There are a handful of lessons in life that shine true for everyone, that stand tall as ultimately important for our existence, and that set people on a course of completeness that is so essential. One of those lessons is the significance of work – regardless of what that work might be. Work is important on so many levels and for so many reasons. In particular – the relationship of work to understanding the value of a dollar and the knowledge that pay is recognition for effort, expertise, knowledge, and commitment is so significant and indicative of a person’s character.
“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley
These relationships go both ways, of course. The individual who learns early on that work is important to them and to those around them, should also be recognized in the same manner by those whom they work for. Effort for pay and proper pay for effort are equally important.
When people learn that there is a need to earn what you make, then there is a different level of appreciation for what they have and the opportunities before them. This may sound like one of those hollow lectures from an older generation, but I am convinced that these words have merit.
The earlier that a person realizes that he or she must put forth the effort to enjoy privilege, then this relationship with work ethic has a chance to establish roots. I applaud those 14 year olds with a paper route, the high school freshman who is excited to sign up for early working papers, and even those even younger who know the relationship between chores and an allowance. I truly admire kids who grow up on a farm and understand that before their day slips into a normal flow – there is farm work to be done. When individuals from a very early age understand that “of course I will work before I play”, then this effort becomes a habit and the habit becomes part of their personal culture.
When that $500 cell phone is given to a 15 year old as a right of passage rather than something that is earned through hard work and effort, then its meaning as something of special value is diminished. When there is no relationship between what we have and how we worked to earn it, then everything becomes a right instead of a privilege.
So, where am I going with this? Everything in my world eventually turns to a relationship with the food business and this article is no exception. I will not generalize and point a finger at an entire group of people, but rather reference those within many generations since the late 1940’s (yes, this is a somewhat subjective observation on my part – although someone must have entertained a statistical review of this observation) and how they view this work/value relationship. Parents have always felt that they have a responsibility to provide for their family and to set the stage for children to have a better lifestyle than they enjoyed (or suffered through). This is an admirable goal and an understandable responsibility, but to live this goal without instilling a feeling that personal effort is an integral part of this, is a real problem.
When people fail to understand the work/value relationship then their desire to earn a living, to know how important it is to treat the opportunity for employment with respect, the need to find their passion through hard work, and to approach every responsibility with vigor, is diminished. The results are evident in their efforts in school, their level of enthusiasm for finding a calling in life, their appreciation for what they have and what they are able to provide, and their willingness to find a way to constantly improve, is diminished.
The restaurant industry is truly challenged today, more so than ever before. It has always been hard to earn a profit in a business of pennies, it has always been challenging to attract a steady flow of customers and keep them coming back, and it has always been challenging to hit the mark with the right product and service, but it has never been this hard to find and keep staff.
When restaurants limit their hours of operation, modify their menus, and even close their doors, not because the location was wrong or the quality of their product missed the mark, but simply because they couldn’t find or depend on their staff to show up and give a reasonable effort – then we have a societal issue that is very disturbing. Yes, there are other factors: 3.7% unemployment means that there are more jobs than people and less incentive to work extra hard, the work in restaurants is unusually hard, and the pay is not in line with effort and skill, but I really believe that much of the blame falls on the shoulders of this lack of work/value respect. These problems with the restaurant industry must be resolved – fair pay for effort is essential, but pay alone will not solve this problem.
Those farm kids may not want to get up at 4 a.m. to feed the chickens, and the 14 year olds probably groan when their parents wake them up at 5 a.m. to deliver papers, but they know that the work is there and it is their responsibility to put in the effort. When that effort results in a paycheck or an allowance there is a sense of accomplishment that has real value. Those same individuals at the age of 18, or 25, or 40 will never consider not showing up to work, or arriving late without any remorse. These same individuals in a kitchen will always be ready when those first tickets grind off the POS, and will always give 100% effort with “best effort” quality work throughout the day whether it is peeling onions or reducing a sauce. These same individuals will never punch out without feeling that they earned their pay.
Restaurants need to do a much better job of training and caring for the people who work in their operations. Creating a more realistic work environment, treating people with respect, and paying a fair wage are all significant issues that must be addressed, but the lack of attention to this should never justify a lack of work/value effort on the part of employees. When a property fails to recognize positive effort then the employee is always justified in looking for better opportunities, but when individuals relinquish their responsibility for being dependable and doing a good job, then the problem becomes cultural rather than the responsibility of a property or specific operator.
I am not sure there is a quick fix – the work/value core is a character issue that starts in the home and in the community. This challenge is now societal and has been festering for decades. There should be a relationship between the rewards of living and the commitment to effort. We all share a responsibility for this.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training