Pay will attract, culture will retain

The current labor shortage is proving to be one of the most severe and costly impacts of the pandemic.  Economists have indicated that a labor shortage was inevitable due to the aging and retirement of the Baby Boomers, but the pandemic has accelerated it.  As we navigate these unprecedented times, employers are looking for creative ways to help them hire and retain qualified staff.

Pay and benefits are the starting point to get employees in the door, but it’s the intangibles that will keep them with you.  We’ve polled a sampling of our clients, and many have indicated that it all comes down to the relationships and making the employees feel valued.  Employees want to work in an atmosphere that inspires growth and development, and one where they feel like they are part of something bigger – part of a team and serving a purpose.  Restaurant owners are excellent at serving their customers, but they must find ways to better serve their internal customers – their employees.  In the October 2021 issue of Georgia Trend, Karen Bremer, president and CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, was quoted as saying, “The [restaurateurs] who are doing better are the ones that understand that the employee experience in their business is critical to the success of their restaurant and retaining their customers. The way you treat your workers in your restaurant is how they’re going to treat your guests.”

The following are some ways to elevate the employee experience.

  1. Get the employees you want by offering competitive pay and benefits. Restaurant work is hard, and employees don’t feel they’ve historically been paid enough for their efforts.  Restaurants are now paying record-high wages and unsurprisingly passing those costs through to the customers through menu price increases.  Health insurance and retirement benefits, such as a 401(k) plan, are other items included in a well-rounded benefits package.  Paying well and offering valuable benefits equates to happier employees which should also increase retention.
  2. Keep the employees around by paying bonuses and honoring requests for flexible scheduling and time off. Many employers are offering retention or “stay” bonuses, with some paying incentives as frequently as weekly.   It is also important to allow and encourage time off since employees are overworked due to businesses being understaffed.  It may be challenging to honor time off requests but try to be as flexible as possible.  Consider implementing collaborative scheduling to allow employees to work together to cover shifts when someone needs to trade shifts or take time off.  They will feel empowered with the ability to set their own schedules and schedulers will feel less stress since they won’t have to bear the responsibility alone.
  3. Motivate employees with training and development opportunities and a clear path toward advancement. Since it is more challenging than ever for employers to hire experienced workers who already have the skills they need, on-the-job training is crucial. Many employers find this to be more beneficial than retraining employees although the initial training can be quite the investment. Well-trained employees can help train new employees, effectively replacing themselves from entry-level positions as they move up to other positions.  This continuous development cycle shows your employees that you are committed to their growth.  It is important for employees to see they have room to advance and have a career path in your organization.  Make sure to communicate regularly to let them know about opportunities and resources you can offer them.
  4. Celebrate employees by recognizing their accomplishments. It is important to acknowledge successes and achievements of your top performers. Recognition goes a long way toward boosting morale and building engagement. It can motivate underperformers to step up their game.  Recognition is most effective when it is done timely and is personalized.  Options for recognizing employees include an Employee of the Month program, an award presented to an employee in a staff meeting or posting photos of employees on social media with a nice caption about their achievements.
  5. Offer perks to show your employees you appreciate them. Keeping the fridge stocked with snacks and drinks, offering free or discounted meals, planning fun activities outside of work, and on-the-job games that promote teamwork are all ways to build engagement and show your employees you appreciate and value them.  Ask your employees for ideas and preferences, too, as they are more likely to participate in activities that interest them.

Developing a positive and productive workplace culture can take time, but there are also some steps that employers can take to make a more immediate impact. You can read more here from Carrie Smith, a Senior Manager with our Financial Accounting Services Team.

In the meantime, please contact us and we can provide more resources for you and your business.

Lindsey M. Pierce, CPA, is a Partner with Antares Group, Inc. She can be reached at

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