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How to Retain Employees in High-Turnover Industries

Industries with consistently high employee turnover must embrace effective strategies to help increase their retention rates. Here are some valuable tips.
retain employees

Retaining workers is a frequent challenge for most businesses, but never more so than in industries with consistently high employee turnover. Food service, retail, hospitality, tourism, and similar industries seem to be always searching for dependable, hard-working employees — and constantly refining their strategies on how to keep them once they’re on board.

The food service industry is particularly challenged when it comes to hiring and retaining employees. With relatively few benefits to offer, as well as low pay and the demands of shift work, these employers must focus on effective retention techniques or risk losing any competitive advantage they have due to an endless turnover in reliable staff. Here are suggestions to keep in mind:

Administer Tests During the Recruitment Phase

Rather than hire any warm body that comes in the door, instead ask candidates questions that focus on behavior and “people skills,” and conduct job-related skills-based tests as well. What you learn may help predict how well an individual can handle the built-in stress of a food service environment.

Get Employees Off to a Good Start

Employee retention starts on day one. With proper orientation and guidance, a rookie can overcome his or her anxiety and gain a good feeling about the employer at the outset. Appropriate training helps eliminate the frustrations a new employee may feel due to a lack of skills or experience in a food service job. Customer service training is equally important, so that those who prepare and serve food know how to act with courtesy and understanding in the face of customer complaints.

Be Fair with Shift Schedules

You stand a greater chance of retaining employees by accommodating their individual schedules as best as possible. Establish a system for scheduling and exchanging shifts that makes the most people happy. Communicate the process so that everyone understands what’s in it for them.

Give Workers Some Authority

Nothing crushes the spirit of a food service employee like being caught between satisfying an irate customer and meeting the demands of his or her employer. Too many incidents like this and employees may decide it’s time to walk, regardless of how much they need the job. In addition to proper customer service training, give employees some leeway to make low-level decisions on the spot — whether to adjust a bill, return a meal because “it wasn’t right,” etc. Being able to respond to customer complaints on the spot is beneficial for patrons and employees alike.

The talent pool of millennials is a valuable source of entry-level employees in retail, hospitality, and other high-turnover industries. At the same time, a recent Future Workplace survey showed that 91 percent of millennials are unlikely to stay with a job for more than three years (though that’s practically a lifetime in a high-turnover business). Employers who adopt a few key strategies to appeal to this demographic may see a higher rate of retention than their less-imaginative competitors.

Focus on Successful Onboarding

A new hire that can’t get basic questions answered or simply doesn’t know where to turn for information will probably start thinking about leaving early on. Show people where to find the information they need and explain workplace policies thoroughly so as to minimize confusion and frustration. Millennials often respond favorably to having a mentor to turn to in their first days on the job.

Offer Bonding Opportunities

Millennials enjoy working collaboratively, so any opportunity to build a team is worth exploring. Devise group exercises where employees can get to know each other better, establish bonds, and see for themselves how collaboration is valued in your business.

Give them a Chance to Give to the Community

Perhaps more so than previous generations, millennials seem to like to do something to favorably impact their communities. They may consider staying longer with a business that affords them the opportunity to participate in a charitable event or work on some aspect of neighborhood development.

Whatever the industry, there are many perks and benefits (beyond financial gain) that can contribute to better employee retention. Here are just a few outside-the-box benefits businesses offer that can encourage employees to stick around:

  • Membership in gyms or low-cost health spas
  • Longer lunch break for exercise
  • Free onsite child care
  • Dry cleaning services

Employee turnover will always be an issue for some industries. But making changes in recruitment, orientation, and on-the-job training and development (along with a few imaginative perks) can sharply reduce the number of employees who leave your business.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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