In our Webbie, No Hairnet Required, we look at ways to boost morale and highlight the role you, a school nutrition professional, play in the lives of millions of students nationwide.

Part one of our similarly titled blog series takes a closer look at the themes covered in the Webbie and focuses on one aspect of school nutrition often overlooked – employee turnover.

Rick Hughes, the Director of Food & Nutrition Services at Colorado Springs SD, described turnover like this: “When an employee leaves a company for any reason and the position is back-filled, it is called “turnover.” Every time a position is vacated and filled, it costs Food & Nutrition Services Departments many resources to “maintain the course.” Costs include recruiting, screening, hiring, and training, plus any indirect costs created by a new employee, such as accidental mistakes.

It is no secret turnover is a problem in the school nutrition industry. In fact, the turnover rate of the food service industry in general is a staggering 62.6%. With such high percentages, one has to ask: why?

Turnover – Why It Happens

If employee turnover is so costly for nutrition departments, then why is it so prevalent? As it turns out, disengagement can be the culprit.

Not Engaged

Employee disengagement is common among not only school nutrition professionals, but also workers in general. According to Gallup polls, only 34% of American workers interviewed in 2015 considered themselves “engaged in their jobs”. What’s worse, 50.8% reported not being engaged and a stunning 17.2% reported being “actively disengaged”.

Disengagement is caused by a variety of factors, but can generally be broken down into three main causes:

  • Overworked employees

  • Feeling underappreciated

  • Lack of purpose

This may be the people who report to you, this may be the people you work with, or…this could be you! So what can nutrition services departments do to get that number down, and motivate your staff to appreciate and love what they do each day?

Re-motivating Yourself & Your Staff

There are numerous ways to spur motivation and turn the tides on excessive turnover. The first, and arguably the most important, is to keep training yourself and your staff. The benefit of training is twofold. First, it keeps staff engaged and gives goals to work towards. Second, training improves the skills of employees, offering more opportunities while increasing the sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Building morale, such as by team building activities or improving the workplace culture, is critical for keeping engagement high in nutrition staff. Rewarding employees, team challenges, assessing management, and improving communications are all simple ways to greatly improve a workplace culture.

And finally, get involved! Attending conferences and participating in outside functions, like fundraisers, is a powerful way to increase the sense of community and belonging.

In the upcoming parts of our No Hairnet Required series, we’ll take a closer look at each of these techniques and highlight success stories and tips for motivating staff.

At any time, register for our No Hairnet Required Webbie for an overview of the themes and topics we’ll be exploring in this series.