell” ideas to the group; the benefits will be obvious to the employees, and the plan will seem effortless to execute.

3) Be realistic. Every new business initiative must hold three undeniable qualities to achieve success: It must be quantifiable, qualifiable and verifiable. These virtues ring especially true in sub-culture development. The expectations for the staff and management must have a clear opportunity for complete success. Do not promote unrealistic goals unless you want to lose the group’s confidence entirely. Everyone wants to win a gold medal; allow staff members the opportunity, and the desire for greater challenges will grow.

4) Promote group accountability. Management always recognizes superstars; it’s hard to avoid when demonstrating model performance to the group. But for those who fall to the bottom of the pile, management generally and unfortunately does nothing. Through open and ongoing performance measurement, a natural desire for mentorship will ensue. Staff members should be able to follow the progress of individual and group goals through visual markers, such as a performance chart, set up by management. Life becomes so much easier when staff members manage themselves and strive toward a common goal.

5) Reward globally. Providing incentives for an individual’s highest sales won’t get a cook to jump on the bandwagon and help achieve the goal. Sales are not part of his job and he does not have the opportunity for recognition and success. Always ensure each member of the group will share in the reward, and they all will find ways to help to achieve the objective.

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