F&B work in Singapore is notoriously transient. Dealing with manpower crises are everyday struggles – flaky part-timers who don’t turn up for their shifts, workers who quit by way of no-shows, being short-handed during festive periods… We could go on.
First things first: Having a team that comprises a significant proportion of part-time employees isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If planned right, you’ll be able to keep up or even improve productivity levels, while ensuring operational agility to cater to peak and slow periods. Now, on to the tips on how to hire, how to schedule shifts, and how to retain your employees.
How to hire
Even before you hire, you should already know how long each potential employee is going to stay. Separate your candidates into two pools: Those who are seeking part-time work voluntarily (students on term break, for instance) and those doing it, well, involuntarily (those who need the cash).
The former group is more likely to only be able to commit to a specified period, while the latter is more likely to be in it for the long term if you retain them well. This should give you an idea of the size of the manpower you’re likely to have down the road, facilitating forward-planning…
…in an ideal world. In reality, F&B businesses deal with employees quitting on short notice, or none at all, frequently (More on how to decrease turnover rates in a bit!). This is why it’s important to recruit all the time, even when you don’t have a vacancy at that point of time. You don’t have to fork out money to constantly advertise vacancies – it costs literally nothing to paste a recruitment ad by your restaurant doors, and keep applications on file for when the need arises.
How to schedule shifts
It goes without saying that the less time and effort you’re spending on schedules, the better. It’s advisable to stick to a relatively fixed roster, where every member of the team, whether full or part-time, is scheduled for the same shifts from week to week. (The lack of tipping culture in Singapore means you don’t have to worry about rotating staff shifts to ensure they get an even share of tips!)
Accommodate changes, but not to the extent of you or your manager’s sanity. A good solution is to put the responsibility on your employees to find someone to cover their shift, should they be unable to commit to their usual schedule.
If you’re writing your weekly schedule starting from Monday and ending on Sunday, it’s time to rethink your processes. Divvy up the hours beginning from your busiest times of the week, allocating these shifts to your employees based on their strengths. If you’re busiest on a Wednesday night when ladies’ night orders pour in non-stop, schedule in employees with the quickest hands; if you’re busiest on a Sunday morning when everyone’s in for a leisurely brunch, schedule in your employees with the best people skills. Continue scheduling backwards, leaving slow periods for the last.
One thing F&B business owners often overlook is measuring schedule efficiency (i.e. how proportionate your staffing is compared to the number of diners at any point of time) as a KPI. There’s a wealth of information in your POS system waiting for you to tap on, and one way to utilise this data is by analysing the efficiency of your team’s shift schedule. From there, identify how you can better plan for shifts moving forward.
How to decrease turnover rate
Managing a team of staff is hard, but count your blessings – at least you’ve got staff to manage. A Singapore government survey reporting resignation rates (the average number of employees resigning in a month divided by the average number of employees in the establishment) at a high of almost 3% thus far in 2018.
But think of it this way: If HR is a problem for every player in the F&B industry, this also presents you the opportunity to build a competitive advantage for recruiting staff, and keeping them in your team.
The easiest method is, of course, to pay more. Not exorbitantly more, but at least above the lowest rates. Feed them well. Offer subsidized commuting. The incentive for your employees goes beyond the financial bonus – paying them the industry minimum without any benefits is basically telling them, “If I could pay you less, I would.” Not very nice!
Proper training is as important, especially in the service sector. Online and video learning company Panopto reasons, while a corporate office worker, for instance, can take months to fully onboard into their role, diners expect their service attendants to be perfectly knowledgeable and efficient from the very moment they don their uniform. A structured training plan, whether in the form of a mini orientation, buddying or shadowing, not only gets them ready for their role, it also decreases turnover rates by implanting a sense of purpose in your employees, part-time or otherwise.
At cocktail bar Jigger and Pony, a mentorship system is in place for all new employees. And a little tweak to the traditional method of mentorship makes all the difference for them: Employees get to choose which of the four team leaders they’d like for a mentor, instead of having someone assigned to them. This takes the obligation out of the overused “buddy system” that, to your employees, may sound like nothing more than a customary routine.
While you might think you can’t afford to pay any more for manpower (We know rent’s not getting any cheaper!), you might just be paying more if you’re constantly having to deal with understaffing, low retention rates and poor productivity. Taking steps to decrease your turnover rate ultimately makes for a better bottom line, and that’s what we’re all after, right?