One of the industry’s boogeymen is a tightening labor market that seems to be snatching talented candidates from under hiring managers. “With historically low unemployment rates, you’ve got to move fast,” says Jerry Nevins, head of “strategery” and customer happiness at frozen cocktail bar Snow & Company in Kansas City, Mo. “People are getting snapped up within a couple days.” Instead of losing out, Nevins and other operators are investing in HR software to streamline their hiring—but some processes still require a human touch.
For Nevins, an applicant tracking system—which digitizes recruitment elements such as job listings, applications and screening—creates a secure home to catalog candidates. “When people just walked in and dropped off paper applications to a manager or a server, it would end up in different places in the office,” he says. “Our software creates a centralized electronic location that allows us to stay on top of the process.”
The system also helps his team jump on promising candidates quickly. After a successful interview, managers can send prospects a link to onboarding paperwork and confirm that the pages were read and signed, without having to wait for them to come for an in-person meeting.
Multiunit operators can take advantage of some software programs’ note-taking capabilities. NoHo Hospitality Group, which runs 11 concepts in New York City, uses software to track the number of times a person applies across all its brands to gauge interest—or desperation. Interviewers write feedback within the system on why they did or did not hire an individual. “It saves [different] managers time that could be wasted on interviewing or hiring someone who wasn’t a good fit,” says Kelly Perkins, director of HR for the group.
In addition to onboarding, Luke Fryer, operator of New York City concepts Ramen Co. and The Counter, uses a networking and marketplace HR platform to help lower short-cycle turnover. “When an employee leaves in under 90 days, they weren’t properly hired,” Fryer says. The system has a LinkedIn-style service that allows employers and potential hires to interact. Leveraging the social aspect of his software, Fryer plans to incentivize staff members to repost job listings in one click on their social feeds.
Smaller concepts can’t always afford comprehensive HR programs, says Nevins. He suggests operators evaluate where they need the most help—recruiting, onboarding or scheduling—and start there. One way to save: “Job posting sites have evolved a lot over the past few years and [often] charge per listing rather than monthly,” he says. Nevins also recommends a program that allows applicants and employers to sign documents online to speed the process.
The systems themselves aren’t perfect. “Products that use a video application as the first step of the phone screening processes can be misleading, because people interact with a camera differently than an actual person,” Perkins says. Instead, she uses the time saved with the help of her HR suite to train managers on interviewing techniques.