3 Ways to Inspire Ownership Within Your Hourly Employees

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

Getting an hourly employee to think of the business as their own is a big ask, but it’s not impossible. Having a strong culture will create a working environment that sets itself apart from the rest of the jobs out there.

But how can you instill a sense of ownership into your employees who are really only there until they move onto their career? It all starts with taking a look at these three points.

1. Transparency and Authenticity

Before you can expect your employees to think of the restaurant as their own, your employees are going to want to know what’s going on with the restaurant. Do you have any future plans? Do you have any hopes to develop more concepts?

Being transparent on the current standing of the restaurant and your operations will not only give the team a sense of ownership, but it will also show them your vulnerabilities. If you are struggling because 2016 was a rough year, they may have solutions you might not have even thought of before.

The younger generation is smart and they can tell when leadership isn’t being authentic. That’s something that is important to leadership: being authentic. That will keep employees loyal and will help build that sense of ownership.

2. Bounce Ideas Off of Them — Get Their Opinion!

Start asking for their opinions on ideas that you are thinking of! Especially when it comes to hourly management, they are struggling to fit in anywhere. They’re not salaried positions, so they don’t understand everything upper management goes through, but they’re also not an hourly, entry-level position, either so they’re the black sheep of the team.

Let them feel like they are making a difference in the restaurant! Even if their ideas or opinions aren’t the best, at least you took the time to listen to what they had to say.

You don’t always have to implement everything your staff gives an opinion on, but allowing them to have that open discussion with you as the owner or operator will get them thinking as an someone invested in the business, instead of just simply an employee.

3. Recognition and Accountability

This is one of those things that get put up on a shelf. We know we need to do it, but then something else happens that always ends up overshadowing the recognition of every employee.

I’m not just talking about during reviews every 60-90 days, yearly awards, or even an employee-of-the-month type of recognition.

I’m talking about the everyday recognition. Look for something that your team is doing well and let them know that you are appreciative of them for going above and beyond.

In the restaurant industry, we focus so much on the negative and that causes stress. If you want your employees to feel good about how they’re performing, let them know you are noticing when things are going right!

Negativity costs the U.S. economy between $250 to $300 billion every year due to lost productivity. (Source: The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work) Although ownership is not always about what’s going right, that’s why I tie in accountability with recognition.

Holding people accountable for their actions inspires ownership, but so does rewarding the team. When a business does things right, the customers spend more money and that boosts profits. So, why not reward the employees for leading their teams by example? Notice it their hard work!

Then when they drop the ball, they will have that sense of ownership to ensure they don’t drop the ball moving forward.

BONUS: Promote from Within

I’m a big advocate from promoting from within a company. I have seen it go well and I have also seen it go terribly. But that doesn’t mean that just because you have an opening right now, the person who wanted it always gets it.

Having the willingness to put in the work and being able to do the work are completely separate.

If an employee mentions that they are interested in a position, but you aren’t confident that they have the capability, then let them know you want to get them on a slow transition period. Promote someone else who can fill the shoes immediately and then coach and train the people who want to move up so when another position opens, you don’t need to scramble to find someone. Giving them the opportunity to grow also increases their sense of ownership and commitment to your restaurant.

Your business needs you to act as a leader. Create a culture of ownership so your employees will go to battle for you — every single day. Your main focus should be to create more leaders for the industry instead of followers. Not only are you impacting your own business and bottom line, but you’ll be creating a better future for restaurants as a whole.