One of the many factors behind Workstream’s success is the commitment of our clients to provide the best applicant and employee experience to everyone under their wing. And in this Q&A, we learn more about encouraging individuality from IHOP Franchise Owner, Joseph Knight. Joseph has served the past few years as Managing Director of Operations for their various locations, and today shares with us his insights on the importance of inclusivity, empathy, and a nurturing company culture.
Nicole (N): What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career?
Joseph (J): The biggest challenge I have ever faced was to learn how to adapt and embrace failure. Within the restaurant industry, there are so many variables, some consistent and many unexpected. To implement restaurant processes that improve overall restaurant performance can be quite challenging and rewarding at times.
N: How would you describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?
J: Our company culture gives everyone an opportunity to show us what they have. We are very committed to challenging, supporting, training, building, and promoting from within. We care about all of our guests, and we hold ourselves to high standards to ensure each guest leaves with the best customer experience. We have an awesomely diverse team that can find respect and value in their contributions here and we CELEBRATE it. One of the actions most constantly displayed is a sense of love among the team members. It’s an environment where everyone truly cares about each other. For example, a team member was working part-time with us and full-time with another company. He had a noticeable non-contagious skin condition that he was highly self-conscious about. He quit his other full-time position with the other company because he felt isolated due to this condition. He ended up coming to work with us full time because he felt part of the team, and his team treated him like they cared and did not make him feel like he needed to be quarantined.
The superpower of our team is that we truly embrace our diverse and equal team dynamic. Not only do we demand it, but we also wouldn’t have it any other way. When you work at any one of our locations, you are promised zero tolerance for workplace discrimination. Many of our employees have expressed a sense of acceptance and freedom. We foster a judgment-free zone where we take pride in giving individuals opportunities, bust through the stigmas, and become gainfully employed and prevent recidivism.
N: What are some challenges or trends you see in hiring today?
J: The job market today has been extremely challenging. The talent pool has shrunk drastically. Job offers are being made and applicants are not responding. Numerous hours go into recruiting, hiring, and training. The turnover rate in the restaurant industry can be considerably high.
N: How would you describe your leadership style?
J: I am someone who believes in helping all staff members reach their full potential and their goals. Oftentimes, the restaurant industry serves as a stepping stone for people in their lives. Most of our applicants that apply to be servers, table attendants, or cooks have no intention of staying in that position for too long. Our leadership style is to build leaders who then build leaders that go on to lead either within our organization, or their tenure with us serves as a catalyst for someone to master their position, which later results in a transferable skill in other industries.
For example, being a server teaches you to have the empathy to understand what someone in front of you may be going through. Learning to have empathy for someone even when you don’t know them personally gives you a level of emotional intelligence and I think that is what a good leader needs. Empathy/understanding of what your team is going through and share the feeling even when you aren’t going through it yourself.
N: Who inspires you and why?
J: My business partner and friend, Adenah Bayoh. She is a successful entrepreneur and holds an extensive real estate development portfolio. Every day, she sets an example of what I someday hope to become as a businessman and a leader. I feel very fortunate to be able to have a strong example of a leader in my life besides my parents.
N: Have you ever had an hourly job? If yes, please share with us your experience as an hourly worker.
J: I was employed by IHOP when I was a teenager, as a server. After taking a short break I returned back to work for IHOP while in college. I am blessed to have parents who taught me to dream big. My father was the one who noticed I enjoyed working for a restaurant and brought up the idea of owning an IHOP in the future. At the time I didn’t have an understanding of business but because I showed a genuine interest in how things worked, I was coached on different aspects of the restaurant. During this time I rapidly moved up the ladder with various roles of responsibility, and in 2013 I became the Managing Director of Operations for our locations.