Lessons from a Sponge

T.J. Schier

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As most of you know, cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is happily employed at the Krusty Krab - a quick serve seen by millions of kids every day on Nickelodeon. Quite a few funny restaurant experiences seem to happen to the SpongeBob crew - they even made a movie about them.

Having an 8- and 10-year old, I recently saw the SpongeBob SquarePants movie and there was actually a valuable restaurant lesson to be learned (that somehow stayed with me after 90 minutes of torture). The second Krusty Krab restaurant was getting ready to open and SpongeBob thought he was going to be the manager, yet he was passed over for a “more mature” candidate. He was crushed. How many times have we done that to our employees?

The lesson to take away is this: Think about training from the inside before recruiting from the outside. How many potential management candidates do you have working for you that lack a bit in maturity, leadership skills, or management experience, and you simply pass them over and look to the outside for answers? We continually hire new managers, lose them after 1.3 years, and hire another. How about reallocating our efforts (and dollars)into teaching our existing employees the skills they need to become great managers.

Based on data I’ve come across, companies that have a higher rate of internal promotions tend to have longer tenured managers, lower management turnover, and lower employee turnover. Why? These folks are already bonded to the brand—they know what it’s like and they buy-in. They simply need to know there is a career path in the organization and the opportunity to succeed (with employer-directed development provided).

Need a new manager? Comb your roster, find out who is interested, see what skills they are lacking, and get them trained, perhaps by a mentor or coach. Numerous assessment tests are available to help you identify what skills your employees need to develop.

Courses are available through many companies. Even the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (www.nraef.org), in affiliation with the Harvard Business School, provides management classes.

Yes, it is an investment. But that investment is safer than the typical recruiting churn. By providing opportunities to your current employees, you’re ultimately encouraging them, and others, to stay longer. Now that’s something to absorb!

T. J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T. J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit http://IncentivizeSolutions.com/ for more info motivating today's employees, training today's generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or http://podTraining.us/ , a unique new system and the foundation of ‘i-learning’ - using the device of today's generation, the iPod - to train your workforce.


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