It struck me that research that I had done a few years ago might be even more useful today than when I originally wrote it. The study analyzed long term restaurant employees to uncover their common characteristics so that managers interviewing applicants could identify employees who had a better chance of becoming long term employees.

This research was based on seven different restaurants who identified their top three employees who rated excellent in technical ability and behavioral attitude and who had been employed for a minimum of twelve months. Here are the results.

Long-term employees felt a keen sense of responsibility that was the result of the way they were brought up. The interviewees thought that this sense of responsibility brought about a heightened sense of maturity which enabled them to stay.

“Well, I grew up with my great-grandmother so she was very responsible, things that she did, I watched her. Being raised by an older person you tend to pick up old ways. A lot of the employees don’t think it is expected to do a good job.”

“It has a lot to do with your upbringing and how you are raised. Some of them just don’t take the job seriously. Why should it matter if it is supposed to be 5 ounces and you put 7 ounces?”

Long-term employees had a strong financial need to work. They said repeatedly that applicants who did not have a real need to work, often did not stay.

“You can just tell (who will quit). Mostly they’ll tell you, you just have to ask them, “Why are you here? They’ll say, ‘to make enough for a trip or pay a bill’. “Their parents are totally supporting them except for the special things.”

“They usually quit because number one either they don’t need the job, or they just need money for shopping.”

Long-term employees had friends who need to work. When most of the employee’s friends had jobs, they understood that work is a priority and as a result, they knew they would have to miss some social activities with no peer pressure because friends who work will not put pressure to miss work, since they understand the need to work. However, the reverse is also true: when most of the employee’s friends do not work, many employees find it impossible to overcome peer pressure and will miss work. The power of peer pressure is so strong that even employees who needed a job would still risk losing their job because of peer pressure.

Key point: According to the interviews, employees who need to work feel pressure to live up to management expectations, while casual employees, without need, feel it is management who need to live up to their expectations.

“This is going to sound really bad, but for one thing, if we ever hire somebody that most of their friends don’t work, like in a fraternity or sorority, even if they need a job, they just don’t work out.”

“I think it’s because they’ve got so many people around them who don’t work, they just don’t work out—peer pressure is just too great.”

Applicants need a realistic description of the job. They thought that applicants who did not receive a realistic job description played a significant role in new employees leaving early.

“I would put everything out in the open for them. I wouldn’t sugarcoat anything. I wouldn’t put it nice. I would just tell them how it is. I think that has a lot to do with everything. If they know

what is expected. If they come in and know what is expected and it happens that way, they can deal with it.”

“These are the people that seriously think that when we close, we just lock the doors, and they can go home. That’s when they start thinking this is a hard job. They’ve got to know about cleaning and the other stuff.”

As new employees gain actual experience that matches their expectations, their confidence grows in their ability to do the job and in their trust in management. This is especially true for first time restaurant employees.

To summarize, the common characteristics affecting who will be long term employees are need to work, friends work, maturity/sense of responsibility, and realistic job description. When managers can put together a set of questions that can answer those factors, they’ll be sure to have a much better chance of getting long term employees.

I hope this helps.