The Perfect Recruiting Plan for 2020

Smiling and laughing with staff when talking with them? Good sign. Image: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

If you’re like the majority of restaurants and bars in your market, you’ve been struggling to find staff.

Many operators are struggling to find any staff! Are they breathing? Can they form a coherent sentence? Yes? Hired!

The new hires stay for a few weeks but end up leaving, and the cycle of anxiety begins again.

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If you feel like you’re desperate to find people, if you feel like staff treat your business like a revolving door, you need a new plan to put an end to your state of panic and anxiety.

But first: How did we get here?

We did this to ourselves. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting we have a problem. Our inability to find staff—great staff who buy in and stay—stems from one simple premise: We don’t treat people as well as we should.

We’re the result of years of poor management, treating staff as a line item and not as an asset. That outdated mindset needs to be erased. Actually, we have a few outdated beliefs that we must remove from our culture if we ever want to attract and retain the best.

With that mission in mind, below you’ll find the four-step recruiting plan you need to build a high-performance team and succeed in 2020.

Step 1: Change Your Mindset

This step seems really easy, yet it will be the one that makes or breaks the others. So, let’s address it first. You’ve heard that there’s a war “for” talent out there—the truth is there’s a war “with” talent. Like 90 percent of bar, restaurant and nightclub problems, you are your own worst enemy. The good news is that you’re also your best solution!

Myth Buster: Treat people like you want to be treated.

Bullshit. Honestly, most people don’t treat themselves very well, so stop saying this! You need to treat people better than you treat yourself. This goes back to embracing what “hospitality” really means: you’re the host to others’ experiences. We love to throw around the word “hospitality” in reference to our guests in this industry.

We need to apply that same enthusiasm towards our teams!

In order to start winning the war with talent, you must treat them better. Does that mean more money? Not necessarily. You’d be shocked how far some genuine appreciation goes. That means saying “please” and “thank you.” Yes, manners maketh the culture.

I have a rule that all my coaching clients must follow: 100% Thank U’s. Everyone on the team must say “thank you” to each other at the end of every shift. We tend to take people for granted when we work with them day after day. Psychologists call this the Law of Familiarity. Don’t let it infect you.

Give this a read: 6 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success in 2020

A little appreciation and gratitude will have a long-lasting impact on the culture of your business. And here’s the best part: this stuff is free! You should be using it a lot more.

Step 2: Be Actively Recruiting

What’s the biggest difference between job ads and recruiting? One is passive and the other is active. When you place the standard (that means boring) job ad on your favorite online job forum (Craigslist, Poached, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.) you’re just being passive, waiting for people to see it and come running, which they never seem to do. Then you get bummed because not as many people applied as you had envisioned. Then you panic and feel desperate for a warm body to fill the blank spot you have on your schedule. Bad call.

Placing job ads is passive. It relies on hope. If your main recruiting strategy is hope, you’re totally screwed.

Besides, it’s a safe bet that your ad doesn’t really inspire people to rush down and apply. Sad to say, but your job ads suck. They’re more like a mini-version of a job description. They only motivate the bottom feeders who need a job because their parents are on their ass to do something more than sit in the basement and play video games all day. The struggle is real!

Instead of being passive, you need to play offense! It’s time to stoke the recruiting fire and start acting like a talent scout! That means no more sitting on the sidelines. You’re going to have to take the fight to the talent. If you sit around waiting for top performers to come find you, you’re missing the opportunity to find them! Why? Top talent doesn’t last long in a competitive market—that’s why they’re at the top.

How do you recruit actively? Glad you asked! Many of the top job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn allow you to actively search resumes in your market. That means you can pre-screen people ahead and, if you find one that looks promising, send them a message! So, yes, that means you’re going to need to put yourself out there and ask people if they’re interested.

Here’s a short script that I use:

“I saw your resume on _________ (the platform). I’m looking for a rock star ___________ (job position) to join the team at ___________ (your restaurant). Message me back if you’re interested in having a quick conversation to see if this is good for both of us. Sincerely, _______ (your name).”

Give this a read: How to Create a Hiring System that Works

Pretty straight forward, right? Here’s the secret: You’ll need to send a lot of messages to get responses. This is purely a numbers game. Some people try it out and get discouraged when they don’t get a lot of replies. For every 20 messages you send out, five will reply, and only one or two will schedule an interview. Those results are still far better than sitting around waiting for people to find you. You’ll want to dedicate at least one hour a week (break it up into 20-minute blocks) just playing offense and actively recruiting in your market.

Step 3: Scout for Personality Over Skill

Don’t take this the wrong way: You’re hiring people for the wrong reasons. You need a line cook, you have a bias for those resumes that have lots of experience. Now, I’m not saying that experience isn’t important—it’s critical for certain positions.

However, personality needs to be 51 percent (sometime 80 percent) of your hiring equation. How do you uncover someone’s personality? Ask better questions that dig into their character!

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • What’s the most common misconception people have of you?
  • If you saw somebody stealing something, either an employee or a customer, how would you handle the situation?
  • If you could only have one word written on your tombstone, what would it be?
  • How do you continue your learning?
  • I'd like you to tell me something good about yourself that you think I should know about you, something I wouldn't know unless you told me.

Now, if the applicant seems like a good fit in terms of personality (team dynamics) and skill, you want to take one more step: back it up with a behavioral assessment.

Use a tool that cuts through the bullshit and will give you an inner look at how a person will lead, communicate, accomplish tasks, handle feedback, and what stresses them out. People know how to interview, and many will say whatever they need to get the job. Two weeks later it seems as if someone else is showing up at work and it’s not the person you interviewed.

A behavioral assessment can save you a lot of the drama and money that comes from bad hires. The most common assessments on the market are DiSC and the Predictive Index. Both measure the four cornerstone traits that everyone has (we just have them in different amounts, which makes us unique).

Give this a read: The Traits of an Outstanding Team

Also, get a professional that’s trained and certified to interpret these reports before you start making big decisions. Behavior predicts performance, so you’ll want a pro to help you ensure that you have the right person in the right position on your team.

Step 4: Market Yourself as the Employer of Choice

Here’s another tough pill to swallow: If you don’t have top talent applying at your restaurant or bar, you might not be considered a worthwhile place to work.

I know that might sting a little. However, that may be more perception than truth. You always have two markets that you want to have your brand in front of all the time: your guests and your future staff.

Give all those great pictures of your food and drinks you post to social media a rest every now and then. Remember to throw in some pictures and videos of your team having a great time working at your establishment. Being the employer of choice means that you’re seen as the place to work.

You earn that status in your market by showing people on your team enjoying themselves at your bar or restaurant. Share their stories and testimonials about why others should want to work there. You must put some energy into showing that your team experience stands out.

Give this a read: 8 Tips for Surviving the Coming Restaurant Apocalypse

In 2020, you’ll want to make a shift and focus as much on your team experience (TX) as you do on your guest experience (GX). Take care of your team and your team will take care of the guests. It’s that trickle-down effect of culture that creates extraordinary experiences. You can’t bypass the team and expect everything to run smoothly in your business.

Wrapping it Up

Remember that recruiting is a year-round endeavor. You must keep the recruiting machine well fed and going full steam. Think of it like marketing, only for talent. You need to be top of mind with any future talent that’s looking for a job. Always be on their mind and when they need you, they’ll come to work with you!

Heading to Las Vegas in March for the 2020 Nightclub & Bar Show? Donald Burns will be hosting a workshop and presenting a can't-miss session. If you haven't already, register now!

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