You’re Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link – How Employees Make or Break Risk Management for COVID-19

Kari Hensien, President of RizePoint

by Kari Hensien, President of RizePoint

You're Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link - How Employees Make or Break Risk Management for COVID-19By now, we have all had at least one experience going to a store or restaurant and deciding not to go back after seeing few masks or lack of sanitization between customers. COVID-19 safety and sanitation procedures affect where guests are spending money, with more than three-quarters of Americans saying they had not yet returned to dine in and wanted to see more hygiene procedures and staff wearing PPE before they would.

What do you do when trying to protect employees and customers, and protection requires clear, consistent application of changing guidelines? It only takes one person to spark an outbreak that could lead to reclosure and damage to your reputation. Yet compliance is harder than ever with the added pressure of trying to remember new procedures and menu items, stressed customers, and lower staffing.

Employees need support, and the good news is you can solve these challenges in a way that not only helps you manage COVID-19 risk but also sets you up for future success.

1. Combat Cognitive Overload

Employees are dealing with more than ever in the workplace. Shifts are short staffed, many restaurants have changed menus, almost everyone has new procedures for pickup and delivery, and safety processes are frequently re-evaluated and revamped. It’s no wonder why many restaurant employees are struggling.

According to eLearning Industry, three things directly affect cognitive load. “The first is the abundance of decision-making opportunities. The second is distractions or training interruptions we must contend with. The last is the constant need to manage every moment of our day in order to maximize efficiency. All of this culminates in stress that prevents our minds from assimilating information effectively.”

Too many decisions, distractions and interruptions, and a need to maximize efficiency. Sound familiar? Instead of asking every employee to perfectly remember health recommendations that changed last week and may change again next week, provide memory aids through your digital platforms that are easily accessible to every employee. This way workers aren’t trying to find the latest printout or remember what their manager told them.

With a digital assessment and communication platform, every location has the most up-to-date guidelines in an easily accessible format. Employees perform better with one less variable in the mix, and your risk goes down.

2. Consistently Reinforce Health & Safety Standards with Self-Assessments

Lack of adherence to safety standards is a bit of a contagion in and of itself. When employees see one another with a mask on their chin or only sanitizing high-touch surfaces half as often as they should, it can create a snowball effect where others also begin being more lax with COVID-19 standards.

One of the best ways restaurants can mitigate the chance that one or two employees could create greater risk exposure is through digital self-assessments, everything from daily employee checklists to location assessments. Every restaurant has assessments like this, but if they’re still being done with pen and paper, you have major potential for risk.

Paper assessments have a habit of ending up in a corner collecting dust, or are sent into regional to be included in a spreadsheet, showing information 2-4 weeks behind. Not exactly helpful in the moment.

Instead, collecting assessments digitally creates a culture of accountability and visibility. It’s easier to see and reinforce good choices, or offer guidance for poor ones, when you have a real-time look at your business from self-assessments conducted multiple times a day.

3.  Use Tech to Onboard New Vendors

Supply chain disruptions are making things even harder for restaurants than normal. While you may be able to work around some low-inventory items by offering limited time offers (LTOs) on other items, some things you can’t do without.

You can support employees and supplement key suppliers by using tech to bring on new vendors. Lighten the load on employees (and avoid mistakes made by overwhelmed staff) with digital tools that automate much of the onboarding process. Vet new suppliers, gather credentials, ensure compliance, and approve vendors all in one place.

Having a more diverse roster of vendors helps you avoid shortages in critical items, and ensures you are ready to respond if one of your suppliers closes.

4.  Gather Timely Feedback for Better Visibility

It’s not only your frontline staff that are part of your COVID-19 risk mitigation strategy. Your quality team is likely drowning in data from the increased need for self-assessments now that in-person annual audits are on hold for the foreseeable future. They play a critical role in maintaining the safe, high-quality brand experience that keeps guests coming back to the brands they trust in an uncertain time.

Many quality teams are left to collect feedback in piecemeal fashion, without knowing how those assessments connect to other metrics. An investment in a solid quality management system software arms your team with the ability to quickly gather all the data into a single, company-wide view of quality and risk.

They can even correlate internal data with things like customer reviews and health department alerts to get a more complete look at risk. This real-time feedback from every location allows you to act quickly to educate employees or revise a process if compliance is poor in certain areas.

Investing in a digital platform will not only help improve responsiveness during the pandemic, but it is a great addition to your existing quality systems for a more comprehensive auditing program. Restaurants who make employee and customer safety a priority will come out of COVID-19 with loyal fans and a stronger understanding of their business.

No restaurant is immune to risk. The people that make this a great industry to work in are also fallible, particularly when under stress. However, there is much you can do to mitigate risk and avoid individual errors.

Provide memory aids in the form of digital communication tools. Reinforce social bonds by building a network of accountability with self-assessments. Harness technology to automate processes that reduce your risk. Finally, ensure you are capable of using the data you’re collecting to bolster your COVID-19 risk strategy by seeing strengths and weaknesses in real time.

COVID-19 has challenged our industry in ways nobody could have anticipated. Make sure you are doing what you can to protect employees and customers, so your brand comes out stronger on the other side.

As President of RizePoint, Kari Hensien is championing a new continuous quality initiative. Since travel and interpersonal interactions have been devastated by COVID-19, it’s been challenging for businesses to obtain regular third-party audits, which are integral to access and analyze key data and ensure safety compliance across the enterprise. Kari is facilitating an increased self-assessment auditing model, where businesses and their locations can use RizePoint’s digital platform themselves, resulting in more frequent audits and broader visibility during the pandemic and beyond. For more information or to discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Kari at kari.hensien@rizepoint.com.

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