A SMART Plan for Managing Staffing

Put in the work to create an annual staffing plan and reap the many benefits, including improved retention.
Waiters carrying trays

Did you know that the average full-service restaurant typically spends at least $0.33 of every dollar on labor? Take that number into consideration with these additional facts: unemployment is low, wages are increasing, competition for candidates is heightening, turnover is 72 percent and costs an average of $5,864 per employee, and employee expectations are evolving based on their generational experiences.

Those facts and figures underscore the need to have a written, actionable annual staffing plan. Look beyond the numbers to the benefits, and there’s even more reason to create a yearly guide for hiring, training, motivating and retaining your staff.

Benefits of an annual staffing plan:
  • Improved profitability.
  • Higher guest satisfaction.
  • Increased retention.
  • Organizational consistency.
  • Better understanding and communication of the operation’s brand.
  • More time for operators to work in their business vs. on their business.

Why write out a staffing plan?

Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) improves the odds of completing a plan by 42 percent according to a study on goal attainment by Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California. But just writing out a plan isn’t the most effective way to achieve results. A better approach is to build a staffing plan around SMART criteria, a process proven productive in all industries, including foodservice. The SMART method defines what success looks like, gains alignment among all those involved and provides accountability, increasing the likelihood that the specified plan will not only be put into action, but fully executed.

Planning with SMART Criteria

  • Specific: Define the objective so it is easily understood by anyone who has basic knowledge of the task.

  • Measurable: Set benchmarks for achievement, parameters for measurement and establish what success looks like.

  • Attainable: Determine, with all the stakeholders, that the plan is feasible based on the strategy and steps laid out.

  • Realistic: Establish the objectives and that they can be accomplished with the available resources, knowledge and time.

  • Time-bound: Lay out timing out for all relevant steps of the plan and define end date(s).

How to create a staffing plan

Start by accounting for all the staffing activity that happens within your organization and all that’s provided by additional companies that support your business, such as recruiters. Also note the quarter or month (whatever measure you prefer) each activity usually occurs. Think about each step in the employee life cycle—hiring, training, motivating, retaining—to capture every task. Ask your HR experts or third-party staffing providers for their input and to add anything you might have missed. This is your baseline staffing plan.

Review your staffing plan as it currently stands. Opportunities for improvement should appear. Lean on your HR experts or third-party staffing provider to help identify opportunities as well. If this is your first year working a staffing plan, pick 1-3 of those opportunities and build goals around them using the SMART criteria. Constructing goals is also where your HR experts or third-party staffing provider can help. To encourage accountability and accomplishment, consider tying your staffing goals to your leadership team’s goals.

As part of the “measurable” aspect, define checkpoints throughout the year to gauge how you’re tracking toward completing your staffing goals. At these mile markers, determine whether you’re behind, on target or head of plan, and make adjustments as necessary.

Update your plan on a yearly basis, adding new staffing activities and tweaking the quarterly/monthly timing as relevant. Review your past goals, both accomplished and unmet, and establish new ones. Year over year, your staffing changes should start to gain momentum, giving you the capacity to create more than three goals at a time or increase their complexity.

As outside factors drive up the price tag for employment, having and using a yearly staffing plan will help you keep your labor costs in check. It also helps unite your leadership team, ensuring they work as a one toward the established goals, adding professional wins to their resumes and bringing new accomplishments to your operation. And if that’s not success, I don’t know what is.

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