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    How to retain employees: 10 strategies

    4.5 million. That’s how many Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in November 2021! It’s a record-breaking number that’s a hard hit on industries that were already struggling with a national labor shortage amid the ongoing pandemic. Many managers are wondering how to retain employees, and for good reason.

    Restaurant turnover rates were high even pre-pandemic. Of the 4.5 million workers who quit in November, 6.1% worked in the hospitality industry. 

    So, in 2022, it’s time for you to face this problem head-on. And we want to help. That’s why, in this article, we’ll be looking at how to retain employees by discussing: 

    • Some of the top reasons why restaurant turnover rates are so high
    • Ten employee retention plans to help you keep the employees you already have 

    Let’s get right into it. 

    Why is there a shortage of restaurant workers?

    The economy is struggling. And people who’d normally work at restaurants do need jobs. So, why are there currently thousands of restaurant job openings and so many people quitting? 

    Well, you may think it’s because people have gotten lazy or dependent on unemployment benefits. But, it’s actually more complex. Here are some of the top reasons that restaurant turnover rates are so high:

    Low wages and inadequate benefits

    Restaurant workers have been pushing for at least a $15/hour wage for years. And the pandemic has made those demands even louder as workers face economic uncertainty. On top of that, many fast food workers are quitting because they don’t have benefits like paid sick leave or health insurance. 

    Long working hours

    With restaurants short on staff, restaurant workers have been forced to work longer hours and cover extra shifts. And when you consider the stress and time commitments they have outside of work due to the pandemic (e.g. taking care of sick family members), it’s no wonder they reach a breaking point.

    Stressful work environment

    Restaurant workers also face new challenges at work do to the public’s reaction to things like mask mandates and social distancing measures. Over the past two years, we’ve even seen aggressive customers verbally and physically assault workers. Understandably, many have decided the job isn’t worth it.

    Jobs in different industries

    Many workers are giving up on the idea of finding restaurant jobs with adequate conditions. So, they’ve moved on to find jobs in offices, the education sector, warehouses, online and other industries. In the past year, 15% of hourly workers have changed industries. And an additional 33% of workers want to do the same. 

    How to retain employees - 10 strategies

    With the reasons for the restaurant labor shortage in mind, you’d be wise to take retention seriously. Not only will focusing on retention help you keep the employees you have, but it will also help you attract new, quality employees in the future. 

    So, here are 10 tips how to retain employees in 2022. 

    1. Increase wages

    There’s no getting around this one. Higher wages are what most workers want right now. And it’s the most tangible way to show your workers that you value their work and don’t want them to quit. 

    Of course, we understand you may not be able to give everyone a raise all at once. But even giving raises to your hardest-working employees can show you value their time, work and loyalty. 

    2. Offer better benefits

    According to a 2019 survey, only 31% of restaurants offered health insurance to their employees. Offering insurance amid a global health crisis would definitely incentivize your workers to stay with you. 

    But health insurance isn’t the only benefit that workers care about. You can also consider offering benefits like paid sick leave, stipends for child care, free meals, cash bonuses or education assistance programs. 

    3. Show support for mental health

    Workers in all industries are experiencing burnout right now with the pandemic entering its third year. Your employees are no exception. So, acknowledge the stress they’re under.

    Expose them to free or affordable mental health resources. Encourage breaks and transparency about what parts of the job are most mentally taxing. These things won’t erase the problems your employees face. But they will show them that you care. 

    4. How to retain employees through flexible pay schedules

    You’re now competing with the gig economy where workers can make and receive their money fast. To keep up, consider adopting technology like Tapcheck that allows employees to gain access to their earnings whenever they want. 

    According to Tapcheck, giving your workers the option for on-demand pay can also lead to increased productivity, lower HR expenses and a boost in company profits.  

    5. Create a safe workplace

    Your employees need to feel safe if you want them to continue working for you. And, in 2022, that means making sure they feel protected against Covid-19 and difficult customers. 

    For Covid-19, provide your workers with things like face masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer to use while they’re at work. You can also display signs that have social distancing rules and regulations throughout your restaurant. That way, your employees aren’t forced to be the first to mention the rules to new customers. And, if difficult customers are a frequent problem, you may want to consider hiring a security guard. 

    6. Show appreciation

    It’s an extremely difficult time to be in the service industry. And your employees will be more inclined to stick through the rough times if they know you appreciate all of their hard work. 

    Whenever possible, publicly acknowledge your employees and honor the value of their contribution. Yes, this could be done in the form of a monetary bonus or raise. But even a handwritten thank you card can have a significant impact. 

    7. How to retain employees through strong company culture

    Company culture plays an important role in keeping employees engaged at work. On top of that, a strong company culture can lead to increased productivity and overall job satisfaction. 

    You can build a strong culture among workers by offering career development opportunities, regularly asking for feedback, and improving communication between management and staff. 

    8. Reassess your onboarding process 

    Your onboarding process can have a long-lasting impact on newly hired employees’ job performance and retention. In fact, according to one report, an efficient onboarding process can increase the retention rate by 82%.

    So, after you’ve implemented the above strategies to retain your current employees, take time to also improve your onboarding process. Look for ways to ensure your workers achieve early success and feel confident in their roles. 

    9. Improve your hiring process 

    You won’t have to worry as much about new employees quitting if you’re clear on expectations and effectively assess cultural fit during the hiring process. Doing so will help you filter out applicants who don’t show potential to stay with you long-term.

    But how can you achieve this? By being transparent about things like work responsibilities, compensation, and other benefits during the application and interview process. You should also make sure you’re asking restaurant interview questions that are relevant to your restaurant’s current working conditions. 

    10. Identify the root causes during exit interviews 

    When employees do quit, take advantage of the opportunity to find out the reasons why by strategically conducting exit interviews.

    Of course, it may be too late to retain employees at this stage. But you can use the information you learn during these interviews to make relevant improvements for the employees that stay.

    How to retain employees - final thoughts

    Right now, there’s no way to know how long the restaurant labor shortage will last. But by proactively improving your retention strategies, you can reduce your turnover rate and avoid later being short-staffed. 

    Try out the 10 tips we’ve shared in this post: 

    1. Increase wages
    2. Offer better benefits 
    3. Show support for mental health
    4. Offer flexible pay schedules 
    5. Create a safe workplace 
    6. Show appreciation
    7. Strengthen the company culture 
    8. Reassess your onboarding process
    9. Improve your hiring process
    10. Identify the root causes during exit interviews

    And for more tips like these, be sure to also check out our recent post on How to Run a Restaurant During the Covid-19 Pandemic.


    Workstream is a hiring platform that helps employers get 4x the number of qualified applicants. The world's most trusted brands use Workstream to optimize job board postings, automate screening and interview scheduling, communicate via text message, and streamline the onboarding/training process. See what all the buzz is about by scheduling a demo or email us info@workstream.is!

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