June 1, 2017 |

Fire Up the Feedback

By Pizza Today

Do you give smart employee reviews?

Are you updating your pizzeria’s Facebook and Twitter pages more often than providing performance feedback? Just like you, your employees want a constant stream of likes, comments and constructive redirects. With life, love and careers moving at an instant, employee feedback must follow suit and occur frequently.

“We have to understand the generation we’re working with is on social media and thrives on constant feedback,” says Dan Walker, director of national training and development at Little Caesars Pizza. “If they’re only getting feedback annually, chances are, with a turnover rate of 150 percent, they’re not going to be there for their yearly review. If you want to keep them, give encouragement and reviews frequently.” By implementing more regular employee reviews, you can reduce turnover and boost your restaurant’s productivity and profitability.

But as a busy pizza restaurant owner, what are some critical ways to ensure they’re useful and how do you create the time for additional reviews? Here are four ways operators can conduct productive employee reviews on a timely basis:

1. Set expectations from day one. From the onboarding process, tell your hires how your review system connects to their job description, your expectations and your brand’s core values. Explain how often reviews occur and what they contain by showing the form or giving a detailed explanation. This way, your employees will know to expect daily feedback, a monthly casual one-on-one and a more formal review every six months, for example.

“Everyone needs to know where they stand. Are you setting expectations at the beginning of what you want from their performance?” says Carrie Luxem, CEO of Restaurant HR Group. “I use analogies like building a sports team. You’re the coach, and you need to be comfortable saying daily where they stand. Sometimes it’s constructive, but you need to be honest.”

2. Create an ongoing two-way conversation. Giving feedback each day creates a dialogue that reduces turnover as well as any surprises at more formal reviews. It also assists in connecting operators and managers with their employees. If your staff knows shift by shift what’s expected, they’ll be more productive and make more sales, which helps your bottom line.

“I think feedback has to be honest and action oriented,” explains Joleen Goronkin, founder and president of People & Performance Strategies. “‘What exactly do I need to do?’

Describe the behavior, not the person. Don’t say ‘you’re lazy’; say, ‘here are three examples of your productivity being less than the standard.’”

Pinthouse Pizza’s director of operations, Kyle Detrick, says their employees love the opportunity to have a constant feedback loop in addition to a way to get information about their performance from up and down the chain.

At Little Caesars Pizza, managers utilize the sandwich method for feedback: say something good, say something to be improved upon and end on something good. For instance, explain that the sheet out looks great, but they need to get it closer to the edge of the pan. By slowing down and concentrating on quality, their speed will come with practice. “We have one of the lowest turnovers and one of the highest dollars-per-man-hour productivity,” says Walker. “Because of our low turnover, we’re able to increase productivity, and that helps us keep costs down for the consumer.”

3. Hold a formal review during an anniversary. Whether it occurs every 30, 60 or 90 days, or at the six-month mark, planning a sit-down review on an anniversary date makes it easier to track and accomplish. If you’re implementing daily check-ins with constant conversation, these more formal reviews could be as short as 30 minutes because your employees know what’s coming. This review isn’t just a form to fill out or a legal requirement. It’s truly about communicating strengths, weaknesses and goals.

“Any time you talk to anybody, listen. Be intent, be focused and give them all of your attention,” explains Detrick. “For us, it works to have a template. It’s very much a living document that we update about every six months.” Crafting a template can speed up the review process, but also provide clear guidelines for operators to give feedback to staff and vice versa.

During the evaluation, owners should be asking questions like the following as well as reinforcing expectations and reiterating the employee’s job description:

  • What do you like best here and what would you change?
  • What are your goals outside of work?
  • What customers can you tell me about?
  • Do you have any product or process ideas?
  • Is there anything I can do to make your job easier or better?

“The more frequent the reviews are, the shorter and less painful they are,” says Goronkin, “If you have weekly check-ins, ask for their biggest accomplishments, their roadblocks and what they’re working on for next week. If you ask those questions every week, think how much easier quarterly or semi-annual situations are.”

4. Re-think your scheduling. It seems like it takes additional time, but increasing the frequency of feedback means less time spent for all at formal reviews.

Pinthouse Pizza schedules differently when it’s review time. They have a manager-in-training (MIT) who moves around the schedule to create free time for managers to perform one-on-one reviews. Although it costs extra to pay the MIT, it’s worth it because building rapport with your team builds rapport with customers, which leads to increases in productivity and sales.

“It’s more of a mindset the leaders have to have in the restaurant; that they know it’s important to have these conversations,” says Luxem. “Put time and energy into training the people responsible for the team about how important it is to have ongoing conversations and give hard feedback on a regular basis.”

Mandy Ellis  is an Austin-based freelance writer who covers food, health and travel trends.