My interview on hospitality and the Coronavirus crisis – Sky News Australia, March 21, 2020

I had a short interview on Sky News today about the state of the hospitality industry. I was given four questions to consider, and prepared some bullet point reminders. In the event, only the first three were asked… and I was relaxed!

1. You’ve been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented – what should restaurant & cafes owners be doing?

  • Communicate like never before with your customers
  • Offer & sell food and drinks in new ways – delivery, take home packs, takeaway
  • Write to your local MP about the number of jobs that will be lost without direct financial support. There is a lot of cynicism about whether government support will actually help – tax concessions aren’t any good if you’re not making a profit.
  • Talk to your landlord, preferably with your lawyer’s help – urgent negotiation is needed.
  • Overcommunicate how you are operating responsibility – remove tables to stick to the 4 sq m. rule, and cleaning very visibly.

2. Business owners are going to have to have some really tough conversations with their staff – what’s the best way to go about it?

  • Be as fair and transparent as you can – there is so much pain for operators around this
  • Be open with your staff about the real cost of running a business, and what you can afford.
  • Help them apply for benefits.
  • Move quickly – and get support from colleagues or professionals

3. How can Australians support the hospitality industry right now, while we’re social distancing?

  • Keep ordering and keep buying!
  • Share words and acts of kindness with local businesses – message them, share positive reviews online, post on their Facebook and Instagram
  • Lobby for government support for business owners, workers and all the people who will lose jobs

4. What’s your advice to restaurant and café owners in communicating with their customers right now?

  • Do much more of it, use new channels and change the tone – warm and honest, trying to find positive angles if you can
  • Use more channels and put your face and your team into the story – delivering food, cleaning, cooking, making coffee, sharing with customers
  • Daily Facebook posts and try Facebook Live for a TV view of what’s happening – you’ll get better at it! Pump up the instagram, and if you’ve never done email, now’s the time – you’ll be surprised at how many customer contact details you can find. Even TikTok if that’s your demographic – you have staff who can help with all of these, just make sure to give them guidance on the message and the tone
  • Rediscover the neighbourhood – most operators don’t live where they work, and don’t have time to connect with neighbourhood activities – now’s the time. AND don’t stop once this is over!

How Hospitality & Restaurant Trainers can Work Remotely: a Survival Guide…

Hospitality training has usually been done in person – we hospo people like to ‘stand up and do it’. With the restrictions and closing of many restaurants and cafes, there’s an urgent need to present training in new ways. We need very different tools and completely new methods – traditional workbooks with pen & paper don’t translate very well.

Here’s a bunch of tools, resources and ideas to use and experiment with…

Understand the world of online training and teaching…

Training sessions have to be rethought. Once people are online, separately or in a group, you have to get them to actually participate – a whole new set of skills for leaders, and it can be done! There are also important basics about setup and etiquette, especially if some participants are in a regular office, and others are remote.

Staying Connected and Productive with Virtual Events – some great resources from LinkedIn. They’re also offering 16 of their Video Courses for free, on the topic Remote Working: Setting Yourself and Your Teams Up for Success.

Learn how online teaching works: here are some examples from teachers who only work online – Paige Harden and Luke Stein. One you get into the online teaching and training world, you will find an enormous number of resources!

Consider joining the excellent Flipchart Facebook Group for trainers and facilitators – it’s full of experienced people, confronting the need to change how they deliver workshops and training.

Understand the world of your trainees…

“Among trainees we have both digital natives and digital immigrants. We need to be sensitive and aware of those who may need more support and understanding to remain involved as a trainee – there can be a lot of anxiety about showing ‘digital ignorance’, especially in the 30+ age group. There may be some with no PC at home and no smart phone, or very limited skills with them. For many, their phone is their only computer.

Most trainees will have a Google (Gmail) or Microsoft (Live, Hotmail, Outlook) account, if not a work-specific email address. So make resources accessible through OneDrive or Google Drive – they can login with these accounts and maintain calendar appointments.

Some trainees may have issues with Internet connections and data limitations. Employers may consider a small $$ allowances to increase data plans. Trainees may also need to invest in reasonable headphones & mic, so suggest an affordable model – you may be able to get a discount from a local supplier.

Consider LLN (language, literacy and numeracy) issues that may arise more with digital delivery than face to face, especially as a majority of your staff may not have English as their first language, and probably don’t like maths! Consider the trainees preferred learning style – is it V,A or K – Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic? The highly Kinesthetic (relying on touch) may struggle with screen sessions without some physical stimulating activities. The Visual like pictures and illustrations, and the Auditory are listening for clear explanations.” – big thanks to trainer Gordon Rhodes for adding this section on the world of the trainee.

Add to your toolbox…

Learn to use Zoom – this is my preferred tool for holding webinars and live events – they offer a wide range of training options, including short videos and hundreds of support articles. I highly recommend doing one of their live webinars on using Zoom Meetings or Zoom Webinars – available at a variety of times. There are so many opportunities here for training, team meetings and new ways of working.

Offer in-demand training like Food Safety & Hygiene – it could be through your existing coursework that’s repurposed for online delivery, or making use of the many good online courses. Do any have an affiliate program to give you a commission for recommendations?

Start a simple Blog, where you can share your profile and your ideas. WordPress.com is free, and can be developed in different ways if you get ambitious. For now, just get your fingers on the keyboard, share one paragraph of training tips, and create an About Us page. Add to this once a week, or more if you have time – your hard-drive is probably full of material you could use for blog posts!

Upgrade your blog to a paid Training Site – there are many options for Learning Management Systems, giving people access to free and paid content for one-off or monthly fees. It will take a bit of time, but hey, you have some of that at the minute! Now you have a home for the videos, quizzes and course-work you are creating, and a way to charge for it!

Write short Quizzes that can be used by business owners. Give some away, and keep others for paying customers eg a 20-question Coffee Quiz, Vegetable Quiz, Beef & Lamb Quiz etc. Keep questions and answers short.

Put your Quizzes Online, with a simple tool like Google Forms or Wufoo. Now staff can do them online and the results will be emailed back to you – lots of accountability. There are good YouTube videos that will show you how to do this – important to move away from paper.

Add bulk SMS texting to your communications kit – I like BurstSMS for setting up a list of mobile numbers and sending messages to a group. Costs about 8c per text – chicken feed! You could include a link to a quiz or new video – if it’s sent to a phone, there’s a 95% chance it will be read. You will of course get permission from the business owner to do this!

Learn to do Screencasting – record your PC screen as you show people how to do costings, or fill out application and leave forms etc. Here are some free and low-cost options.

Create simple ‘how to’ videos with your phone. Buy a $10 tripod to hold the phone steady, and start to talk to the camera, or demonstrate skills. Make sure the light is on your face, and be conscious of good sound. A bit scary at first, but you’ll build confidence. They could be as simple as how to pronounce food names, and how to explain menu items. Get others involved as your ‘models’ or ‘talent’ – there are thousands of useful ‘how to video’ guides on YouTube.

Learn simple video editing to make the phone videos look sharp – edit out pauses, add extra photos and titles. Start with the free iMove on Mac, or Moviemaker on PC – they have everything you need.

Collect relevant YouTube videos – there’s a massive number on every topic, and most are pretty ordinary. When you find something good, add it to your collection for showing at the right time – your skill here is being the curator.

Use existing video training sites – like Ananas, Typsy and Innform . They have hundreds of hospitality training videos already made, and often need an experienced trainer to guide trainees through them, and ensure that courses are completed. Some of them allow you to upload your own videos as well.

Work within a restaurant’s private communication site: it could be a Facebook Group, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or Facebook Workplace – here is where you add short videos, quizzes, how-to tips, reminders and acknowledgement. You might commit to adding something 3 times per work as part of a training contract. if they don’t have a comms system like this set up, your (very easy) job is to get one started!

Watch the SilverChef Training Webinars – an exciting new development, using a combination of Eventbrite for bookings, and Zoom for delivery. Numbers keep building as we focus on hot topics for business owners. It was sad to cancel recent live events, but we’re reaching a lot more people this way.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

This Post is a Work in Progress: I’ll add new training events and resources here and on Twitter. Lots of exciting ideas are being shared as we find ways to pivot from live to virtual.

Working Remotely – resources for cafe & restaurant owners

There are a lot of new habits and skills to develop – by nature we hospo people just ‘walk around and do it’. Working from home or away from a venue doesn’t come naturally or easily, and if we have to keep a ‘social distance’, we need very different tools and ways of working. We need to sit down more…

Here’s a bunch of resources to help make your remote work almost as good as being there.

Use cloud-based management systems, so you can work and monitor results anywhere. Accounting systems like Xero to track your numbers and profit situation, plus online rostering like Tanda or Deputy and plenty more. Ramp up online customer ordering with systems like OrderUp, TabSquare, MrYum and Bopple. And always keep a close eye on recipe costs. When functions resume, there are excellent cloud-based systems to manage and promote them.

Order with suppliers through systems like Foodbomb or Ordermentum – check with vendors for their own systems. Plan new menus and events with simple project management systems like Asana (free version) or Trello (also free). Watch your shop with video security, and keep track of sales via your POS system’s online reporting. So much can be done from home.

Upgrade communication with staff – email is easy for people to ignore, and texting can become a flood of random comments. Tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams will be much more flexible, with the app on everyone’s phone – they also give you more control of the conversation. A staff-only private Facebook or WhatsApp Group can be very useful. Facebook’s separate Workplace is another option – experiment with a small group, before rolling your choice out to the whole team. And there are still many great ways to train staff, even if it’s done remotely – the group can be the training hub.

Boost your customer communication with more and better social media posts, including regular Facebook Live. Add email and SMS to the mix – you’d be surprised by how much customer contact data you already have – start using it!

Start to use video conferencing, using a tool like Zoom – they offer a wide range of training options, including short videos and support articles. I recommend doing one of their live webinars on using Zoom Meetings. There are many opportunities here for training, team meetings and new ways of working – how often could you avoid a trip to the restaurant?

Keep learning: the SilverChef Training Webinars are an exciting new development, and we focus on practical ‘survive and thrive’ topics. LinkedIn are offering 16 of their Video Courses for free, on the topic Remote Working: Setting Yourself and Your Teams Up for Success. If all this technology makes you nervous, keep breathing… and you’re not alone. There’s usually a YouTube video to explain just about every problem – this new focus is just reactivating some brain cells that have gone rusty!

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

This Post is a Work in Progress: I’ll add new resources and suggestions here and on Twitter. Lots of exciting ideas are being shared as we find ways to pivot from live to virtual.

Senior Hispanic Woman Working In Home Office

Planning for a 50% loss of restaurant sales – what will you do?

We must plan for the worst. Now’s the time to be like swans – floating calmly on the surface, and paddling very quickly under the water. This is real folks – take a lesson from what Chinese restaurants have gone through in the last 3 months, with customers almost completely disappearing.

What if half your business disappeared in two weeks?

You need to plan for a specific scenario. This is not like ‘sales are down in winter’. Take your last Profit & Loss statement and slash 50% off the sales line. Then work down through the expense figures.

  • Plan for letting staff go. Who will be first, and what will you owe them – is it straightforward? If they are permanent, there could be redundancy payments – do your research.
  • Plan your communication with staff – they’re anxious, and they hear the news. You may not have good news to tell them, but they expect you to be fair. If you don’t have an internal communication system, like a private Facebook or WhatsApp group, now’s the time to start it.
  • Be prompt with statements needed to help them get benefits. It’s useful to understand how this works in Australia.
  • Many staff don’t understand the financial workings of a business, so they need an honest explanation of the P&L – it won’t be pretty, and they need to see that.
  • Insist on unwell staff staying away from work. Many will be casual, so no work = no pay. They may want to work even if sick, and that’s not OK – sickness allowance may be available.
  • Talk to suppliers about deliveries and availability of products – your orders will be down, and they may have their own staff issues.
  • Plan for staff disruption if schools are closed – who will look after children when their parents are at work? It will be a big test of your flexibility.
  • You’ll need to handle creditors – which ones will be tolerant, and who can you negotiate with? They’ll be facing their own problems.
  • Check your function booking agreements for cancellation terms – how strict are they, and what will you enforce? Do they need to be modified?
  • Talk to your accountant about tax and bill payments – what can they negotiate with the ATO?
  • Talk to the landlord, ideally through your lawyer – you’re making a loss and paying full rent will be difficult. Share your figures – how can she help?
  • Find out about government support payments – these are likely to be available, as they were during the bushfires. Contact your local MP for information.

What does a half-sized business look like?

  • Ramp up the home delivery options – using 3rd-party systems, and also encouraging pickup through your own ordering page with systems like OrderUp.
  • Upgrade your pick-up and delivery space – people want ‘no-contact’ collection ie touch payments and hygienic packaging. Watch how big operators like McDonalds modify their systems – they are masters of adaption and will show us best practice with this.
  • Immaculately clean and hygienic – it’s one of your marketing advantages.
  • Warm and friendly – now more important than ever. Have you kept the best people for this?
  • Double your staff training – short, practical sessions on cleaning, hygiene and service. This will have long-lasting benefits.
  • Blitz your office and admin. systems – no time for waste and inefficiency. What can be done online that’s still done with paper? What can be done remotely – rostering, payroll, ordering, social media?
  • Massively improve your communication with customers – daily updates on Facebook and Instagram are not too frequent, and an interesting weekly newsletter will be welcome, especially if it comes from the heart. As ever, people look to their local cafe or restaurant for comfort and friendship.
  • Lead by example: sober, hard-working, efficient and hygienic… and still with plenty of smiles.

This article is a work in progress, and I’ll be updating it with more ideas and examples. It is private commentary, and not related to my work. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Tips for Video Meetings – Setup and Etiquette

Video conferences and meetings are becoming a part of daily work life, allowing remote staff to share and interact more fully. There are many opportunities to use it in restaurant, cafe and event management – any opportunity to work from home is a good one!

Skype has been around for a long time, and Zoom is very popular. Other conference systems include GoToMeeting, Join.me, BlueJeans and Google Hangouts Meet.

Conference Etiquette:

  • Integrate meetings into work calendars, so everyone is aware and ready
  • Start and end on time – waiting online is annoying
  • Introduce all the participants, and excuse yourself if leaving
  • Ask off-site participants to speak or share first – it stops them being forgotten.
  • Stay in the line of sight – we can only see what’s in front of the camera
  • Mute yourself if you’re not speaking, and avoid outside noise like using a keyboard
  • Raise your hand to speak – normal banter doesn’t work with remote guests
  • Use a sign to let outsiders know you are online in a meeting – here’s a set to download. You can also use them to signal if they are muted or can’t be seen.
  • Stay engaged, even if you’re not speaking – people see your reaction, just like in a real meeting!
  • Share documents beforehand if they’re to be discussed, or drop them into the document sharing section on Zoom or Skype
  • More good tips here and here

Technical Setup:

  • Everyone needs the apps on their phone, iPad and PC, so they can connect anywhere
  • Make sure all software updates are done well before the meeting – they take time, and it’s tedious waiting for a Skype update!
  • Check the frame view so everyone is visible – use a wide-angle lens
  • Use an external microphone with a group around a table – the laptop mike will not be good enough
  • Get the lighting right – the light should be on your face, not behind

Become Fluent:

  • Learn how to schedule and add Zoom or Skype meeting links into your email – there are add-ons for Outlook, Apple Mail and Gmail
  • Learn how to use the keyboard and HDMI cable connections in meeting rooms
  • Learn how to add people to a meeting, share your screen and troubleshoot
  • Do one of the excellent Zoom training webinars – available at flexible times

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Sharing ideas about how to make Webinars more interesting

It was great to share my thoughts with the Facilitation Queen Leanne Hughes, about how to make webinars more engaging and interesting. With looming restrictions on live gatherings, they have to be in the toolkit of every trainer and meeting facilitator. The SilverChef webinars I’ve started have had a great response, and this method of teaching and learning is becoming much more familiar and popular.

Here’s Leanne sharing her experience, and drawing on the ideas of me and others on her podcast First Time Facilitator...

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Show the Sparkling Cleanliness of Your Business to Reassure Anxious Customers

News about the spread of Coronavirus is not good, and people are starting to panic – we need to stand as islands of calm and true hospitality, while taking important precautions. It’s also time to take urgent management action to protect your profitability.

You can stand out from the crowd by being spotlessly CLEAN and HYGIENIC. Here are some quick ways to make this obvious to customers. There also need to be special precautions with staff who are coughing or appear to be sick. If they’re casual or on hourly pay, they may feel they can’t afford to miss work, even if unwell – watch closely.

It’s essential to get staff on board with the reasons, not just the actions – discuss with the team HOW they can be subtly showing just how clean and responsible your place is. Their education is vitally important. Explain the theatre of it – we don’t just DO clean, we show off how thorough we are, and many small things make a difference. It’s using the well-known marketing principle: Know > Like > Trust…

  • Get KNOWN as a reliably hygienic, friendly, clean place
  • Be well LIKED for all the little things
  • Building TRUST keeps people coming back

Front of House:

  • Have hand sanitiser available for customers at the entrance. And on the counter, where staff are seen to use it.
  • Spotlessly clean uniforms – how are those aprons and chef jackets looking? If they need an upgrade, include everyone – don’t leave the poor kitchen hand in his street clothes and old apron #respect
  • Blitz and tidy the drinks station, with baristas and bar staff constantly wiping down surfaces. These areas are often full of clutter – take a hard look.
  • Suspend the use of reusable cups (Keep Cups) for takeaway coffee – it’s great to avoid single-use cups, but cups that customers bring could be a contamination risk.
  • No more clearing glasses with fingers through the rim! Trays should be standard for clearing and delivery – this will also make it faster. Remind staff that they may be touching people’s spit, and encourage lots more hand-washing.
  • Clean condiment bottles plus salt & pepper containers on tables very regularly – make it obvious. Might be time to temporarily swap to disposables.
  • Stop offering cutlery in a container on the table – it’s not hygienic, especially with the knife blade and fork prongs facing up! Think about it!
  • Review cleaning practices: do staff wipe down a seat then use the same cloth to wipe the the table? Ewww! Or use the same cloth to wipe the drinks bench and the steam wand on the espresso machine? Yukkk! Handling garnishes for drinks with their hands – no way!
  • Food Safety Supervisor courses are always useful, and there are many online – encourage more staff to do them, and pay the fees. They cover much more than hand-washing. Promote the number of graduates you have (post on Facebook or Instagram), and give them a special role to play, front and back of house.
  • Using kiosks for ordering? Have someone regularly wiping them down with a sanitised cloth. People cringe at the sight of sticky finger marks.
  • Dump the grubby toys in the kids corner – they should have gone years ago! If you want something for children, have new small toys in sealed bags – check a party supply shop.
  • Scrub the chair legs – they’re often scuffed and marked. You don’t notice, but it adds to an overall impression of untidiness.
  • Double check for ‘sticky places’ – chair arms, under the edges of tables, worn carpet, table surfaces. These buildups happen over time and need a special cleaning effort – eliminate the yuk factor.
  • Is it time for a mystery customer program, with a special section on cleaning and hygiene, not just service.?

Kitchen:

  • Check the public view of the kitchen from outside – through a window or back door. How does it look – as clean as a hospital, or a mess? It’s easy to overlook cracked tiles, dirty bins and greasy surfaces when we’re busy, but now that it’s quieter, there is no excuse. Time to lean = time to clean.
  • Upgrade the view through the pass into the kitchen – can customers see pots and pans with grubby bases? They need to be scrubbed to a shine, because the overall appearance is gross.
  • Replace fluorescent tubes that have lost their brightness – they fade long before they die. You need the space very well lit, so dirt and stains are easily seen.
  • Double-down on glove use, and avoid staff touching food with bare hands where customers can see it. We know that gloves don’t guarantee hygiene, but the perception is important. Use latex-free gloves to avoid allergies.

Bathrooms:

  • Clean and repaint the bathroom – is it a sanctuary, an afterthought, or gross? Any cracked tiles or loose fitting that need fixing? People assume your kitchen will match the cleanliness of the toilets.
  • Upgrade the soap dispenser, towels and hand-drying facilities. Add sanitiser.
  • Reinforce the cleaning patrols, all through the day and night. Have a special bucket with equipment and gloves. It’s no-one’s favourite job – include the manager and boss so you all share the ‘dirty work’.
  • Put up a cleaning checklist and timetable on the back of the door – you don’t just do this, but you advertise how conscientious you are.

This is just the start… 2020 could be a challenging year, and your obvious commitment to hygiene can give you a strong marketing advantage.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Preparing your Cafe and Restaurant for the 2020 Recession

The last time we had an impact like this in Australia was back in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks in New York. Then there was the Global Financial Crisis in 2007 – 2009, which affected Australia to some extent, but a rapid economic response by the government stopped it from having the effect here that it had elsewhere.

I wrote a fairly lengthy article back in 2001, with advice on how to manage the effects on small businesses – it still holds up well. Plus some thoughts last month on the need for a 2020 Plan B.

Now we can see another recession unfolding in front of us.

In Australia, 120,000 Chinese tourists have stopped arriving (one sixth of the normal total), and at Feb 29th 2020, there are still more than 100,000 Chinese students who can’t come back to school or university in Australia – one in four of our international students are from China. And Chinese restaurants, one of the foundations of our modern industry, are facing a catastrophic loss of customers – many have already closed.

Dramatic disruption to Chinese manufacturing and supply chains mean there could be shortages of kitchen equipment, spare parts, appliances, packaged food and chemicals. In Australia, China makes (or supplies parts for) almost everything we use!

China is a massive importer of our raw materials (from coal and minerals to lobsters and meat) – as they and other countries close borders, trade will be hit in many, many areas. A record number of purchase and supply contracts are being cancelled because of force majeure (unforseeable force).

Hospitality thrives on optimism and prosperity, not fear and contraction – we will feel these cold winds very quickly.

Can hospitality handle this crisis more effectively than before?

  • We can see it coming – this is a slowly unfolding catastrophe, so we can do some planning, but speed is essential, and there will still be unexpected events and panics.
  • We have much better management tools for handling cost-cutting – rostering systems, powerful POS systems to pinpoint customer spending, transparent online ordering for the best prices, and bookkeeping systems that give immediate insight into Profit & Loss.
  • There are great options to rent new equipment – no need to run down your capital. Renewal and innovation can’t stop during a slowdown.
  • We also have low-cost and sophisticated ways to reach out to customers, through targeted social media, email marketing, online bookings, websites and online directories – we can communicate much more effectively.
  • What’s not different is the painful necessity of reducing staff hours and paying the same rent with fewer sales dollars.

Buckle up folks – I’m an optimist by nature, but 2020 is going to be a very bumpy ride!

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Taking the Stress & Shame Out of Self Promotion

Where did we learn that self promotion is a bad thing, and why do we accept that as the truth? Marie Forleo feels you should feel ashamed if you don’t promote your skills and achievements.

This should resonate with people in hospitality – by definition most of us have to be ‘out there’ with the public and promoting the next event, tomorrow’s lunch or just an extra round of coffees. In many small operations, the owner is the business.

She sums up the issues in this snappy video:

  • Focus on what you can give, rather than what you can get – see self-promotion as service.
  • Stop caring! Not about other people, just what they think – who are you living your life for? If they don’t like you, being quiet probably won’t make much difference!
  • Don’t be a broken record – endlessly talking about how great you are! In Australia we have the expression FIGJAM – it stands for F* I’m Great, Just Ask Me. We’ve all met the FIGJAM people – and you’re not one of them!

A few more suggestions… from Ken Burgin 😉

  • Update your Linkedin profile (here’s how) – it does the promotion for you. When you describe yourself in the ‘Summary section’, use some numbers to show the scale of what you’ve done eg number of people in your team, or number of customers served each day.
  • Talk about ‘our team’ when appropriate – you may feel more comfortable including the people who work for you., when describing achievements.
  • There are many simple ways you can stand out as someone with interesting insights and ideas – a thought-leader. More suggestions here

Most people grow up being told not to brag or show off – let’s untangle that message from the importance of sharing your gifts with the world.

Reducing the Drama When Staff Resign

Had someone quit unexpectedly? It’s costly, especially if they hold an important position.

A colleague found out her operations manager was planning to leave, when the news slipped out accidently. She moved fast to cover the gap, and reflecting on it later, said: Part of the problem is that most staff don’t know how to resign or handle these situations professionally

Sound familiar? No-one wants good staff leaving, ever, but if it’s going to happen, let’s make sure it’s organised and with plenty of notice. They’re more likely to do it the right way if they know what you want.

Your pain-reduction planning includes:

  • Explain the right way to resign. It may be in the Staff Manual somewhere, but even better if it’s also on the noticeboard. ‘If you are planning to resign, permanent staff are expected to give 4 weeks notice. For casual or hourly staff, we request one week’s notice, or longer if possible. We don’t want to see you go, but if a change is happening, we will work with you to make it smooth and trouble-free for everyone involved.’
  • Regular reviews can pick up issues well in advance. Whether it’s a Performance Review or a regular ‘how’s it going’ chat, open conversation with employees gives them the space for honesty and sharing their plans. When was the last time this happened? Even a Quick Performance Review Form will open up the conversation.
  • Make it easy to quit properly. If they’re going, nothing will usually stop them, so facilitate it with a simple Resignation Form that sets out expectations and covers all the bases eg return of uniform, final pay etc. You can still keep control of the process.
  • Be ready with a Statement of Service. Many businesses now offer only a short statement with start and finish dates, not a full reference. Whatever you provide, make sure the policy is clearly stated.
  • Show a neutral reaction to staff. They all know it’s happened, and some may know the ‘real reasons’, if there’s something that’s not been said. Whether you’re hurt, annoyed or even relieved, now’s the time for a ‘stiff upper lip’. Difficult at times.
  • Keep talking about ‘succession planning’. Jargon or not, every job needs someone else covering it, who can step in and handle it permanently or for the interim. There are also ‘quitting seasons’ eg return to college or university – mark your calendar well in advance. The calmest managers and owners have Plan B in place for every position. Your managers and supervisors can all be involved in the planning process – there will be some interesting conversations!
  • Ask the manager responsible for an explanation. Was the wrong type of person put into the position, making failure inevitable? Is the job too boring, too hard or too complex? Was the training rushed or inadequate? Is change at management level needed to avoid a repetition?
  • What’s not working in the business? I remember uncovering some nasty harassment after two young men resigned ‘because it’s time to move on’. Neither ever gave the real reason, but suspicions were aroused and we eventually found the cause. In hindsight, I should have seen the signs much earlier – how good is your ‘intelligence network’ for issues like this?
  • If there’s no respect for the business, why not? If you have people resigning with one day (or one minute) notice, something is wrong. How did it come to this? Who chose these people and who failed to pick up the signals. Their direct supervisors usually know if there’s a change happening – why wasn’t it communicated?