Finding Good Employees
Time On Your Side
Pats On The Back
Fun and Games
Tools For Success
Doing Good Works
Many companies experience an even greater benefit from community activities by getting their employees’ input about causes or organizations to support and encouraging them to participate. A recent unit level study by The People Report-a company that benchmarks human resource practices for the foodservice industry-found that involving employees in charitable activities is key to lowering turnover. Restaurants that not only contribute to charities but also allow their employees to participate on company time/and or provide schedule flexibility to do so have dramatically lower employee turnover.
By providing flexible scheduling or time off for charitable activities, companies prove to their employees that they are firmly committed to supporting their interests outside of the workplace. Employees who feel that a company values them as individuals are more likely to take a job and remain loyal to it. Some tips to leverage your support of charitable causes:
* Clearly communicate your charitable involvement to employees-they are an important audience. According to a Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations study, over 80% of employees feel that a company’s image in the community is important.
The study found that “the more an employee knows about a company’s programs, the more likely he or she will be loyal and positive.”
* It may also be important to communicate your charitable involvement to prospective employees. According to a recent poll sponsored by Cone Inc.-a strategy firm that links companies and causes-76% of Americans report that they would be likely to choose a company that supports a cause if they were offered two jobs similar in pay and responsibilities. Of Americans who intend to change jobs within the next year, the poll reports that 90% would be likely to choose a company that supports a cause.
* Decide if and what volunteer activities you’ll support with employees’ time. Some companies give time off and/or pay employees for time spent volunteering; others do for a specific cause or organization. Some count only company-sponsored events.
* Plan and/or support occasions where employees can volunteer in teams. The team-building that takes place while working for a good cause is very powerful and employees bring the teamwork experience back to the restaurant.
* Acknowledge employees who volunteer. Recognition such as awards or articles in restaurant newsletters is essential to assuring employees that the company values them and their volunteer efforts.
* It is wise to refrain from making volunteer work a condition of employment. Instead, emphasize to employees the company’s philosophy and the rewards of charitable work.
A few years ago, Levy Restaurants realized that their considerable involvement in charitable causes had benefits beyond those to the recipients-it was making their employees feel great. The company also realized that it wasn’t leveraging its outreach-locations were active with causes, but they didn’t share common goals or learn from each other. So Levy Cares was formed at the corporate level to provide some structure. The heart of Levy Cares is the mission to support children’s causes, the homeless, and HIV and AIDS organizations.
Alison Weber, senior VP, marketing, says the company challenges its 51 locations to take ownership of things that are meaningful to them-to come up with their own charitable activities that fall within the general mission. “We’ve learned that if we let the inspiration come from within-from our employees and what they believe in their hearts-then it will work,” says Alison.
“The initiative also comes from the GMs and directors of operations in each location to motivate employees to get involved-you can’t make it mandatory,” she says. Management talks about projects in pre-shift and manager’s meetings and the enthusiasm is contagious, says Alison.
To pass along ideas and learning, and to acknowledge accomplishments, Levy Cares distributes a monthly newsletter to all locations.
Impact: Alison reports that the programs keep getting bigger and better and employee participation and enthusiasm is increasing all the time. She says that many times employees become the ones who recommend organizations and programs to support.
Two-year-old Guru’s puts its mission of youth leadership first in the belief that if they are purpose-driven, everything else will follow. Guru’s wants to help young employees understand that the key to unleashing their own potential is connecting with something bigger. Julia Schneiderman, Guru’s developer of human potential, says, “We provide the path. As they grow-and identify their spirit of giving-they impact our customers and the company.”
It starts with employee or “partner” training. “We challenge them to learn about themselves,” says founder Kevin Hall. “The first day we talk about their personal mission, vision, and values. We tell them that our company is about service-serving them, serving our guests, and serving the community.”
Then Guru’s provides an easy vehicle for partners to get connected. Guru’s supports youth-oriented causes, which are evaluated by the impact they will have on partners, who are paid a normal wage for up to four hours to participate. They get to choose which events they go to according to what fits their values and their schedules, and Guru’s often sends out teams, which creates an enormous team-building component.
Impact: Kevin says the fact that employees know they are part of something much bigger than a restaurant becomes a magnet. “We get 16- to 25-year-olds lined up to work with us, which we wouldn’t normally get in a fast-food environment. We’ve seen what it has done to the quality of our partners and to turnover, which I know is half to one-third of what it would be otherwise. We believe that if we focus on employees, the quality and commitment follow.”
Every six weeks Danny Meyer, president, Union Square Hospitality Group, holds a meeting for new hires of the group’s four restaurants. Among other things, it’s an opportunity to discuss the company’s strong community service philosophy and urge them to get involved.
“I tell them about the charitable work that we have traditionally pursued-hunger-related and community-based causes. But I also let them know that what’s most important to us is that they get involved in something they are passionate about,” says Danny. If employees are involved in other causes and can get support from their coworkers, the company will match it dollar for dollar.
The company’s emphasis on charitable work doesn’t come as a surprise at this stage. It is presented during initial interviews-a great way, Danny says, to filter out applicants who don’t have a natural passion for taking care of people.
Bottom line, Danny says, you have to give before you get. “People will take exactly the amount of interest in you that you take in them-no more, no less. If we want our community to take an interest in our restaurants, then we must first take an interest in our community.”
Impact: “The volunteer work that our staff does outside the restaurants also turns them into much better care givers in the restaurants,” says Danny. “Whatever support we give to things that are important to our staff strengthens our relationship with them and their tie to the restaurants.”
Andy Husbands, chef/owner, Tremont 647, channels all of his extensive charitable involvement through Share Our Strength, one of the nation’s leading anti-hunger organizations. Andy works specifically with their Operation Frontline, a teaching program involving chefs and other community leaders.
By focusing on one cause, Andy says his resources go further and it’s easier to say “no” to the many requests the restaurant receives for other things. Being solidly aligned with one charity or group also makes it easier to deliver a message to employees about its importance and to get them involved, he says. As a young cook, Andy participated in lots of events but found that most restaurant employees didn’t know much about the causes. “It’s essential that the staff understand what you are asking them to be part of,” he says.
Another key to employee involvement is “walking the walk.” Andy is a national and local board member of SOS, chairs many events, and hosts some of them in the restaurant.
Impact: Employees clearly see Andy’s dedication and commitment and are inspired by it. Because employees understand the cause, they are much more likely to volunteer to help.