Editor’s Letter: June 2014
By Laura Aiken
Recruiting and retaining quality staff is a challenge and a top concern
for many bakeries. Any business is only as good as its people, and its
people are often only as good as the culture that motivates their
Recruiting and retaining quality staff is a challenge and a top concern for many bakeries. Any business is only as good as its people, and its people are often only as good as the culture that motivates their performance. Certain conditions need to be in place for staff to thrive and grow, but discovering which are important for each particular employee requires time – a commodity that always seems to be in short supply.
In this issue, Bakers Journal explores Stone Hearth bakery and its program to help rehabilitate people who, because of mental health issues or other barriers, have had difficulty maintaining employment. The bakery employs paid staff that work alongside the unpaid members of the program, and it is easy to imagine that the permanent employees need to possess an abundance of patience and respect. Since each person that comes into the program carries their own particular challenges and circumstances, including not necessarily any interest in becoming a baker, individual needs must be carefully tailored if his or her tenure with Stone Hearth is to result in continued success in the workplace at large. This serves as an important reminder that all the people who work for you come with their own circumstances, motivations, quirks and otherwise decidedly human traits.
People need room to be themselves at work in the same way they need to have personal relationships that allow them to be themselves. We are very much creatures who love the feeling of being known, understood and treated like individuals. In the workplace, this is a symbiotic and rewarding relationship for all. If it were easy to achieve, retention and performance wouldn’t be such a huge concern for bakeries and other industries, assuming one has hired right in the first place.
Managers strive to hire people who will fit in with their organization, and there is no shortage of articles online and books on the shelves dedicated to building successful corporate cultures. Such principles apply to small companies too. The success stories seem to create that mystical balance of individuality and uniformity whereby the staff actually “becomes the brand.” There is no shortage of case studies, from Apple to Honda.
All the knowledge in the world has yet to make this problem of retention and successful staffing any less prevalent. I will throw a hypothesis out there as to one reason why this may be the case – sometimes people simply take themselves too seriously. This behaviour can filter down to those working around them, often with disastrous effects. Pressure and stress are everyday realities for most anyone working in today’s world, but grace, good-naturedness and a sense of humour about it all are mandatory to keep work fun. Stress gets the best of most everyone sometimes, and we live in a general culture of obsessive productivity, so it’s easy to see how the taking of oneself too seriously happens. But when a job stops being any fun for too long, you can pretty much guarantee you will get mediocre performance or an employee looking for another position. Fun can be underestimated as something a company is in the business of providing its staff. It can be interpreted as something people are responsible for coming up on their own, but it is really a value that is ingrained then incorporated throughout a business.
So what’s your bakery’s fun factor? Are there a decent amount of smiles, jokes and laughs seen and heard? Do you hire people who demonstrate a sense of humour? While this can be a tough trait to figure out in a job interview, it’s one worth looking for. A sense of fun also makes it easier for people to feel at ease being themselves, which makes a manager’s job easier in the way of determining how best to motivate their team on an individual basis.