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Can you keep your workers coming back?

Workers might hold onto a job that isn’t working for them longer during an economic downturn, when other options are slim to none. Staffers who fall into the talented-and-dissatisfied category are typically the first to bolt when things improve, leaving employers in the position of having to scramble to replace key people.

The jury might still be out on where the economy is headed, but restaurants are seeing employment and recruiting difficulty increase this year, according to the People Report Workforce Index. Eateries are expected to continue feeling pressure in recruitment through year-end, as Nation’s Restaurant News reported.

There are ways to lessen the stress and avoid the high cost associated with replacing workers, and they largely involve ongoing programs, practices and perks that keep employees engaged from the start. Restaurant Management reported on ways to boost business by treating your staff well, with proven employee-retention techniques and advice from Lucien Gunter, chief operating officer of Acme Oyster House, a five-restaurant Louisiana chain with about 500 employees.

The key take-away from his talk at the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality Expo? Treat employees well enough to make them ambassadors for your brand, and you’ll kill two birds with one stone. Not only are staffers more likely to stay, but they’re also more likely to bring additional guests and keep existing ones coming back.

Gunter offered some tips, starting with investing in the education, training and time it takes to keep employees engaged and form a two-way relationship that turns employees into experts on your brand, while you’re getting to know enough about them to understand what drives them and what challenges they face.

Gunter also advised restaurant companies to demonstrate their financial commitment with benefits such as a 401(k) plan and tuition reimbursement, a perk that some companies are taking further by launching education initiatives. Jack in the Box said it will offer employees at its namesake and Qdoba Mexican Grill chains the ability to take college courses offered online by StraighterLine.

The program allows employees to earn credits for life experience with online assessment and the option of working toward a college degree in their own time, with self-paced classes that make it easier to balance work and life with continuing education, as Fast Casual reported.

Classes and opportunities for workers to better themselves are valuable perks, but there are smaller ways to encourage workers to stay engaged and enjoy what they’re doing — and hopefully transfer some of that happiness to customers. Former Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers President Lanny Okonek writes on the blog Restaurant Revolution about the power of music to motivate workers during training. He urges managers to choose music that’s appropriate for the type of training or promotion for which workers are preparing, such as the “Clean is Mean” rap contest he designed for a session teaching teenage workers the basics of restaurant sanitation.

“Music sets the mood and atmosphere; and also touches emotions, breaks walls of resistance, energizes, and relaxes,” Okonek writes.

What motivates your workers and drives them to stick around? Tell us in the comments.

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