Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Staffing
From the Editor’s desk: November 2015

Employers as teachers


Canadian pizzeria operators have their hands full when it comes to finding great young workers for their stores.

Job seekers’ wage expectations are too high, they don’t show up for interviews – or they bring along their moms, believe it or not – and they spend too much time tending to their personal lives while at work, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in a September report that reveals what’s on the minds of small business operators when they set out to hire.

Eighty-eight per cent of small business operators surveyed said their main hiring challenge was finding qualified people; just over half said salary expectations were too high; and a quarter of applicants didn’t show up for interviews.

When the CFIB asked employers to submit tips for job seekers, it opened the floodgates: those surveyed came back with a list of no less than 4,500 tips to help job applicants make the grade. Besides the surprising “Don’t bring your mother to the interview,” a couple stood out. “Display a passion for continuous learning” and “Think long-term. Consider the experience you’re going to get, not just the immediate paycheque.”

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This is solid career advice for anyone. But it’s important that employers get behind those words of encouragement.

The pizza industry is full of young workers taking on their first job. The chance to gain experience is often touted as the trade-off for taking on entry-level jobs at a lower wage. If this is the case, then it’s only fair to give those willing to pay their dues every chance to learn the ropes of your business, develop transferable personal skills and shoulder more responsibility when warranted.

It’s important to remember that many of your youngest staff members have no experience outside of home and school. They may need training on tasks as basic as answering the phone professionally and – as Diana Cline pointed out in a recent Pizza Chef column – washing dishes properly.

Teach them the basics of the restaurant business on the assumption they know nothing. Develop training manuals for everyday tasks, such as portioning, so they will know what’s expected of them.

Give them a chance to develop communications skills they can use later in their working life by having them help with marketing copy and ads. Turn every task, no matter how small or tedious, into a teaching tool. And let workers know why it needs doing.

When employees begin to prove themselves, reward them with more responsibility. Ask them for input on procedures, show them you’ve considered their opinion and explain to them why their ideas will or won’t work. Have them help train newer employees or take charge of organizing a team-building event.

In short, consider them your works in progress, and be their mentor.

With the minimum wage always on the rise somewhere in Canada, and a “Fight for $15” campaign sure to keep the upwards pressure on, it’s a safe bet high labour costs will remain up there with high food costs as the top concerns of the Canadian restaurant industry.

The competition for employees is intense. Presenting yourself as a mentor – and following through on that promise – is one way to set yourself apart from other businesses and land your next “employee of the month.”


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