Overtime is quite common in some industries like restaurants. According to federal regulations, employees working overtime (that is, more than 40 hours a week) are eligible for one-half times the minimum wage. That means, an employee making $3 an hour at a waiting job is eligible to make close to $10 an hour when they work overtime (in addition to tipping).
Not surprisingly then, overtime is highly sought after in such industries. At the same time, such jobs can also be highly stressful and employee engagement tends to fall despite the higher wage rates. Dealing with engagement in an industry that is already notorious for its attrition can therefore be a challenge.
According to the “Simply Irresistible Organization” framework published by Deloitte, restaurant employees typically look for five things in an employer: meaningful work, supportive management, positive work environment, growth opportunity, and trust in leadership. A restaurant that succeeds in establishing this framework tends to enjoy higher engagement.
But how does overtime play into this? A study published by 7Shifts found that poor pay was the most disliked metric among 42% of restaurant workers. Given this, overtime should contribute to higher engagement. At the same time, burned out employees tend to quit faster. With employee turnover rates standing at nearly 61% among restaurants, employee overtime can be very expensive in those workplaces.
Dealing with engagement in such situations can be tricky. While employee burnout is a fact, there are a few ways you can make it easy for your employees to stay engaged and loyal.
While higher wages encourage employees to work longer and harder, they do not always contribute to improving the emotional well-being of your employees. It is important to invest in gratification techniques that help in this aspect.
Incentivizing your customers to share their happy experiences on social media is a great first step. Furthermore, creating special incentives for those who tag employees who do a great job creates a gratification that pushes your employees to do more. Going back to the Deloitte study, this strategy also creates a positive work environment that is so vital to improving engagement.
Make Engagement and Happiness a KPI
The sad truth about employee engagement, especially in industries like food service, is that it cannot be truly measured. So, while engagement is measured using proxy-metrics like attrition and customer reviews, there is no objective metric to monitor. What this also means is that there is often nobody at the organization who ‘owns’ this metric.
If your organization has a large chunk of employees working overtime, it is very important to set up a position like ‘Director of Happiness’ and ensure that employee engagement is actively measured and monitored.
Consider Making Employees Full-Time
Most restaurant workers are either on fixed term contracts or are agency workers. This forces them to take up overtime and to work at hourly wages that are well below the minimum wage. One way to keep your best workers and motivate others in the team is to offer full-time employment to workers you do not want to let go.
Making employees full-time is not just about a change in the employment status. It is also about providing your workers with benefits that are hitherto not available to them. Providing health coverage, for example, provides your workers with a sense of job security that improves job satisfaction and loyalty while keeping your workers happy, secure, and healthy.
All said and done, it is worth remembering that employees take overtime out of choice and for the need to make a living wage. While raising wages and reducing overtime is one strategy that has been gaining ground in many places, it is worth noting that there is nothing that stops your workers from seeking temp jobs from alternate sources. This can undo a lot of the work you have done for improving engagement.
The long-term solution is to consider workers as an investment and make them full-time. This is a win-win that can reduce attrition while keeping your employees happy and satisfied from both a financial and emotional perspective.
Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources.