September 2004 Edition
Dealing with Difficult Employees - Part One

Unable or Unwilling?

In the foodservice industry it has always been a challenge to recruit and retain competent employees. High quality employees can walk out the door and find another job the very same day, so if you have a "my way or the highway" management style, you may lose valuable employees.

The solution to this industry dilemma starts with asking why employees don’t do what we want or expect them to do. Usually it is one of two reasons: they are unable, or they are unwilling.

Employees who are unable to do their jobs may need training, or they simply may be incapable of ever doing the job. Employees may be incapable of doing their jobs for either physical or emotional reasons. In this case the easiest solution is to find another job that they may be capable of performing. This can involve physical modifications to the work environment or schedule changes that solve transportation or dependent responsibility issues. In some cases, where personality conflicts are interfering with getting the job done, schedule changes that create a more hospitable co-worker environment may solve the problem.

More commonly though, employees are unable to do their jobs because they require training. The traditional on-the-job training system where the new hire works alongside a more experienced employee is no longer adequate. A more formal approach that involves a written process called "task analysis" is a better answer. Task analysis is a training concept that divides a job into sub-tasks and steps. All steps are listed as specific measurable actions that when done correctly constitute a good job. Let's look at the example below which is a sub-task of a server's job.

The first sub-task of a server's job in this example is to greet customers. Each of the steps from smiling, to telling the customers that the server will return in a few minutes to take the order, is a "measurable" requirement of the job. The trainee either does the step well or does not do it well. These steps are performance standards. They are easy to teach and easy to measure. The other sub-tasks of taking the order; serving the food and collecting the money are broken down the same way to complete the job of serving food. The trainer demonstrates each step and coaches the trainee until each step is performed correctly.

Does task analysis take time and effort? Absolutely, but the time and effort is an investment that yields better performance and happier employees and managers. Making the investment in your employees up front will pay off in the long run with employees who perform to your expectations. ¨ In the next issue: Dealing with Difficult Employees. Unable or Unwilling? Part Two - The Unwilling Employee.

Contributed by Tepper Kalmar Associates, Operational Consulting and Training for the Foodservice Industry, Emeryville, CA. For further information, call 510-655-0936.

Task Analysis

Greet Customers Smile at Customers.

Look directly at Customers.

Say "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon" or "Good Evening."

Tell Customers your first name.

Ask if customers wish to see a menu.

Pass menus to customers face up.

Tell customers you'll be back to take their order in a few minutes