“Work hard, have fun and make history.”

Jeff Bezos


Would you like your employees to be more productive? Pay closer attention to the details of their jobs? Have less absenteeism or tardiness? Reward you with lower levels of turn-over? Give more effort than you could reasonably expect for their level of pay, and provide greater service to your guests?

I would like to let you in on a little secret. This phenomenon is a real thing. It is known as Organizational Citizenship Behavior. It describes the levels to which your employees will go the extra mile, simply because they want to.

The question then becomes: How do I get my employees to have higher levels of Organizational Citizenship Behavior? The answer may be as simple as following the advice given by the Spice Girls all those years ago: they will tell you what they want, what they really, really want. You just have to be able to hear what they are saying (and quite often not saying).

I know what you’re thinking, “Ok smart guy, just how do I do that?”

Well, I believe (and research in other industries has shown) that those supervisors with a greater ability to read their employees are also better able to provide the individual attention and direction that the employees need, want and desire, to make them feel appreciated and encourage Organizational Citizenship Behavior. I believe (once again backed up by extensive research in other industries) that these supervisors are more adaptable, and exhibit appropriate levels of assertiveness.

They understand their own and others emotions, and are able to properly express and control them. They are less impulsive, and are good at building relationships. They tend to be self-confident, self-motivated and socially aware. They handle stress well, and are capable of seeing things through someone else’s eyes. They also tend to be generally happy people who are confident and are always looking on the bright side of life.

Again, does this sound too good to be true?

Well my skeptical friend, this is a textbook description of someone with high levels of Trait Emotional Intelligence; and the good news is that everyone has a greater or lesser degree of emotional intelligence, and those who would like to increase their emotional intelligence can be taught to increase their levels.

Wouldn’t it be great however, if it were possible to identify supervisors who have these admirable characteristics to a greater degree to start with?

Well, it can. A quick, 30 question test can give you an overview of the supervisors’ levels of Trait Emotional Intelligence as well as how they rate in five components of Trait Emotional Intelligence.

So back to my original point…

Why is it important to encourage your employees’ levels of Organizational Citizenship behavior?

To quote the Godfather “It’s not personal, it’s only business.” The real cost of labor is one of the biggest factors impacting the entrepreneurial world today. This is even more the case in the world of commercial foodservice. The average restaurant allocates between 30 – 50% of their revenues to paying the cost of labor (wages and benefits), thereby making labor the largest single expense that entrepreneurs will have to deal with.

This is further complicated by the fact that restaurants operate in a very competitive marketplace with a myriad of options available to the dining public. This economic condition (economists would call this a relatively elastic environment) implies that as prices rise, the consumer will be more likely to go elsewhere and look for another option at a lower cost, i.e. sales go down.

For this reason, restaurants are often hesitant to raise prices, choosing to take a reduction in profits in order to continue the flow of customers through the doors. This situation has its limits however, as the restaurant industry operates under some of the smallest profit margins in the business world.

There comes a time, however, when a restaurant cannot continue to absorb these increases to their cost structure, and are forced to make decisions. They can either raise prices, and risk alienating their customers, (encouraging them to dine elsewhere, or, as is becoming a more common option, dining at home,) or find ways to reduce the cost of labor.

It does not take much imagination to see that if the cost of labor (wages and benefits) are being forced up (in many cases by regulatory action, not market forces) then the only way to lower these costs is to use less of it in relation to the amount of revenue coming in.

This is accomplished in some combination of the following manners:

  • Revenues are increased while maintaining current staffing levels. This can be accomplished through advertising, specials, suggestive selling, and a combination of targeted price increases and decreases.
  • Revenues stay the same, but less labor is used. This can be accomplished through the use of convenience foods, automation, or increased productivity.
  • The cost of labor is reduced by replacing experienced, higher cost employees with lower skilled, less experienced employees, or the employees hired as part-time instead of full-time, so as to avoid the payment of some benefits.

While each of these methods has validity, and has been successful in the past, all but one has some definite drawbacks from a cost / operational perspective.

The first option of increasing revenues is a generally good one, but it does involve the expense of advertising, the potential reduction of profitability per item with the running of specials (if they are offered at a reduced rate, or operational efficiencies are not available because of the temporary nature of the special), and the impact on the ability to forecast sales based on changing the menu mix through the fluctuation of prices.

From an efficiency, customer satisfaction, and general sanity perspective, the last option is far from desirable. While short-term gains can be made by hiring cheaper employees, the long-term effects on your operation are (in my opinion) not worth it.

I don’t have to tell anyone who deals with the public on a daily basis, the average restaurant customer is more discerning, and has greater quality demands concerning both product and service. The growing success of companies which provide service above that exhibited by their competition serves to highlight this effect. The use of low-skill, low-motivation, inexperienced and/or part-time workers is not a recipe for customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Who would argue that loyal customers are not necessary or desired in today’s environment? No one who plans on being in business for very long.

This leaves the second option to explore. While the previous statement might be a simplified example of the concept, and in reality, you would still hope to grow revenue, just use a smaller percentage of your labor dollar, to generate the sales. How do you achieve this magical circumstance? By making your employees more productive.

Productivity can be judged in a number of ways, the most common ratios used are:

  • Customers per labor dollar
  • Customers per labor hour
  • Revenue per labor dollar
  • Revenue per labor hour

I personally like to track all four as they each gave me a slightly different view of my productivity picture. Regardless of how you analyze your productivity, the general goal is to get more of the first while using less of the later. There are again a number of ways to achieve these various goals.

  • First, if you are able to grow revenues while maintaining the same staffing levels; you will achieve some degree of efficiencies of scale and thereby more productivity. It is likely that the same number of employees used to produce 100 meals, can, with a bit of effort, produce 110 or 125 meals. In the latter examples, you would realize a 10% or 25% increase in productivity, through no particular effort on your part.
  • You can, and should always be training your staff (both formal and informal training). A well-trained staff is more efficient, perform better to standards, and good training programs will reap, more often than not, an impressive return on your investment. That being said, training can be expensive. It requires a trainer, materials, and the time of your employees to attend. You may (and likely will) have your productivity lag during training, but the efficiencies upon completion should offset the expense.
  • Next, you could automate your operation, or institute more self-service options for your guests. I may be showing my age, but I remember a time when a trip to the gas station did not require you to get out of your car, pump your own gas, nor complete the sale on my own. Much less suffer the indignities of having to check my own oil levels or tire pressure. This was a standard service offered to all customers, that was sacrificed in the name of efficiencies and labor savings. I see this same mindset entering the restaurant environment, with the introduction of ordering kiosks, tablets on the table, web apps and self-serve beverages. It is fairly obvious how this could be detrimental, however, to the experience of your guests. To steal from an old commercial, we seem to be moving away from being “rest”-aurants to “work”-aurants.
  • The introduction of convenience foods into your operation can also provide a savings to labor. By purchasing products that have had some degree of value-added, the labor needed by your operation is diminished. That being said, there are challenges. It can take away from the dining experience if the customer is able to identify the product, if not supplier of the product. There are issues with the probability of you serving the exact same product as your competition, and if you are not, I guarantee that if you are successful with a product, your competition will be using it soon. As convenience foods have labor invested in them, you will have to pay for this in the form of higher food costs. Additionally, you lose any opportunity to use the trim in profit enhancing preparations.
  • Finally, you could foster a truly magical situation. What if your employees just decided that they were going to be more productive, simply because they wanted to? What if, through giving them what they need as individuals, they reward you with increased attention to their duties, less absenteeism, less social loafing, better service to your guests, and effort beyond what you are compensating them to provide? Sound too good to be true? Yes, for those who are still paying attention, that is Organizational Citizenship behavior.

Starting back in the 1970’s, advocates were calling for employees to be treated as individuals, and that they be managed in accordance with their skills and maturity. This concept has been in transition over the past decades, and the concept has come in and out of style to varying degrees.

Whether it is the “Situational Leadership” of Hersey and Blanchard, or identifying the personal needs of various individual using tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC profiles, Psychometrics, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, or the philosophies of the Service-Profit Chain, the advantages of meeting the individual needs of your employees has been proven, and various attempts to identify them have been introduced.

The problem with many of these systems, is that they require the employee to take a test, and then for the manager to digest the information and try to differentiate their management/motivation style to accommodate the disparate needs of their staff. Some managers were found to be better at this than others, as evidenced by greater productivity, increased levels of employee job satisfaction and lower turn-over rates. So how were these managers able to remember what each of their employees needed, and how best to reach them? I contend that they did not depend on memorizing a series of letter representations of their employees’ personalities, nor had a playbook with various SOPs for dealing with each employee, rather, I contend that they did not require the pre-testing of their employees at all, but rather, they were better able to read each employee like a book, and quickly identify what was needed in the moment.

During this age of motivational innovation, another concept came to light. That of Emotional Intelligence. Introduced in the 1980’s, the concept has undergone a metamorphosis, with a number of different schools being developed. In general, the concept states that everyone has a certain innate level of emotional intelligence, and with this they are able to identify and regulate their own emotions, as well as those that they come in contact with. This concept encompasses many of life’s differentiating factors, and some have even contended that a person’s emotional intelligence accounts for as much as 90% of a person’s future success.

Over the past decades, a great deal of research has been conducted, identifying a myriad of benefits that emotional intelligence offers to business. Some very interesting work has taken place linking the emotional intelligence of supervisors and managers, to the success, motivation, productivity, and satisfaction of their employees. They have found that managers with higher emotional intelligence are better able to identify the needs of their employees, and to provide them on an individualized basis. This goes a long way to making the employees feel valued as individuals, and they reward their employers in many beneficial ways.

Ready to Get Involved?

While a great deal of research on this connection has taken place in a host of industries, it has not, as of yet, been studied in a foodservice environment. I am now going to make a request of you to help remedy this situation. I would like to request any managers/supervisors in the foodservice industry to go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SupervisorJZ62HK2 and complete a 40 question survey. The first 30 questions are comprised of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire – Short Form by Petrides, and the last 10 are used to establish demographics. You will be asked to generate a 5-digit control code which you will share with your employees, so they can enter it when they take their survey, so I can link your results to those of your employees. Please use any random code i.e. your last 5 digits of your cell phone number, last 5 of your Social Security number, or any other random group of numbers. Please do not use non-random numbers such as zip codes, because duplicate control codes will need to be excluded. This survey is completely confidential and anonymous, as the only identifying feature is the control code, that I have no way of linking to an individual or group, as the e-mail tracking feature of the web site has been disabled.

Once you have completed the survey, direct your employees to go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EmployeeJ53XBCN and complete a 30 question survey. The first 20 questions are comprised of the Organizational Citizenship Behavior – Checklist by Fox and Spector, and the last 10 are used to establish demographics. Please have them enter the same control code (the 5-digit number you developed) so that I can link their results to yours and attempt to prove that there is a link between the supervisor’s levels of Trait Emotional Intelligence and their subordinates’ levels of Organizational Citizenship Behavior.

Upon completion of this study, I anticipate making a recommendation to the industry to consider the Trait Emotional Intelligence of supervisors during the hiring process, and that they institute training programs to enhance the trait emotional intelligence of their supervisors. I will also be looking to see if any of the established sub-divisions of Trait Emotional Intelligence has greater impact on the Organizational Citizenship Behavior of their employees than the others, and if this interaction is impacted by the various demographic information found on the surveys.

If you have interest in knowing how you and your organization compare with others in the study, once I have completed the study I can send you an individual report if you e-mail me at: tsmith4724@my.sullivan.edu, with your control number.  If you would like more information concerning me, my resume, or more detailed information on my study, you can go to my research page at:  http://tsmith4724.wixsite.com/research. I intend to publish my study results at this site when they are completed, as well as write a review for this esteemed publication.

So, if the cost of labor has you concerned, and you would like to find a cost-effective way to maximize the labor you use. I advocate the use of emotional intelligence to give your employees the individualized attention that they desire. This attention will pay dividends in the form of higher productivity, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and in the end profitability for your operation. I also would like to request your help in establishing this link, enabling me to make recommendations to improve this promising link.

 

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Tom Smith

Tom Smith is an Associate Professor at Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies in Louisville, KY with 30 years in the Hospitality industry. He was a private chef, owned restaurants, a catering business, and has been involved with the opening of over 20 restaurants, 2 casinos, and a domed stadium.

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