Can Australia’s QSRs avoid ‘The Great Resignation’?

Businesses are looking to keep their workers engaged by doubling down on promoting a strong positive culture, career progression and new ways to reward.

From pay rises to using TikTok as a recruitment tool, chains across the world have been forced to ensure they avoid what many have dubbed “The Great Resignation”, a term used for an enormous, inter-market spike in the number of staff leaving their jobs in the face of the pandemic.

Having historically relied on an overseas workforce, the country’s food sector was no stranger to labour shortages due to closed borders.

Now with a reopening roadmap in sight, Australian businesses are looking to keep their workers engaged by doubling down on promoting a strong positive culture, career progression and new ways to reward.

But not without its own set of challenges.

“In our current environment, with fewer university students seeking part-time work and many hospitality staff moving to other industries during the pandemic, restaurants are finding it challenging to recruit,” Subway country director for ANZ Geoff Cockerill told QSR Media

“Unfortunately, franchisees have found some job seekers schedule interviews - and then fail to turn up.”

Subway says they have a wide range of roles available, and also cited its management portal for franchisees that allows them to post new jobs, review the state of current applications and manage candidates all the way through the selection and interview process.

On engaging staff, Cockerill pointed to their online learning management system called University of Subway, where all new candidates complete a mobile “Sandwich Artistry” training curricula, which he says provides “powerful information and practice opportunities using fun and engaging techniques.”

Pandemic-induced factors aside, getting the right talent now means evolving the ways chains are recruiting.

“The workforce and place is evolving constantly and maintaining practices from [five-]plus years ago will see operators struggle to attract and retain employees,” Josephine Eager, Chatime Australia’s national training, people and culture manager, said.

Inadequate or antiquated recruitment and onboarding processes, hiring for skill over behaviour/characteristics and not investing in the right kind of training and “directive/push down cultures” or hierarchical businesses, are some factors that operators have difficulty with, she said.

For Eager, she notes that prospect employees are looking for fun environments where they “feel like the brand they are working for has meaning, cares about them and invests in their skill development no matter how long they stay in the network.”

“As a brand we have responded by changing what we focus on during recruitment and onboarding. Highlighting Chatime Group’s brand purpose has been met positively with prospects. We also invest heavily in training that is a blend of practical and digital that is accessible to all along with an inclusive approach to collaborations,” she said.

Aside from using digital platforms to support streamlining applicant matches, the bubble tea chain recently moved to a virtual group recruitment for sales assistants.

Both chains offered varied takes on how to create a strong positive culture.

“We actively encourage our team members to track their learning progress using a team training progress chart in restaurant, particularly focussed on how we are serving our guests and maintaining our cultural values. We have regular recognition incentives to support this and keep our staff feeling bold and empowered, while remaining accountable to their work and most of all having fun!” Cockerill said.

Eager added: “Creating, supporting and maintain a strong positive culture has many different elements to it. My advice is to discover what you do, how you do it and where you want to be requires the below as first steps. From there you can identify actions, tools and resources required.”

“Employee engagement is not a static beast and requires constant evaluation and iteration.”

Gamification in employee engagement
80% of managers across the country are finding it ‘very difficult’ to recruit and retain team members, according to a PentaQuest report last August. 

“The younger demographic very much has high expectations when it comes to technology and interfaces and how they're treated in workplaces. Gamification [of the employee engagement process] is here to stay; that's really becoming part of just part of good design,” CEO Kerstin Oberprieler said in an interview.

Oberprieler also sees this as an opportunity for chains to solve typical pain points, such as longer onboarding time and training.

“Franchises have the headquarters-approved manuals of how you should do things. That is really boring, it's really tedious,” she said. “But if you can make that information in bite-sized pieces that's fun, that's rewarding...that can be a really important way to do that.”

Restaurant workers, she said, are attracted to chains that put a premium on a brand’s reputation.

“More people are wanting to choose franchises that show that they're doing good for the world. It could be relatively simple things like making sure you've got recyclable or compostable packaging for your products.”

From brands that wish to properly assess if their culture is trickling down to the store level, Oberprieler recommended breaking down the values into tangible concrete behaviors and devising a way to measure.

“A question that I like to ask is, ‘If you were to point a camera at it, what would you see?’ So if a particular brand says our culture is ‘really fun and friendly’...what does that look like?” she said.

“You can then pull a parameter around what that behavior looks like. And then ideally, you're measuring those behaviors.”

Whilst tech’s role in employee engagement continues to grow, the traditional idea of giving staff a sense of ownership still rings true.

“Things that keep staff for longer are having some ownership over some aspect of how the business operates. The more people feel like they have control and autonomy and ownership over their environment, the more they feel connected to it,” she said.

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