The ideal food service culture should consist of employees moving beyond simple compliance of workplace rules to being truly committed to the jobs they perform.
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One way to cultivate committed employees is to become a committed leader. For example, Steve Provost, the president of Maggiano’s Little Italy, which has more than 50 restaurants throughout 20 states, is very much a servant leader. When Provost visits his restaurants, the first thing he does is bus tables with the busboys, then wash dishes in the kitchen. This voluntary extra effort shows employees what commitment to the job looks like. When the leader of the company does something extra, what do you think the employees are going to do?
Another way to move people to commitment requires positive reinforcement in the leadership system. Employee engagement has been identified as a key driver of business profitability and human performance. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of employees say they are “actively engaged” at work.
When it comes to engagement, every organization has three kinds of workers:
Non-Compliant: “I will not follow your rules because I am convinced the only way to get high production is to take risks and shortcuts.”
Compliant: “I will follow your rules as long as someone (a manager, a supervisor, or a peer observer) is standing there watching me. But when that person leaves, I’ll take more risks and shortcuts.”
Committed: “I will follow the rules, when nobody is watching. This is who I am.”
How precisely do you shift your workplace culture from “I have to do it or I’ll be in trouble” to “I want to do it because I believe in it”? True positive reinforcement needs to be individualized and delivered immediately after an employee does something right. That way, the employee will be more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. If food service workers go above and beyond their responsibilities, they should be recognized. Consider them your internal customers. Yes, they are doing their job and are paid to do it, but studies show a paycheck is not as big a motivator as feeling like you are making a difference at work.
Without positive reinforcement, your employees will be less committed. With less committed employees, you’re getting less performance from your team and your food service culture will suffer. However, using positive reinforcement to cultivate engaged workers will improve all aspects of their work.
Sims is president of The Bill Sims Company, Inc. Reach him at email@example.com.