The Value of Empowering Employees
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”
One of the biggest differences a restaurant manager can make for his business is to make the conscious decision to empower employees to succeed. This is generally much easier said than done; everyone needs a kick in the butt every now and then and it’s often hard not to micro-manage the dining room, especially in restaurants with a less experienced staff.
But excellent employees are empowered employees. They are people who have been given the tools to succeed, been pointed in the right direction, and given the freedom to make mistakes. If your restaurant requires a staff full of employees operating at a high level in order to succeed (and who’s doesn’t?), it might be worthwhile to put all your energy into hiring, training, and setting up employees to succeed, and less time following the tracks of employees in search of errors.
Building for Success
Staff empowerment starts with great hires. The best tips for successful hiring are to build experience as a hiring manager, know what the restaurant needs, and always be looking for new employees. Most hiring managers ultimately hire candidates who are similar to them in some way. Having a commitment to bringing in talented people and combining that with an excellent training platform will eventually mean that the restaurant is staffed with strong employees dedicated to success.
This is the backbone of employee empowerment. This makes it easier for managers to point employees in the right direction and allow them to be who they are. Sure, they’ll make mistakes and some of them can be costly. However, talented employees who are focused for the length of their shifts will learn from them and be better for it. So will the restaurant.
Avoid Talking Down to Employees
It is a natural tendency of restaurant managers to talk down to employees in some environments, especially those in which the majority of staff members are young adults. This is usually covert and subconscious. Examples include over-explaining tasks or being quick to find fault. The fact is that many guests treat servers and host staff the same way. It is not uncommon for young restaurant workers to be accustomed to not receiving the same respect that their older co-workers are given.
This is fine, and many young employees may not have earned the respect of their peers. However, this also means that empowering employees by assuming they’ll succeed, lifting their spirits when they walk in the door, or praising them for their efforts, can really make an impact. This is a big reason that empowerment can be an important step in swaying the organizational culture toward productivity and ownership, rather than cutting corners and covering your you-know-what.
Incentives and Punishments
The best rewards and punishments are often the implicit ones that managers wield without expressly mentioning. Examples of effective incentives include the employee schedule, server stations, promotions, and hourly wages. Employers do not need to specifically refer to these tools to make an impact on employee motivation and performance.
The bottom line is that going the extra mile should be rewarded, often without specifically mentioning it. The staff should see that strong employees benefit from great schedules and hourly raises. They should also see the impact of lack of focus, often in terms of diminished schedules or poor server stations. The restaurant business is uniquely equipped to provide implicit rewards and punishments capable of supporting a framework in which employees are empowered rather than disciplined.
A manager who starts each day by telling employees that they’re going to make great money on the floor or that they’re doing a great job on the line may catch an employee off-guard on a single day. A manager who does the same thing everyday is going to have a staff full of employees empowered to be themselves.
There is always a time and a place to crack the whip. But it’s important to toss in some warm fuzzies with those cold pricklies, and getting out of the way of the success of talented employees is a good place to start.