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Training staff goes a long way in employee retention

The skills shortage crisis

Are you sick of constantly having to look for a new chef?  Do you feel as if you’re constantly placing a new ad on SEEK and going back through the interviewing, orientating and training rigmarole?  Are you at risk of your other kitchen staff becoming disenfranchised with constantly having to start again with training up a new chef and starting all over again?

Chef retention is the toughest challenge for restaurant and café owners.  According to Jade, a Brisbane café owner, their chef’s attitudes often seem to be “’Oh yeah I’ll do this for four months or so and then move on to the next opportunity.’ There’s no real loyalty or security for the owners of the business that their staff will stay,” she said.

The problem of too many ‘greener pastures’

Jade and her husband, Darian, own and run their business together and said that they would be more than happy if their head chef came to them saying he planned to open up their own restaurant in 18 months’ time and would they be willing to teach him about the business side of things. This would give them the security that a) they will retain him for 18 months and b) they would be able to help someone else advance their career rather than feel as if they have been used and abused. “Help us help you get to where you want to go,” she said.

If chefs aren’t happy in their kitchen they know there are plenty of other jobs out there and so they leave. Darian and Jade said that many have been burnt in other jobs before so it inspires the flight mentality. They have had a chef send them a text message after working there merely 3 days saying he quit. Another one called on a Sunday afternoon saying he wouldn’t be working the next week as he was leaving.

Training your staff can help retain them

Jade and Darian currently have an apprentice chef working with them. He’s been with them for over 10 months, which is almost the longest stint one of their chefs has completed. The average length of stay in their business has been 6-8 months. As an apprentice chef he’s less likely to leave while he’s completing his training and is more likely to stay afterwards due to loyalty.  Staff who come to you with little or no experience and have trained within your business are much more likely to stay longer if they are happy in their workplace.

Training pitfalls to avoid

Alison a Redmako trainer is passionate that the training process needs to be a 360 degree dialogue between the business owner, the apprentice, the head chef and the trainer.  Often there is a disconnection between the owner and the apprentice so the apprentice feel undervalued & underappreciated. They feel disengaged and leave at the end of their training as a result.   “We’re investing in people.  We’re investing in the business and the apprentice” she said.  When all parties involved participate fully in the training of their staff “the business gets more value from the training by creating a sense of ownership in the apprentices. Because apprentices feel ownership, their loyalty follows. It’s really a healthy cycle where the apprentice feels challenged and an integral part of the business.”

It’s probably a statement of the obvious that we need to create an environment where chefs feel appreciated and secure, but what about the owners? Isn’t it equally fair that the owner feels secure and satisfied with the performance of their training staff? Happy, challenged staff, equal staff who stay. When we invest in talent and keep challenging and training our staff we no longer experience the pain of constantly looking for replacement staff.  And when we train more apprentices, we ultimately create happier owners, because they can feel more secure in knowing there’s a more abundant pool of qualified talent to choose from + they don’t have to tolerate poor performance.

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