Proper Training and Documentation:
Don’t Overlook Them!
Don’t you just hate to hear these words: “I didn’t know that was my job,” or, “I’ve only been late three times! I don’t understand why you’re angry!” Unfortunately, you’ve probably heard much worse! Guess who is at fault most of the time? No matter what you think you may have told an employee upon hiring or what you think is common sense, if it isn’t in writing, chances are you will be held ultimately responsible. It may not be fair, but in these days of the responsibility-shrugging attitude, you have to think of all possible scenarios.
We all know we have to document tardiness, no call/no show and those types of occurrences, but do we all know how to protect ourselves from the fateful, “I didn’t know…” You can fill in the blanks from there. Upon hiring, you or someone you trust, must conduct orientation and training. There should be an Employee Handbook with all the regulations and guidelines employees should know. For example, all employees should know what consequences they face when they are late or if they just don’t show up for work one day. It should be made clear that no one is exempt from these rules, even those employees who don’t speak English. Go over the manual page by page with everyone. Take time to make sure your staff understands that you are serious about rule enforcement.
Training should be very precise as to what is expected of an employee in his/her position. Take time to go over what may seem like common sense duties. Every person is coming from a different place in his/her life. Duties vary from restaurant to restaurant. Be patient and encourage questions so misunderstandings don’t happen later. Statistically, it takes three to five times for a person to absorb what is being taught to him/her. Stress to your trainers that they be patient and caring. Make new people feel comfortable. Professionals know how to make people feel welcome and comfortable. The attitude displayed at training will carry over into the new person’s attitude toward guests and fellow workers.
Incidentally, when you hire a non-English speaking person, and most of the time he/she is a Spanish-speaking person, you must supply a handbook in Spanish. Create the handbook in English first and keep it at a third or fourth grade level of reading ability. Everything that is in the English-speaking manual must also be in the Spanish-speaking manual. Assume that no one will understand the rules, sexual harassment or drug and alcohol abuse policies.
In addition to having sensitive and hot topics covered, such as sexual harassment or drug and alcohol abuse, have separate sheets that state that the undersigned understands the policies. If these policies are not followed, make it clear that termination can and will occur. These forms should be available through insurance companies or through your legal representative.
When disciplining someone whom doesn’t speak English, it is sometimes easier to dismiss the situation rather than deal with it properly. Know that one sexual harassment lawsuit can drastically change your financial stability, not to mention your reputation as a great employer. An accident that occurs on premises due to an intoxicated employee could mean the end of your career. Make sure all employees understand why they are being disciplined and the consequences that must follow. Have another Spanish-speaking person with you to translate anything that may not be understood in English. When you are finished, ask if the person understands. Do no accept a simple “yes.” Go further and ask him/her to repeat back to you what was said and what it means. Understand that it is your responsibility; employees of all levels of education and nationality know when they can take advantage of you.
At the risk of seeming paranoid, these measures must be taken for your protection and the protection of your other employees and guests. There is a way to make this as much fun as possible.
Every quarter, plan to have employee evaluations. Also plan to have an employee meeting/re-orientation. Go over the handbooks again. The fun part is making up a “Common Sense Quiz,” or an “Idiot Test.” You might have 20-30 questions, or more if you like, regarding general rules and behavior practices. Some of them might be multiple choice. Sprinkle a few absurd questions in it to make your employees laugh and know that you have a sense of humor.
Also mixed in should be very serious questions, such as, “What is sexual harassment?” If someone doesn’t know, it will be revealed to you on this quiz. It is then your responsibility to make sure that not too many days go by before you correct that answer with the individual. In short, don’t leave anything to chance.