Remember when you could walk into your local McDonald’s and get bad service and the ice cream machine was broken? Those were times when you could go to a restaurant and see an open table and be assured that you were going to be seated very soon. You could probably think back to the time where you had an applicant, hired them, they came into work on time and adhered to the policies and procedures, you have set forth in your center. Believe it or not, that wasn’t too long ago.
Fast forward a few crises later and the ice cream machine is still down, but you may not even get inside the McDonald’s. You’ll have to settle for the attitudes at the drive-thru. The number of tables open are as much as they were (or greater), but there is no one to wait on them so they stay empty. And that applicant you got? Well, if you are still reading this, you probably know that they didn’t show up for their first day. If they did, chances are they didn’t last long or they stayed around because they didn’t have to do what you asked them to and you are still giving them a check.
In each example, we have accepted the fact that this is just the way it is. It is just the way it is now. What can you do? It’s COVID. With each dismissive comment we build a resistance to progress because we accept this as the new normal. I'm not suggesting that you tell the restaurant to get over it and open the table. I have seen that happen too many times.
What I am suggesting is that your acceptance of these behaviors has trickled over to the way you operate your own business. We have lowered the bar of performance and expectations and have become scared to enforce the very policy and procedures that have made us great to begin with.
The newly famous lines, “They are overworked and I can’t,” or, “They will quit if I do,” keep running in my head as I type this article. The fear around “The Great Resignation” keeps you in check because you see and hear people leaving for other jobs quicker than before. It is true—people are leaving for other jobs, better jobs and sometimes higher paying jobs. This is a fact that is overshadowing the fact that if they were truly happy, they wouldn’t be looking.
Is it that people don’t want to work, or people don’t want to work for you or with the crew you have created after COVID? Do you really believe if things ran smoothly, people had trust in each other that they would be running out the door to try their luck at another place that doesn’t have their business in order for another dollar an hour? Do you believe that McDonald’s is really a threat to your labor pool?
We have become COVID scared. Not about catching COVID, but getting back to our core values because we are scared to lose what we have as everything changes. We have become scared to stop the endless bleeding of bad employees through our doors because we think we need to keep the bad employees to do good business. Does that make sense?
There is a great saying that is posted by many business leaders that says, “People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses.” This was true before COVID just as much as it after COVID. Your good employees are leaving to look for better places to work and better teams to work with because they have an expectation of what great things should be. You do, too. You just have put that idealism away to survive instead of to thrive.
How do we get back on track? Start small and build on the core foundations that you laid in the beginning. Start with that. Saying you are going to institute all that you had the weeks before COVID is going to be as successful as me saying I'm going to cut out all carbs starting today to lose 60 pounds.
Change one thing today. Celebrate that execution with your team and build on that with another piece that complements that. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Raising the bar slowly will put your underperforms in line but more importantly show your great teammates there is a path before you have them joining the great resignation.
Being COVID scared has affected us all. Look around at the places that are crushing it. They are providing great service and making big money, and probably with the people who left those jobs that didn’t get it.