The truth about losing staff: It’s all your fault

Words by Laticia Gibson, Founder of Mind Body Business
Originally published in My Entrepreneur Magazine

If you have staff you no doubt know how hard it can be to not only find the right person for the job but also keep them from being snatched away.

For my business, we require a very specific skillset but more than that, we require a very specific attitude. To maintain our reputation we not only need to maintain the high standard of work but the high standard in which we interact with our clients. Relationships are everything.

But have you thought about the relationship you have with your staff and the relationship they have with your workplace? What are you doing to attract and keep the ‘gems’ safe?

Hospitality is maybe one of the most volatile industries when it comes to labour shortages and staff retention. Some Australian statistics indicate that turnover of staff is as high as 63%. This partly has to do with its seasonal periods and low pay but also the fact a lot of workers view it as a disposable job, not a career.

Turnover costs businesses more than they may realise as it can be a hard figure to quantify. Firstly you have the direct costs – the money you put into training but also the time your assign to hiring them in the first place. This includes advertising the vacancy, recruitment agencies, termination payouts – the list goes on. Then you have the indirect costs such as loss of productivity.

Sounds like a financial and logistical nightmare, doesn’t it? Well it is.

So why do people leave a job? Sometimes it has nothing to do with the employer, other times it has everything to do with them.

I have a policy of understanding what my staff want long term out of their life and career. If you understand and take a genuine interest in this; you can make a nurturing workplace that people will respect and want to be a part of.

But more than that, you have to understand your own passion and create a team around you that shares your vision.

Simone Dowding runs three cafes and a coffee roasting business with around 30 staff. However she runs more than cafes, she runs a movement supported by staff who share her vision.

“I lead a team that is passionate. I inspire, and I connect through my ideas. I seek out people who believe in my vision. So if you want to be a part of The Blessed Bean tribe, it’s important you share our values,” she said.

“We have a management team that has a huge focus on company culture. Our creed is to inspire, connect and make a difference. This ethos permeates everything we do from marketing to customer service. I know Richard Branson has said, ‘There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated,’ and this holds true for us too.

And it’s obviously working for her. Since 2013, she has only lost 11 staff. Three were terminated while the remaining eight moved town due to university commitments.

“This is an outstanding retention level for the hospitality industry and I am superbly proud of my managers and the team as a whole.”

Her attitude towards hiring has not only helped keep the right people but attract the right people in the first place.

“I’m inundated with resumes daily, with people beating down the door to be a part of our team. Our interviewing technique is not orthodox. Skills are not imperative or even necessary, but demonstrated empathy, an interest in others and a great attitude is. Our staff retention is high because we have a shared interest – a love for coffee and people. They want to be a part of the journey, something that matters and this is the key!”

So how do you keep staff motivated and happy? Simone believes it starts with creating products and services that are remarkable, different, engaging and fun.

“We like to see what we do as a movement. It’s important that our staff believe in what they do every day. They are doing work that is fun, engaging and actually makes a difference.  This in turn creates initiative, which equals happiness. They are encouraged to pursue what is meaningful to them and this is creatively supported.”

Simone’s management style, she believes, varies greatly to other bosses who may focus on systems and procedures.
“My leadership is about influencing people to follow. Relationships are the key to a great team and I connect the team through shared values.

“I don’t have huge staff training manuals on customer service. I just acknowledge and encourage when staff go out of their way to be kind and supportive to other staff and customers,” she said.

For the Blessed Bean, their values and shared beliefs come down to five main principles:

  1. Respect. People treat everyone equally in the team and that includes customers. Staff are encouraged to treat people as they would a king or queen – and it’s taken very seriously.
  2. Empathy. Their motto is “Everyone is fighting their own battle…be kind”.
  3. Caring. Random acts of kindness are encouraged!
  4. Trust. Issues are dealt with promptly so people know they’re valued. Blessed Bean is fiercely loyal and looks after our employees and they therefore expect the same in return.
  5. Giving back. Employees get a day a year paid to volunteer in the community. The business gives back thousands a year to various campaigns and charities all of which the staff are heavily involved with.

And Simone leads by example as an advocate for social change. One example of this is Project Connect where her customers are encouraged to sit down on the “connect couch” with a free coffee to talk and connect. There’s one catch – no phones or technology allowed.

“We have hundreds of customers through every day. Every one of them has a story. We encourage our staff and patrons to connect and engage with everyone they meet. Everyone is amazing in some way! It’s so rewarding to get to know someone on a deeper level. ,” Simone said.

“We also realise that everyone in some way is experiencing stress or issues that we may know nothing about. Being kind to everyone becomes something greater. We want our staff to not only be aware of this at work, but to take that attitude back into their own homes and the wider community.”

This ‘paying if forward’ belief system that has been engrained in the Blessed Bean crew but Simone believes it is a brilliant a business strategy that should be adopted by all business owners and managers.

“We don’t just serve coffee, we believe in the greater good and it happens to be a brilliant morale strategy. Let’s face it; being happy at work is hugely important. We have to be there 8 hours a day or more and it’s a massive chunk of our life! You can take these values into any corporate environment and make a difference in the company culture. It will not only change your life but every single person you come in to contact with.”

Simone’s journey to establishing The Blessed Bean cafes, coffee consultancy & wholesale/retail bean roasting trade began with an absolute passion for coffee, an understanding of the place it holds in people’s lives and a vision for how she could make a difference.

The Blessed Bean holds numerous wholesale accounts nationwide and is building into roasting several tonnes per week
She has directed two short films and is passionate about drawing attention to important community issues.

Simone’s philosophy in life and business is to connect, inspire and make a difference. This permeates through everything The Blessed Bean does from customer service to marketing strategies and is the cornerstone of its success.

Laticia has over eleven years journalism experience, working across the globe as a reporter and producer for Channel Seven, BBC and ITN.

Leaving the world of journalism was an easy decision for Laticia. Realising that the volatility and ego of a newsroom just wasn’t for her, she knew she wanted to continue with her passion of telling stories.

Unearthing, chasing and creating – it’s what she does best.

Beyond creative storytelling, her passion also extends to sharing knowledge of health and how this can be instrumental in creating a healthy business.

Hence, her project, Mind Body Business was born in 2014. This event is one of the most challenging and rewarding projects she has ever worked on.