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Are You Setting Up Your Team to Thrive?

Caterers and hospitality companies are struggling to fill open positions across the country. It continues to be the biggest limiting factor in the recovery from the lasting impacts of COVID and the ability to thrive on the other side.

People are clearly ready to celebrate again, and demand is surging for events, weddings, parties, and conferences. I am continually hearing that caterers are having to turn away business because they simply don’t have enough people to keep up with the demand. This is a very difficult scenario to navigate, and it exposes companies to the potential of poor decision making. Here are four things to keep in mind to help you avoid that trap and find long term success.

Avoid quick hires

It’s tempting to fill openings quickly with the first candidate that actually shows up for an interview. While it fills an immediate need, it’s not the best strategy for building a great team. Taking a little extra time to ensure a candidate has the right skills for the position and is a good cultural fit will save significant time, money, and energy in the long run. The number one reason for employee turnover is bad hiring decisions and this can be mitigated by building out an interview process, putting candidates through that process, and trusting that you are hiring the best candidates—especially for senior level positions.

Onboarding & integration

The “sink or swim” approach for new hires is a dangerous way to go. When you decide to bring new people onto your team, you have to invest in a robust onboarding experience. Gallup has found that only 12% of employees feel that their company does a good job of onboarding new team members. New hires are much more likely to find long term success when they go through an in-depth onboarding experience that includes opportunities to get to know their fellow team members; spending time with personnel from the executive team; gaining a clear understanding of expectations; receiving proper training for the position; and getting immersed in the culture of the organization. Investing in this can be daunting when we have so many other pressing needs on our plate, but it’s critical for the overall health of the team and retention of those new hires.

Do your people have alignment in their positions?

When evaluating your current team members, it’s important to make sure that they are in positions where they are using their natural strengths 80 to 90% of the time. We all have unique skills, talents, and attributes and when we get to showcase those abilities in the job we are doing, it leads to increased confidence, higher engagement, more productivity, and overall fulfillment in our work. As leaders, we have a responsibility to make sure our people are in positions where they can do just that or we risk losing them to fatigue and burnout. Many times, I see companies get stuck trying to make someone fit into an existing job description. If that job has three key responsibilities and the employee is really great at two of those three—but struggling with the third—we will likely spend most of our time addressing why they are not meeting expectations with the third component. This takes us down a path that is not motivating and doesn’t feel good for either party despite the fact that they are doing really well in those other two areas. Companies that choose to be flexible with responsibilities have the ability to modify positions to best suit the needs of individuals and garner more alignment within the organization. In the case above the third component is removed from the person’s responsibilities and replaced with something else that better suits that person’s talents. This may not be possible for every position; however, if we are open to the conversation, we can reduce turnover by ensuring job performance and satisfaction. This also broadens the candidate pool when hiring because we put less emphasis on the perfect fit for the job, and more emphasis on looking for the perfect fit for the organization.

Are you holding on to bad apples?

When it seems that everyone on your team is stretched thin and you’re having trouble with hiring, it’s almost unfathomable to think about letting someone go. This creates a problem for many organizations. We begin to tolerate behavior that is out of line with the core values of the company and allow toxic employees to stay on our teams for longer than they should. While we think we are helping our teams by not creating another vacancy in the organization, we are actually doing them a disservice by keeping the bad apples. A lot of times these are high performing individuals who are really good at their job, and they make sure everyone knows how good they are at their job by reminding people that no one else can do what they do, and how the company wouldn’t survive without them. We start to believe them and worry that they are irreplaceable, but behind the scenes they are doing more damage to the fabric of our companies than we can see. In order to protect their ego, they will blame others when things go wrong, participate in gossip behind people’s back, and pit team members against one another. They will undermine efforts to improve the culture by pointing out to others why new initiatives won’t work and garner support among other nay-sayers that will hold the organization back. I’ve made this mistake before and every time I’ve eventually followed through on the tough decision to let them go, we’ve replaced them with someone who is even better at the job. Don’t let the anticipated fear of losing a key team member get in the way of removing people who are not great cultural fits.

A lot is at stake right now and leaders need to evaluate their teams for both the challenges of the upcoming months and the long-term prospects of the company. If you commit to an in-depth hiring process, invest in a solid onboarding experience, help your people find more alignment in their jobs and weed out the bad apples, you will set your organization up for success for many years to come.

Anthony Lambatos

Anthony Lambatos

Owner/CEO, Footers Catering, Denver, CO

Anthony Lambatos is melding the historic Footers name with new and exciting trends in catering. He grew up in the business, from scraping plates for his dad, founder of Footers Catering Jimmy Lambatos, to hosting his own concession stand at Parade of Homes in high school. He has worked full time for Footers Catering since 2004 as Vice President and became Co-owner and CEO at the beginning of 2010. Anthony is passionate about taking the knowledge he has learned from his father and putting a fresh spin on it.