The right ingredients are the key to success but most people working in a restaurant aren’t experienced enough to select the right ones. Who is selecting your ingredients?
What makes a fast-food restaurant successful? Reliability, speed, and low prices. You know exactly what you’re getting, and you know it will be fast and cheap.
What makes an upscale restaurant successful? Is it the chairs? The lighting? The wait staff? Obviously, any of those can hinder the restaurant if they’re not good but the most important aspect of a nice restaurant is the food. The most important part of the dish is the ingredients. If you start with low quality ingredients nothing else matters.
At upscale restaurants senior chefs are the ones who buy the key ingredients because they have the training and experience to pick the right ones. For example, at sushi restaurants it’s the senior chefs who go to the fish market and pick out which cuts from which fish to buy.
What makes your company successful? If you're mass-producing goods you may be more akin to fast food in which the process dominates the probability of success. Make sure your machines are fast and reliable.
Consider instead a firm where intellectual output matters, such as consulting, software, finance, law, ad agency, or something similar. The meals you sell are IP; your ingredients are your people.
The chefs at top restaurants put a lot of effort into selecting the right ingredients. How much effort does your company put into selecting the right people? How qualified are your employees to do it right?
You’re probably closer to a sushi restaurant than a steakhouse. At a high-end steakhouse the steaks are cut, aged, and then cooked with seasoning. At a sushi restaurant, after the fish is selected not much is done to it other than how it’s cut and presented. For many companies after you hire someone how much training is there really? They’ll be at the company 1,000 days, maybe 2,000. How many of those days will be training and development? The people you hire are not unlike that fish, served up as is, at best garnished slightly by your company’s process.
A restaurant spends 25-30% of the meal's cost on the ingredients. The rest is rent, equipment, labor, and other overhead. What percentage of your budget is spent on your people? Deloitte notes that for many Fortune 500 firms labor is 50-60%. How well trained is your team at selecting those people, 50% of your costs, compared to the training chefs have in selecting their ingredients.
Here’s a hint, chef’s select ingredients weekly if not daily. I doubt your team has anywhere close to that experience selecting theirs. The irony is if a chef selects a bad piece of food and serves it, it was a mistake, but it’s over. If you hire the wrong person, that choice can impact your team for years to come.
HR has long been seen as overhead because it doesn’t directly drive revenue. By the same token, selecting the ingredients doesn't directly drive revenue in a restaurant. In both cases it may not be direct, but the quality of those inputs does drive revenue, success, and everything else about the business. It’s time we stopped treating HR as a back-office function and realize HR is the key to getting the right high-quality input needed for our desired business output.
This is a two-way street. The C-suite needs to recognize the true value HR brings, and HR needs to actually know how to bring actual value, not simply generate processes for the sake of having them. The chefs know how the quality of ingredients will impact the output (including where they can skimp and not buy high end, say for decorative garnish that won’t be eaten). HR needs to know how these employees they’re helping to hire and train will drive revenue and understand how different candidates can result in different outcomes and impact the ROI.
At a restaurant you wouldn’t send the commis chef (junior chef) out to buy the key ingredients. Only senior chefs, who have had training and experience are entrusted with that job. While interviews should be done by multiple members of the team, you shouldn’t have them do it without any training. Junior interviewers, like junior chefs, may not know how to spot a (good) lemon (sole). Fortunately, even a junior employee can be more than a junior interviewer if you’ve trained them on the basics of interviewing. And just like a junior chef can accompany a senior chef to learn how to select raw ingredients, so, too, can junior interviews partner with more senior interviewers to learn how to interview. Note: I’m saying junior / senior “interviewers” not “employees.” Plenty of senior employees never learned how to interview and are junior interviewers themselves.
Companies need to invest in HR as a function and HR needs to provide interview training. I don’t simply mean the mechanics but how to dig into a candidate's background and learn how to recognize if someone is a fit based on competency, culture, and personality. This isn’t hard, but it does take some training, something most companies skip altogether.
Bottom line, if you want a Michelin star business, make sure you know how to create a Michelin star meal. It starts with selecting the right ingredients and that requires a staff who knows how to select them.
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