Like the restaurant industry, healthcare foodservice operations depend on an employee mix of highly skilled professionals and hourly workers, often students. And just as in the restaurant industry, it can be a challenge to find service-minded people who can keep up with the pace and pressure of the job.
Healthcare has at least one big advantage over restaurants when it comes to recruiting: The hours tend to be much more reasonable. That’s a quality-of-life perk, and employment value proposition, many hospitals and retirement communities can use to attract top-notch culinary talent. Another employment value proposition: Healthcare foodservice employees can feel good about the work they do, as it significantly improves their customers’ quality of life.
Emphasizing those two aspects can help you stand out in a sea of potential employers. But you still have to find the right people to listen to that pitch in the first place.
“Each generation almost needs to be treated differently,” says Karla Spaeth, Department Chairwoman in the Hotel, Restaurant, and Resort Management Program at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. That includes separate and unique methods of communication for Gen Z (born 1993 and after), millennials (born 1977-1992), Gen X (born 1966-1976), and baby boomers (born 1946-1965), the oldest of whom turn 70 in 2016.
Boomers are best reached the old-fashioned way: Via newspaper ads and word of mouth—including digital word-of-mouth platforms like Facebook. “Careers” buttons on websites are another good way to reach this group.
For younger generations, social-network pages are the way to go. Monster.ca, Snagajob.com, Craigslist.ca, Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, and Kijiji.ca are just a few websites to consider. Industry-specific sites like nutritionjobs.com can be helpful for skilled positions. And don’t forget Twitter and Instagram.
Other ideas: Ask employees, hospital staffers and retirement-community residents for referrals. Reach out to colleges and schools with culinary programs or classes. Attend job fairs. Offer internships.
Shannex, which operates senior-living communities across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario invites local culinary classes to tour its operations. “We have 100 to 125 students go through our kitchens each year, and many of them do internships,” says Heather Hanson, Director of Communications and Community Affairs. “We show them that healthcare foodservice is not what they think.”
Finding potential employees is only half the battle. You still have to hire the right person. “Hire people who have the potential to exceed your expectations, in addition to the attributes and/or experience that the position requires,” advises Gordon Food Service Customer Effectiveness Manager Ken Wasco.
For example, Wasco says, the best dining-room servers are salespeople and good back-of-the-house “production” workers are craftspeople. It’s not easy to determine whether a person possesses these attributes from a job application or brief interview; Dan Longton, President, CEO, and founder of Florida-based TraitSet, recommends having applicants fill out behavioral-assessment forms. If you’re considering using behavioral-assessment forms, make sure they relate directly to the job the applicant is expected to perform and are reviewed by a legal professional, to ensure that they are legally valid.
Behavioral assessments measure five or six traits—for example, whether a person is conscientious, an achiever, has a strong work ethic and integrity and how he or she assimilates information.
“You want to find people with the qualities that fit the position you want to fill,” Longton says. “Note that these qualities are behavioral traits, not personality traits. If you start with candidates who have a good work ethic and integrity, you can teach them the job and you’ll have good employees.”
The bottom line? You have to invest more time and effort into recruiting, and view workers as vital parts of your operation.