Staff Recruitment and Retention – Finding Solutions
Staff shortages are more difficult than ever, and the same-old recruitment methods won't fix the problem. Cafe, restaurant and foodservice operators need to find much better ways to promote their workplace, and rethink what they offer.
In this very practical webinar, we will cover:
How to write advertisements that attract the right people - take a marketing approach, not just a list of demands. There are so many mistakes made in this critical area.
'Out of the box' thinking to find more candidates from a wider range of channels
Meeting the market with salaries and conditions.
How to move much more quickly with applicants – streamline the process and watch for red flags.
The role of recruiters and external consultants.
Speedy induction and on-the-job training.
Maintaining a positive and productive work culture - become the local 'employer of choice'.
Guest experts: James Dillamore, recruitment expert from The People Pipeline, and consultant chef and business mentor Paul Rifkin
Key Points from the Webinar on Staff Recruitment & Retention
Hospitality recruitment processes have changed significantly in recent decades as a result of new online systems. And when the Covid 19 pandemic hit, many professionals left the sector or lost their jobs, creating a massive loss of talent.
Staff shortages and retention are currently two of the biggest concerns for restaurant owners, leading to the development of new recruitment methods and better ways to promote the workplace.
How to write advertisements that attract the right people? 90% of recruitment advertisements are formatted like a list of demands rather than an invitation. Restaurant owners should take a marketing approach to advertise and clearly define the values that they want from the applicants.
Advertisements should not be a long list of demands, but mainly focused on benefits
Negative language should be avoided
Don’t be frugal with the size of your advertisements, and make them as descriptive as possible
Include sections that describe and promote the culture of the workplace,
Demonstrate to prospective employees that your company is flexible and accommodating of their family and personal commitments
If you are set up to sponsor applicants on visitor's visa, highlight that as a key benefit on the advertisement
Try to appeal to as many sectors of the market as possible
Indicate what's important to you in terms of personality and behaviour
Include staff meals as an incentive
Do not put the salary in the advertisement - hold that for a discussion
If you are trying to attract someone to a rural area offer incentives like assistance with moving costs, subsidised or free rent, and highlight the attractions of the area.
How to find more candidates from a wider range of channels
As a restaurant owner, you need to be more innovative and use a wide range of channels.
Make use of ‘Mum force’ by hiring three or four employees that are flexible with their hours. Create a roster for them to fill a role that does not require someone who will work 40 or 38 hours.
Allow students to come in and learn to cook for a short period during the school vacations by offering school-based apprenticeships. Make sure you are strategic in how you use and train them.
Consider hiring people in the 40-50 age group if you think there are talented, motivated, and capable of performing at your restaurant.
Start to sell cheffing to prospective students as a viable career option - visit schools and colleges.
Meet the market with salaries and conditions. There has been a big increase in what candidates are expecting for jobs in the hospitality industry and restaurant owners are having to get more and more competitive with what they are offering to attract people.
Restaurant owners must make an effort to offer competitive salaries by adopting salary banding, which shows candidates jobs within a certain range, such as $65K to $80K, without putting the exact salary level on the advertisement.
Following that, candidates must be screened and asked the following questions to get a sense of where they stand.
What is your current salary level?
What is your expectation ?
Restaurants should understand that chefs work want to work full-time plus reasonable overtime, and owners don’t want authorities cracking down on them for unpaid work. Chefs are increasingly reluctant to work the long hours previously expected.
How to streamline the application process and watch for red flags? James Dillamore recommends the best system to use for recruiting is a CARS (Candidate Aggregating Rating System), and it's essentially a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for processing applications for recruitment. Restaurant owners can make the application process more efficient by:
Using CARS to have response templates set up and ready to use
Respond quickly and process every application you receive
Engage with people, talk to them, get them in and get them interested - same day response is essentail
Strategically pipeline talent and keep the conversation going.for future opportunities
What is the role of recruiters and external consultants? Most restaurant owners do not thoroughly vet their candidates and make hasty hiring decisions, which necessitates the use of external consultants. The role of recruiters and external consultants is to:
Attract, recruit, and retain the best talent for you
Access the best candidates available in the market
Setting up systems like the Candidate Aggregate Rating System
Teach restaurant owners how to build a talent acquisition strategy that's consistent
Teach restaurant owners how to constantly pipeline talent
Maintain a database of potential candidates and pick the best one that's available
Rapid induction and on-the-job training It's important to get recruits working productively as soon as possible, and to make them feel that they're an important part of the business. Do this by:
Developing an intensive onboarding system that covers all the areas that they need to know
Incorporating new hires into the company's culture and ensuring that they feel like part of the team.
Deciding what kind of training you'll provide them if they're missing certain skills.
The long-term benefit is that you will have engaged, capable personnel and you will not have to go through the endless hamster wheel of recruitment and retraining.
How to maintain a positive and productive work culture It’s important to ensure that those who work at your establishment are positive and productive - if people are happy where they are, they will not leave, and you will quickly become the 'employer of choice' in the area. This can be accomplished by:
Let your employees know that their role in the business is necessary
Give regular feedback so employees know when their performance is pleasing
Coach head chefs and managers to respect all members of their staff
Train them how to communicate when there is a problem
Teaching managers how to hold people accountable.
Coach and practice how to have difficult conversations
Never correct or disciple a head chefs in front of the staff.
Teach them how encourage and accept feedback from the team
Train employees who are not fast enough, how to improve their performance
Transcript of Webinar on Staff Recruitment & Retention
Ken Burgin: Let me introduce our guests today, Paul Rifkin, Consultant Chef. I've known Paul for about 15 years. He has a huge amount of experience, and a big heart too. I've watched the way Paul has trained and developed hundreds of people, really over the years. And he certainly knows a lot about how to retain, and recruit people.
James Dillamore is a very successful, and experienced hospitality recruiter, and knows the market extremely well - he's going to be giving us some great insights.
And my colleague Nikki Smith who is one of our business development managers at Silver Chef, she travels around the countryside, talking to smaller operators, cafes, restaurants, pubs, and she has some pretty accurate insights, I think, into what works with successful businesses, and staffing is a key part of that.
My background, restaurants, and cafes in Sydney quite a few years, that's a while ago. I've been working with Silver Chef for the last five years, before that, I had my own consultant business.
So, let's get into the details now folks, and one of the main things we're going to talk about and show you some better ways to work is, about writing better advertisements. And if you look at that list of words there against the bullet points, you'll see, what, I guess about 90% of ads that I see, that it seems like that's all that people put down. It's like a list of demands. "You must do this, you must be this, you must be that." And we all listen to radio, What's In It For Me, and I don't know that a lot of those words really resonate with a lot of people. James, any comments on the ads that you see, the ads that don't work?
I think that a lot of advertising seems to be thrown together, and as you said, a list of demands rather than an invitation, which is, I think, how adverts should read, and so not particularly engaging is probably the best way to describe a lot of those ads that you see.
I spent about 20 odd years in hospitality operations before going into hospitality recruitment. Around seven years ago I set up my own business. I've seen massive changes in the market over the last seven years, and I think the advent of IT systems and AI has been massive. It's much easier to head hunt, and for want of a better expression, poach talent from places you want to try, it's way easier to do that now.
Obviously the change in the market in terms of the quantity of candidates has been massively impacted by what has happened over the last 18 months, and a lot of people have gone home, a lot of people were left out in the cold, and didn't have any work, so they got out of hospitality, and found jobs with other businesses, and other sectors, and have decided to stay there. It's just like the perfect storm of a lack of talent, and no new real talent coming into the market, which is creating, I guess, the issues that people are seeing at the moment.
Hey Paul, what's your reaction to our demanding list there? And tell us a bit about your background. I gave you a rap, but you give yourself a rap, tell us the sort of work you're doing at the minute too.
Re the list of demands... I saw a Facebook ad today for a chef, and it was more an insult, and telling everybody, "If you can't cut tomatoes don't apply, if you don't do this, don't do this, and you can't do that. I'm sick of being used by people." And I was thinking, is this an advert, do they actually want anybody to apply? And they're just out there to insult every possible person looking for the job. They may get someone, I don't know. It's so important not to have too much negative language.
I've been in hospitality as a chef for over 40 years, and for over 30 years of that I was an executive chef working in big places, big clubs. And three years ago, started out my own consultancy Chef `Paul Rifkin Consulting, and I work with clubs, pubs, and other organisation. And mentor executive chefs on how to build their team better, how to get better retention, how to improve profitability, and improve their offering basically, so it's more what the customer wants, rather than what the chef wants.
So, when you say, "Mentor executive chefs around their recruitment." What are some of the things you need to get them doing more of?
Well, first of, it's how do they look after the people they've got employed already? So, I'll have issues with the way that they're talking to people. Because I go in there, and I do a three day audit on them. It's more like a colonoscopy in some ways - nothing can be hidden. I find all the good stuff, and the bad stuff. And you watch, and observe behaviour. Over a few days, people's guards drop a little bit, and that way you can see the way they're actually treating the staff. Whether they're barking orders, or whether they're encouraging people who are not quite up to speed, or how do they deal with a service that's gone awry?
Do they beat them up, or do they pull them aside and point out the little things that need improvement. And it's also the same with bosses. Does the boss walk into the kitchen, and start berating the executive chef, or head chef, or lead chef, in front of the team? And that whole thing is just uncomfortable. So, that's what I identify, and then put strategies in place to reverse that a little bit. Because if you're going to retain it, as James will say, "If you can retain it, people won't actually leave." Even though poaching is a big thing, if people are comfortable where they are, they just won't leave. And I know that because I had an extremely low loss rate when I was at Campbelltown Catholic Club, and many chefs came, and stayed, as apprentices, and ended up being head chefs in restaurants that I had. So, 15, 16 year tenures.
What do you notice Nikki, when you're talking to smaller operators in your travels, what are their... The ones who seem to be satisfied with their staff, and don't complain maybe, what are some of their qualities?
They just seem to be happier, and more flexible. I've worked in clubs in my 20s, and there was sometimes a negative culture. And you still do see it in some places, where it's got to be this way, it's got to be right now, and the chef will yell. There are a lot of owner managers where I go in regional areas, it's a lot smaller, the owner is often the chef as well. But they just seem to be having more of a laugh, and working together, and it's like a family.
And because of that, the quality of the food that goes out is so much better, because everyone is invested. It's not, "I'm just doing this for a wage." Instead: "I'm doing this for my friends."
I've got a couple of examples of ad. I took bad ads and did a little bit of rewriting for them. The one from Café Zero is a rural location, and the one from Café Troppo is a city. So, I'm just curious, Paul and James, any feedback on those, anything you would add to improve the ads, or something like that?
The first thing that jumps out at me is modern kitchen. There's nothing worse than a chef having to work in a kitchen where the oven door is kept up by a little hook that they've got to throw over, or there's a six burner stove, but only three burners work. Or the other two are intermittent, so you're always chasing yourself. Fryers that don't work correctly.
Modern kitchen, happy team. Free parking. If that's in a place where parking is hard to get, that's an absolute win.
I think for an ad that size, there's only so much information you can fit in there, but I think the key words are really good. And then, if there was a bit more space, I would definitely start to add some other sections around the role, and the culture of the business, or benefits of working there. But, I think if you're looking at a snap shot, that's pretty good. It's got all the key points.
I'm old enough to remember advertising in, The Sydney Morning Herald for me, when you paid by the word, and were very frugal with the size of the ads. Now you can write away. You don't need to be short and tight like this.
I asked James and Paul for some feedback on what makes for successful recruitment, and they gave me a list, and I added some of my things. And we put a big fat list together of the benefits that you may want to use, whether it's in an ad, or in the conversation. It might be on the workplace webpage on your website. Paul, with your work, what are some of the priority pointers that you would include from this list?
Well, definitely the flexible roster, which was on the other one also. I've written down two weekends off per month. At the moment, people have had a lot of time off over the last 12 months in various forms, certainly in the three month lockdown. And places like Melbourne had a lot more. And the intermittent nature of all the different lockdowns they've had. The one thing that has come out of it is that, the majority have found that they've enjoyed their family life a lot more, they've been introduced to family they may not have seen for 10 years, or whatever. I certainly know what that feels like.
All of a sudden, work is not number one. Priorities have been modified, and family has now become more of a number one. And then work is down the line a little bit. And so, it's very important that a business is able to be flexible, and deal with that, because staff will go home if children are sick. Once upon a time, they would work out who's going to do what, or try and work out things, but now, I'm seeing a lot more that the staff just simply go. And if you are not providing that flexibility for weekends so they can go to footy, and things like that, admittedly, the businesses have still got to run. But if you're not letting them come in later on a Saturday, or just giving them options to be flexible, then that's going to make it hard.
I think we potentially touched on it a little earlier, but I think sponsorship is a key benefit as well. At the moment, there's obviously really limited talent available, and a lot of the talent that is available is sponsored, and a lot of the talent within the cities that is sponsored, has a pathway to permanent residency, if they go to regional areas. So, particularly if you are in a regional area, if you are set up as a sponsoring business, I would recommend listing that as a key benefit on the job ad.
And you might find someone on a graduate visa who can start straight away, who is looking for a pathway to PR, that needs regional sponsorship. And you'll actually attract some really good people that way.
Ken Burgin: By graduate, what, in a hospitality degree? Or just any sort of degree?
Any sort of degree. People come into Australia to study, and they tend to work in hospitality to support that study, and while they're working in hospitality, quite often, they'll just complete diplomas. And once you've got enough relevant experience, and those qualifications, you actually have a pathway to permanent residency if you work regionally for a period of time. So, that's one example of sponsorship, but if you are set up as a sponsoring business, I would, at the moment, absolutely put it on the ad, because it can entice. I suppose, for me, at the end of the day, when I'm writing an ad, I'm trying to appeal to as many people as possible. As many parts of the market as possible. And I might get some really good applications, maybe they're not quite right for that role, but they might be right for another one.
What you're really trying to do is get as many clicks, and conversation starters, as possible. So I think that's just a really good avenue, just to get some more interest.
So, Sarah has made an interesting point in the chat, that sponsorship is great if there's a process, but for her team members that haven't been processed for 18 months, and we hear lots of stories about Home Affairs, whatever... It is Home Affairs, I think, isn't it, who are just not handling it. Have you guys got any feedback on that?
I have. I placed a chef three weeks ago, and his visa is going to be approved next week, so I'm not sure what's going on in that situation. I know it has been slower, but they are going through, but it is taking a bit longer.
Interesting. Culture is one of the words on the last bullet point. James, you're quite clear that that's an important part of promoting a job. What's the C word? We're not talking about movies and music here, are we? What are we talking about?
It's about the values, either of your organisation, or if you're a small business, as you, as an employer. So what's important to you from a personality and behaviour perspective, and a good way to describe values, what you value, is behaviours, so whether it's a supporting culture, whether it's open, whether it's strong communication, ambitious. Whatever those words are, it's really important to use those words, and also put them into the context of the behaviours you want to see. And in my experience, if you do that well, you will resonate with candidates who think the same way as you. And that's where advertising is just one small part of recruitment. That probably forms about 20% of the placements I make, actually come from advertising. So, I'd just like to make that clear.
I think that having values, and behaviours in your advertising is super important, because you're speaking to your target audience when you use that language.
Have you had any recent examples, of where you've been speaking clearly about culture, and that's got a response?
Yes. Part of the brief I take from my clients when I start an engagement with them, is understanding them, their values, and how their business operates. How they make decisions. And I'll write about that in the advertising, so most of the ads I put up will have a section on culture and values. I'm making a placement at the moment, a high end French restaurant, and they were very specific about their values and their culture - they wanted someone humble, honest, and it's a very high performing business, they go in for chef's hats, so we really drilled down into that on the advertising, and all the reach out to the candidates in the database. And ended up getting a really solid response.
I'm curious about the word humble. It's not one I would normally have associated with busy restaurants.
Paul Rifkin: Not a chef anyway.
Well I think it's humble... I don't know, I disagree with that. You do come across chefs who are not all about stamping their feet, who are more humble and relaxed.
And that's what they're looking for in their kitchen. They want a nurturing personality. And that's why it's so important to have that in the advert.
Ken Burgin: I like the way you've described it.
If I had sent them a Gordon Ramsey pan thrower, that wouldn't have gone down. And it's a new opening, and as all of you know, you've got one chance to make a first impression. You've got to get it right. And that's why having that in there was so important. And I think that's why we've found the right person is, because we really zeroed in on that particular trait, because that's how the executive chef is. He doesn't want someone who is not like him. So, that's the way... I suppose that's why we do it.
I was just going to say, one of the things on the list that's there is, staff meals. I'm really surprised when I see on a lot of the Facebook forums, people that ask, "Should I charge my staff for the meals?" And I just personally feel that that's so wrong on so many levels. One, it's going to improve your culture by including staff meals, but I worked front of house, and our chef encouraged, and insisted that we tried all the meals on the menu, so when customers asked us about them, we could give an honest review. And people know when you're talking from the heart, that you've actually tried the food, as to whether or not you're just parroting what a chef has told you to say. And it's a way to sell your product, by having your staff know exactly what it is, what it tastes like, where it comes from. I think we've all experienced that with a quality wait staff, that knows their product.
Paul, culture... How should a small operator, do you think, communicate about culture. Because intangible words like this are not easy for a lot of people to talk about. A lot of Aussies don't talk about emotions too much, do they? But here, we're talking in intangible terms.
The reality is that, as James says, you need to have balance in the kitchen. So there can be strong personalities, but you can't have all strong personalities trying to work in the kitchen, because nothing gets done. And you can't have all the creatives in the kitchen, because everybody want to be challenging each other. So, it's working out what the actual requirement is for that kitchen, what's the best fit? Sometimes, all you want is a humble person who is just going to be in the corner, and do everything they're told to exactly the same standard as what you require it to be. But it still comes down to, "What's in it for me?" So, from the chef's point of view, when they go into a small place, they want to know that they're going to be looked after. Opportunity for training, opportunity for growth. Profit sharing is one of those words that I just don't like, because more often than not, it turns out to be worth nothing. And yet it's something that they can write on paper and dangle like a little carrot out the front.
‘Profit share’ is a bit of a red flag for some.
Well it is. In my experience it never really works. And I know some small cafes put that in, and that's how they try and attract people. They'll say, "Oh, we're giving a profit share to try and get them involved." But it does really just come down to: is the kitchen happy? Happy and supported, and that's really the culture that you're looking for. "Supportive," is actually the biggest word.
I know we've got a few students on here from William Angliss. I'm just curious about your experience applying for jobs, because I know you've probably got part-time work, and what's resonated in ads? When, what was promised actually turned out to be true? It would be great if you could drop a few comments in the chat, that would be really useful.
Any other of the pointers there that you think are not mentioned often enough? Paul, what about in rural areas, what are some of the things there that you think should be mentioned more often, or promised, or part of the list of benefits?
Well, the benefits are, if you're trying to attract someone to a rural area, who are after a lifestyle change, and there's lots of chefs that don't want to be in Sydney, or don't want to be in Melbourne, or don't want to be in capital cities any more. And are more open to go into regional areas, and bring their family, and go for a change of lifestyle.
So, assisting people with moving, providing subsidised or free rent for a certain period. I definitely know of places that offer rent included when they're trying to get chefs. And also be very mindful about poaching. And I know that's something that recruiters are good at, with their pipelines, and people that they have everywhere, but when you're in a small place, if it happens to you, it's going to happen to the other person, and you're just going to keep stealing off each other continuously. So, that's something to be very, very mindful of.
And I certainly deal with people who refuse to take people from other places, that are their competition, especially in the same town. I'm up here on the Northern Rivers in NSW, where everything is a small place, and they just know that if they take from them, someone's going to take from them exactly the same. And so it just goes round and round.
Let’s talk about looking more widely for job candidates. Paul, you've been working up around Byron Bay, and Norther Rivers area, tell us about what you've been doing?
Various places are obviously offering things like, as I said before, it's a lifestyle change, but also, there's local produce, especially in regional areas, and a lot of chefs love to use local produce. And when you're in smaller places, and smaller towns, the produce is so much closer to you. So, food miles, all those sorts of things, become really important. But also important is looking at what the actual person, or the requirement of the job is. There's a big cooking force out there called the mum force.
Mum force. They've been cooking forever, and sometimes that's the role that's required is that you don't need someone who is going to work 40, or 38 hours a week, really all you're wanting someone for is 10 or 12 hours a week. And maybe you get three or four of them, and yes, that's not as a good as having one person, but if it's all managed correctly, and you create a roster and make it work. And it's certainly what's working in smaller areas, and where there's less people to draw from, is looking at, what's the actual requirement of the job. It's fine to say, "I want a chef." But maybe you don't need a chef. Maybe you just need someone who can do these activities, and do them well, and not bring their own preconceived notions in there, so it can quite often work out a lot easier for you to run the kitchen.
And it's just looking at the variables. Another big one is the school based apprenticeships, in that, you've got kids who will make it part of the HSC, and so for two years, for two days a week, and for more days a week during the school holidays, you've got kids that are coming in, and learning to cook, and doing their apprenticeship at, yes, a slower pace, but apprentices... The main reason why there's a shortage of chefs is because there just hasn't been that pool of apprentices coming through over the last 10 or 15 years.
Hotels, traditionally were the conduit for apprentices, and they've been not taking them for probably the last decade. Outsourcing more of their products. And now we have a shortage of chefs, and we need to import them. More important, I believe is, we need to grow them. And that's a positive language that all chefs need, and hospitality needs to do as a force, is to be going out there, and selling it in schools to the younger people, that it's a viable option. That cheffing is a real career, and there is lifestyle involved in it. And with all these variables that are around, and flexibility, it can be a very viable career.
So, Paul, the small operators that Nikki sees a lot of, might be saying, "Yeah, yeah, that's all very well, but we're so tight here, we've only got six people. Can't afford the time off to even help a trainee." How do we make this more accessible to the little operators? I mean, to me, clubs and pubs should have an obligation to do that, because they've got the money, and the resources, but what's your advice for a small operator?
Traditionally the smaller operators have been the ones that have taken apprentices in as kitchen hands, and used them as cheap labour. Now they have to be smarter about the way they use and train.
And to say that they can't afford to, then it's like, "What are your options?" You have to be more flexible, and you have to be more creative in what you're using to fill the workforce.
Hey James, what about people in the 40, 50 age group, who are pretty vocal about the fact they feel left out and overlooked. It's a huge workforce, but others will say, "Not as flexible. Not as available, Don't move quickly enough." What's your observations?
I think that's a really difficult question to answer. It varies massively from business to business. I obviously can't mention any clients' names, but age is definitely something that comes up in the brief-taking conversation. Particularly if it's a front of house role. And it does vary from front of house, to back of house to be fair. My perception might be slightly skewed, because I tend to work with bigger organisations. I don't tend to work with the smaller businesses, I suppose, purely as a function of cost, and they maybe don't need the support the bigger businesses do. I don't think there's a higher ratio of older workers who aren't getting work, from what I can see. There's definitely a lot of skill, and a lot of talent, it's just, as Paul was saying, it's about being creative with what's available to you. It's one thing having a picture in your mind of what you want. But if you can't have that, then you've got to find another way.
I think, if there's someone talented, motivated, and capable of performing what you need them to perform in your restaurant, then I don't think age should be a barrier to that.
Paul, have you had success with older workers? I'm interested in the mum force, and they're probably those people in the 30 plus age group?
Moving around, I've come across quite a number of chefs who are even older than me, hands on, quite often they've been semi-retired as executive chefs from years gone by. They're in their late 60s, early 70s, and they love being in a kitchen, and all they really want is four or eight hours a week, and perfect for a Friday night, Saturday, or Saturday, Sunday, those sorts of things.
And there's definitely lots of older workers out there, who are keen just to do a little bit of work.
And having a lot of people that are flexible on their hours is also really handy. When I used to do rosters, I'd give all new staff members three highlighters. Highlight green the ones you really want to work, yellow the ones you're available, but would prefer not to, and red, things that you absolutely can't work. Because people have commitments. And I found that I had never any problem, because some people wanted to work Sunday for the extra money, whereas other didn't because they had other commitments.
Interesting. Okay, let's jump on to our next topic about pay, and conditions. James can you give us some guidance on how pay rates have increased. There is an award rate that we all know about, let's talk about kitchen staff?
Yes, I have seen a massive increase in salary demands.
It's been really quite significant. For a while I was calling it the Crown Casino effect, that they were opening, or planning to open their casino as this shortage was really manifesting itself, and they're opening some massive budget, huge operations, high quality, and they basically were eating up all of the talent in Sydney. And as a result, they were advertising $75K plus super for CDP – Chef de Partie positions. That's a good salary for sous chef 18 months ago. And all of a sudden CDPs see that, and every CDP wants 75k. So I have seen a big increase in what the candidates are expecting. So, I suppose the way that I'm advising my clients to advertise at the moment is not to put the salary on the advert.
So, certainly when I'm speaking to chefs, I won't put $75K on a CDP advert, because everyone wants $75K, and as soon as you ask them what they're on, it's $75K. So, what I'll do is almost sync salary banding, which the candidates can't see, but the search functions, it will show them jobs within that range, I'll put 65 to whatever the max is. 80, I think it is. But I won't put the actual salary level on the advert, so they won't know. And then, as part of my first stage screen, I'll ask them specifically, "What's your current salary level?" And that way, you get a far truer reflection of where they are, and what their expectation is.
Chef de Partie is the person in the engine room. They do a lot of the hard work.
James, what about conditions? How have conditions changed, or expectations, and what's being offered?
Well, I think there's a couple of things at play there. One, people are having to get more and more competitive with what they're offering to attract people. And two, it's been well documented, well publicised, Fair Work have been cracking down over the last three or four years, on businesses for flogging chefs basically, making them work 60 hours a week. Particularly those on visas, who have been particularly, I guess, affected by this. And there's been a couple of big court cases. Fair Work took Rockpool Dining to court. I think they were fined about six millions dollars in back pay, and labour wage theft. QT hotels also got a couple of million fine. Mirabelle are being investigated at the moment, I'm not sure if it's come to an end, but they certainly were being looked at by Fair Work. George Calombaris very publicly was disgraced as well.
So, one, employers are seeing that and realising they can't get away with what they used to get away with. And two, a lot of the chefs on the market know this, have seen it, and have seen people get back pay, and know people who worked at those businesses. So, they're really hot on their rights now.
So, I think businesses are having to learn how to work with full-time plus reasonable overtime. So, it's actually getting more and more uncommon to find chefs being expected to work more than 45 hours without overtime now. Whereas three or four years ago, 60 hours was common, and that's it, like it or lump it.
Interesting to see in some of the chef forums on Facebook, people innocently put up ads with seriously low salaries, and are absolutely slammed by the court of public opinion there.
Processing applicants. James, when we talked before, you mentioned how a lot of people seemed to take a long time to move, but your process... Just tell us about how you respond, from the minute, an email drops in from an advertisement or something like that.
I use a candidate aggregating system, and essentially it's like a CRM system, but for recruitment. I actually write and create all my advertising within that CRM system. I then press a button, and it is posted out to whichever job boards I choose, I've got about nine or 10 I use, one I pay for, the rest are free job boards, like Indeed, and Jora. So all of my applications come into one place. I've got various response templates set up, ranging from, "Your application looks great, I've tried to call, I can't reach you, I'd love to chat, please ring me back." To, "Thanks for applying, but it's not quite right this time. I'll give you a call down the track if something more suitable comes along."
But generally, every morning, before I do anything else, I try and respond, or process every application I've got in, because if you see a rock star, and that rock star is on the market, and in your inbox, I can guarantee you, they're in about 10 other people's inbox. And if you don't move on it, they're gone.
Call them a week later, and people are surprised that they've got a job. It's a candidate short market, you've got to move fast. You're not holding all the aces in the pack. You've got to engage with people, you've got to talk to them, you've got to get them in, you've got to get them interested. And as I said earlier, they might not be right at that time. They might not be ready to leave, it might not be quite the right job, but if that's a good candidate for your business, they're culturally aligned, they're talented, keep the conversation going. And in six months, you might have the perfect job for them. And that's where my processes really help businesses, because then you're strategically pipelining talent, rather than reactive advertising, which is what 90% of businesses do. And if you that, all you're getting is the person that applies, and not the best person.
So, you've put a course together to teach people how to manage this whole recruitment process. Tell us a little bit about what's involved with the course?
It's about how to attract, recruit, and retain the best talent for your business. And the whole philosophy is that, recruitment isn't something you do on Thursday because you need someone on Friday. If that's your mentality, you've already lost. You're going to need to call me, and get me to recruit for you, if that's how you're recruiting. So, it's about setting up systems like the candidate aggregate rating system, the CRM system I was talking about just a minute ago. It's about teaching people how to build a talent acquisition strategy that's constant, that's constantly rolling. So you know what the key roles are in your business, you know where the pressure points are. You're constantly looking for those people, you're constantly pipelining, you're constantly talking to them. So when that gap opens up, you've already got seven or eight phone numbers, and you know the right people to call and get in to your business.
And it's about teaching people that it's a strategy, it's not just banging up an advert and hoping for the best.
A lot of people want to just valiantly soldier on all by themselves, and they feel they can't afford to get outside expertise, what's the value Paul, of getting someone like you along? Or another consultant? What do you do that people can't do themselves?
Well, I can point them in the direction of what their requirements really are, but for some people there are web based applications and HR-systems out there, whereby they're constantly looking, like the job board is up there, it funnels into a website, the website is separating what the requirements are in the job, from the form that they've filled out, and then they have that pipeline in that business constantly, of people that are looking for those particular things. And there are definitely organisations out there that I know that do it. And businesses haven't found themselves looking, because there's a constant queue of people waiting to get into that particular business. And yes, there is a cost associated with having that continually running, but it really depends. I'm talking about businesses that have over a hundred staff. And so these things make a lot of sense.
I basically offer two services, one is recruitment, so I'll actually do it for you. The other service is the course which we just touched on. But if I recruit for you, you're accessing the best candidates available in the market, rather than the best one that applies to that one ad. And I suppose the best way to understand that is, only 20% of candidates who are open to moving jobs, or actively looking at any one time. So, if you put your ad up, you're actually only appealing to 20% of the market. And it's probably on a percentage of that 20% that happens to be on Seek that day.
Whereas, the way that I recruit, yes, I advertise all the roles, but I'm continuously pipelining talent, as we talked about a moment ago, so I'm head hunting, I'm networking, I'm filing. I'm storing people away into folders. I've got folders for sous chefs, CDPs, restaurant managers, so when a client calls me and says, "James, I really need talent." I'm going to very quickly be able to go through my database, go through all the paid for databases, run an advertising campaign, and then present a suitable shortlist of candidates who are qualified for the role. So you can pick the best one that's available, rather than just John, because he applied on Thursday.
James, let’s talk about poaching. I was interested, you said 20% of the people who were open to moving or interested in moving, but not actively looking. I liked the distinction you drew there. But Paul was a bit savage about poaching before, are you guys on opposite sides here or is it something?
Well, it's what I do. I connect talent that's interested in moving with culturally aligned businesses looking for that skill set. That's what I do.
And if that person is open to having a conversation, then I will introduce them. That's the way the world works. But I would never submit a resume of someone who didn't want to have a conversation, or wasn't open to it. So, I suppose I'd like to make the point that it's always the candidate's decision whether or not they get poached, or they get put forward for a role.
One of the questions I ask them is, what businesses do you aspire to be like? Where do you like to hire people from? And I will target those companies. Yes. To answer that question.
Interesting. Good point. Okay. Speedy induction. Paul, you had a few comments when I was talking to you recently about getting people up to speed quickly, and feeling part of the business that they've joined.
You have to have an onboarding system, that is actually effective. Staff will come in when they're new, they're unsure of themselves. And if there's not... To get just thrown straight into it is not the most conducive way to keep a staff member. They have to feel part of the team, so, buddy systems, clear goals, clear roles, there has to be something there. It's not a 20 minute thing where, this is it, induction's done, get in and do it, and start doing your job. So it's very important that you work out what that onboarding looks like. And that it does cover off on all the areas that you say that people need to have.
So, if you say they've got to have a food handling certificate, or it says that they've got to have a certain qualification, or they've got to have certain skills, then make sure that they actually do, and if not, what training are you going to give? I know businesses are so busy, "Just get in there and start doing it." And I've even watched them. I've watched casual chefs come in and not know what to do for three hours, and I shake my head. It's important that you are very clear in what you're providing for that new staff member.
James with your A grade clients, let's call them that. Businesses that you know will do a great job with new hires, what are some of the elements of that. What makes their induction system good?
I think what Paul said is absolutely right. Just making it abundantly clear what the expectation is. And also making sure, I know we've said the word before, but culture is important, so induct them into that as well. Make sure they feel part of the crew.
Make them feel welcome. I've seen chefs, and restaurant managers, on their first day, be put in charge of the restaurant on a Friday night. That is not a smart thing to do. If it's going to blow up, if you're going to break it, that's how you break it. And when the client rings me up and asks why they didn't work out, and it's like, "Well, you kind of shot yourself in the foot there, mate."
I've got one client in particular in Melbourne with about 70 restaurants, and they are amazing at onboarding. They've got a full six week training programme for their managers. So they go to all the stations. They learn how to run the till, they learn how to run the floor, they learn how to run food, they learn absolutely everything. It's a casual dining restaurant, there's nothing too taxing. They learn how to be a grill chef, they learn about stock rotation, they learn about ordering. They learn how to manage cost of goods.
They learn how to do the end of week banking from a management perspective. They learn how to write rosters, and it all gets signed off. And they don't actually do their first shift in charge of the restaurant until they've completed that. And their staff retention is fantastic. I love working for them.
And it's such a good sell to the candidates as well. I've had such good feedback from the candidates I've placed in that business. I can genuinely talk about it to the candidates I'm recruiting.
But it's not free. You have to invest in it. Then the longer term benefit is, you're going to have engaged, capable employees. And you're not going to have to do this constant hamster wheel of recruitment, retraining, recruitment, retraining.
Paul, here you are in some pictures I grabbed from your LinkedIn. You're very proud of your work, and you're very proud of the work you've done with trainees, and you've always taken a selfie there, which I like. Is there any other things that we haven't mentioned so far about maintaining a productive culture, and becoming the place that everyone wants to work?
Well, it's ensuring that you're holding the staff up. That's something that I've always tried to do for my whole career is. While it's nice to be the person in charge and get all the accolades, it's extremely important to make sure that people who are doing the work, right down to the lowest one, that you are holding them up, that you're letting them know that their role, and their job, and their performance, is not only acceptable, it's so necessary.
With kitchen hands, the ones that are sitting there underneath the pile of rubbish, and quite often forgotten, and then they're going home after everybody else has left. And some feel no appreciation. They're absolutely key to looking after that. The further down the line the more important they are, as far as I'm concerned. And that's the culture. That's what you teach your leaders, and your head chefs, or your chefs. That's what you teach them to do. And knowing that it's not about going in and just blowing people up. Knowing how to communicate when there is a problem. The negative is quite often one or two percent, and yet if you go into most places, you would swear it was 100% of the whole problem. [
James, can you teach leaders to be better leaders? To understand this culture word, or do they have to be born with it, or, what's your thoughts? How do we improve our kitchen leaders, or our restaurant leaders?
I think, part of leadership is innate. Some leaders are that alpha type personality, but I definitely think that a lot of leadership is a skill. Learning how to communicate effectively, learning how to hold people accountable. Learning how to have difficult conversations. You might have a really good point, and it might really be valid, but if you're confronting in the way you approach it, sometimes it does more harm than good. So, learning how to manage those situations. So, absolutely I think that leadership is something that can be taught. I suppose it comes back to that humble word, and we used it earlier, but if someone is humble enough to be able to take feedback from their leadership, that's the sort of character you want to be recruiting.
I'm going to keep thinking about that word. I like it more and more. We’re wrapping up now, and I'd like to thank our guests, and thank everyone who has come along today.