Listen in as HR guru Carrie Luxem ( joins the QSR Nation crew to discuss ways to get your employees to care. This first of our four-part series with Carrie is a great introduction to getting your employees to engage!

QSR Nation Host:  Hey everybody, welcome back to QSR Nation. As always, we have Josh, Beth, and Tony here from the PFSbrands national headquarters in Holts Summit, Missouri, to talk about foodservice marketing and business strategies for success.

Today we’re super pumped. We have Carrie Luxem back on the show once again. She is the restaurant HR guru, so to speak. She was in Episode 61 and 62, so you can always go back and listen to those if you want some more great information on that, so welcome back, Carrie!

CARRIE LUXEM:  Thank you, guys! So fun to be back.

QSR Nation Host:  We’re so glad to have you. We’re so happy to have you back.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Heck, yeah.

QSR Nation Host:  Would you like to give us a little quick background?

CARRIE LUXEM:  Sure, absolutely. So the quick version of my background, I spent over a decade with Potbelly Sandwich Works, started the HR department there. There were just a few restaurants in one market, stayed for a long time, almost 11 years, and we grew to over 200 restaurants in many, many markets, and I really kind of grew up there and really started to understand how to support restaurant operators.

And then I left there and I started my own company, which is Restaurant HR Group, where we handle the HR, payroll, and benefits administration for only restaurants throughout the country, and over the last couple years, I have started which is a platform, a membership platform where I offer up unlimited access to many tools and videos and articles and compliance updates and training and all kind of things, so that’s the very quick version of my background.

I have written a book that is called Restaurant Operator’s HR Playbook, and I’m really just in the business of creating tools and resources to help restaurateurs, whether it be large restaurant groups or independent restaurateurs, with leadership and building simple and easy-to-understand processes and systems throughout their restaurants.

QSR Nation Host:  Well, and you’ve done a great job with it. When we talked last time you were on the show about your company and our company, we just have a strong passion for just trying to elevate the industry.


QSR Nation Host:  Folks take advantage of the opportunities they have through the podcast, through your tools, through all the different things that are out there just to present a better experience for the consumers, better opportunity for the folks in the trenches that are working in the foodservice industry, and then overall just great time enjoying being together and hanging out and making some money and serving up some food.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, great. Yeah, it’s such an amazing industry, and so whatever we can do to help it be the best is what my goal is overall.

QSR Nation Host:  Well, there are so many people out there that think that this type of industry, it’s so fast-paced, it’s changing all the time, but the tools that you provide just bring us back to the basics, and it’s the information that everyone needs to understand and that everyone needs to know to make sure that they are staying up-to-date with the changing business, but you’re also able to have that foundation and move forward in a successful way.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, and Beth, I totally agree with you. I mean it’s all about keeping it basic. Any brand that I’ve ever worked with, they get real fancy, right, and they grow and they add all of these initiatives and projects, and almost always at some point in their evolution, they say, “We need to get back to the basics,” and so I am just all about simplicity. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated, no matter what you’re doing.

When I think of my world and how I support operators, it’s really through the lifecycle of an employee, so how do you go about recruiting and hiring them, how do you onboard them, how do you manage their performance, how do you understand the payroll, the benefits, all of these pieces, the compliance, the legalities, and then through terminating them, and really creating a simple process for doing that, so systems and processes, and then hiring good-hearted, hard-working people that are going to lead the charge. So it’s leadership and systems, and it really is that basic, and when people want to make it more complicated, they just have too much time on their hands or something.

It’s like just keep it basic, and the brands that I work with and the operators that I support, again, whether it’s an independent restaurateur or it’s a franchisee of it’s a larger group, the ones that really just keep it simple, really understand who they are, really stay focused on their vision and their mission, and they really understand the value of their people, those are the ones that have better success. They make more money, they have less turnover, they can impact their restaurants, their community, the world at a different level.

QSR Nation Host:  Wow, that makes absolute sense, and that’s just a great way to get back to the basics, basically, and that’s a great segue to kind of what we really want to discuss today, seven reasons why your employees don’t care and how to fix that and how to get them engaged.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, yeah, and I think this is a very good example of these are things that when we talk about them, it’s like, “yeah, oh okay, obviously,” but sometimes some of these common or obvious things are just not happening. I, on a very regular basis, I hear managers or owners of restaurants talk about these employees and their bad attitudes, and that people are unmotivated, and I can’t, you know, it’s generational.

There’s all kinds of excuses for why employees are not doing what they need to be doing, and I think there’s so much that a manager or an owner can do that’s really simple in one regard and it just takes a lot of dedication and thought and accountability to make it happen, so if an operator works hard enough and they care enough, they are going to be able to change the dynamics of their team. You talked about the fact that I’m going to go over seven things, there’s a lot of things that you can do, I sort of narrowed it down to these general seven things, and the first thing is one of the reasons that people are not engaged or not happy is they really don’t have a true connection to the company, and this is so much more common.

Whether it’s a big company or a small company, they just don’t feel any connection outside of their paycheck, and employees have to know that they are an important role in the company, they play a significant role in the company, so when they don’t is when they’re always looking for something else or they just don’t have that loyalty and they’re not going to bring their best game to work every single day. So when I think about not having a connection to the company, how do you get your employees to connect to your company, and I think first and foremost you really need to integrate your company’s vision and your mission and your purpose.

People spend time creating these, which is very important, but you’ve got to incorporate the everyday actions into the restaurant. You can’t just put this up on a whiteboard or in the back of the house, this is our mission and this is our vision, you’ve got to live it every single day, and I think making sure that your people really understand what these things are and what it sort of means to them, and providing them ongoing education on this or support. You know, I’m a small company, I tap into the emotions of my team all the time and really make sure they understand what is my true vision for our company and how do you, as an HR generalist, play a role in our big-picture goals and dreams, and so really understanding how to do that.

Managers might not really understand the vision, they may not understand the mission, so making sure that your leaders, the store-level leaders or the multi-level leaders, really understand truly what are the ideals, what are your values, what are you coming to work, what are you doing this for every single day. I think that’s hugely important.

QSR Nation Host:  Well, exactly. The culture will actually spawn that personal commitment, that’s something that we see with our company, and we talk about our culture, we try to execute to the best of our abilities on a daily basis, and the end of the day if leadership understands what the vision is like you’re saying, whether it’s top-level, mid-level, entry-level, whatever, and actually live it out so people can actually find a way to connect and give that personal commitment of “Hey, we’re all one goal, one mission, let’s make this happen,” that I think helps shore up that connection to the company if you actually like you’re saying, live out your culture. You don’t just put it on a pretty plaque or the back of a t-shirt and say, “Hey, that’s who we are.”

CARRIE LUXEM:  Absolutely. I remember once, this was many years ago, I had a client and they were really struggling with trying to get people to connect, and when I heard that the owner was like reprimanding people for not memorizing their vision like this is the problem, it’s about memorizing that paragraph, it’s not really understanding what you’re doing, and the fact that he was disciplining our employees for not memorizing it was a whole different situation, but it isn’t about memorizing the sentences or having it, like you said, on a t-shirt.

It’s really about living it, and sometimes I think that leaders just think that people understand it as well as they do because they understand it, you know, so really having dialogue and opening things up and doing things, activities. It doesn’t have to be parties and stuff like that but just living out whatever it is your goals are. How do you get people to feel and to understand what you’re trying to do?

Like I said, it’s simple but it’s not always easy. It’s simple to say to do it but it takes a huge commitment to wake up every single day and to go in and live your vision and your mission and your purpose. The truth is we get tired, we’re running businesses, restaurants are a lot of hard work, and it’s easy to just get into that rut where you’re just running operations and trying to make more money, but if you can really look at the bigger picture and the purpose, then you’re going to be way ahead.

QSR Nation Host:  Be sure to tune in next week as we continue our discussion with Carrie Luxem.

Listen to the rest: Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4.

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