The Post-Pandemic Service Industry
It’s not a secret that we are living in unprecedented times. Every American has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and their daily lives continue to be affected by this virus. Even so, the impact has been hardest for employees in the service industry.
While life for most is finally returning to normal, albeit slowly, what does this mean for the service industry? How does an entrepreneur rebuild their brand in an industry fighting to stay afloat? This guide provides valuable suggestions and advice for small businesses in the service industry to come back better and stronger than ever.
A Tale of Two Employees
One of the biggest struggles the service industry faced during the peak of the pandemic and continues to experience today is hiring new employees while retaining current staff. The intense scrutiny of public health and safety in every aspect of our lives manifested into a fear of even leaving the house; so, how does a small business owner attract potential employees while simultaneously caring for the current staff?
Improved Safety Measures:
Enhancing certain safety protocols might seem obvious with the public eye on health and wellness, but what exactly does this entail? In a restaurant setting, consider having food handlers wear masks and gloves at all times. Easy access to hand sanitizing stations should also be taken into account. If the number of COVID cases begins to rise in your immediate area, consider limiting the number of customers in the store at one time. Testing employees for COVID at specified intervals could also be implemented.
This health and safety initiative has a two-fold effect. First, new and existing employees might feel it is a safer working environment with the new modifications and thus continue to show up for work. Second, the customers might also feel safer in this modified setting and not only provide repeat business but spread the word around town.
A pay increase is another seemingly obvious recommendation, but the execution might not be quite as clear. A huge perk for attracting prospective staff is offering wages that are higher than other similar small businesses. It is important to keep in mind that these are starting wages and employees will eventually request a raise. So, review your supplemental profit to determine a decent starting wage with room to grow.
The same algorithm can be used for your current employees as well. A small raise might be insulting to them whereas too much of a raise might threaten your ability to hire additional staff. Look at a long-term plan of raises and retaining good employees.
Unlike increasing wages, allowing schedule flexibility may not be an obvious attractor for prospective workers. However, offering flexibility in scheduling can be very inviting and expands the field for potential employees. Certain individuals may only have certain times of the day they are available to work. Mothers may be available while their child is in school, or a full-time student might only be free at night or certain days of the week to work. This principle also applies to existing staff. With the ability of schedule flexibility, these individuals might feel inclined to become an employee or continue on as part of the staff.
Enhanced Employee Benefits:
If employee benefits were in practice pre-pandemic, they should be reviewed to determine which benefits can be enhanced. If benefits were not offered, it can be vital to your business and employees to provide benefits other competitors don’t offer.
A sign-on bonus can be alluring to prospective staff. If a full-time student is interested, consider offering student loan repayment options in exchange for a certain period of work-time with the business. Health insurance and paid time off (PTO) are other great incentives for potential and current employees alike. Childcare benefits can be especially attractive for individuals with childcare needs. Review benefit packages to determine which is best suited to your small business employees.
Get creative with employee “perks”:
Sometimes employees just want to feel appreciated and will stay if they feel valued. Getting creative with employee “perks” doesn’t have to cost a lot or affect your bottom line, but can go a long way toward employee retention. Some ideas of creative perks:
- Celebrate birthdays with a song and small cake or treat.
- Celebrate milestones (months or years of employment) with balloons, certificates or banners.
- Offer a free meal after employees complete their shift.
- Create “Employee Appreciation” days, once a month or once a quarter that could include drawings for gift cards, movies or a spa day.
- TELL them how much you appreciate them and their hard work. (Employees want to HEAR they are appreciated.)
- Have an off-site team building exercise with laser tag, paintball or even a movie.
- Allow a dress-down day or “casual Fridays.”
The Adventures of Repeat Customers
In a world full of unknowns, one thing is for certain and that is the need for repeat business. Customers are the lifelines of small business ventures. So, how do you keep them coming back for more?
As previously mentioned, the improved safety measures can make them feel safer during their shopping or dining experience. If strategies such as in-store pick-up or curbside delivery were implemented during the pandemic, continuing these services can keep customers returning, especially if customers are utilizing these strategies. Free home delivery is another great post-pandemic strategy. If these product delivery programs have not been previously implemented, you might consider doing so as they can be vital in creating repeat business.
For additional resources on the service industry post-pandemic, or other tips for growing your small business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving Paris area: Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties, Texas.