Multitasking and Team Work

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The age-old question of how the income generated from production should be divided between wages and profit is an ongoing debate. Since wages typically take up a large part of a business’ expense, owners are always looking for ways to reduce labor costs. Add in seasonality of sales, and you have a real challenge in managing labor costs and capital. But consider a different approach – multitasking.

A Michelin-star-level restaurant owner, Chef Davide Oldani, has successfully done it with his Italian restaurant, D’O. He has found a way to create a lean team of employees who can run and operate the restaurant effectively and efficiently whether it is busy or slow. How Chef Davide Oldani manages his restaurant is a study of applied economics and teamwork. Instead of having an average of 36 employees on the payroll, Oldani has a lean crew of 14 employees and focuses on multitasking. That means a chef is also a server who is willing to clean up tables and wash dishes. Imagine a customer coming into the restaurant who is asking about a dish on the menu. Since the server is also a chef, the customer gets a full explanation of the dish from the one who has actually prepared it. This translates in higher customer satisfaction ratings.

Through the art of multitasking, all employees can cover every station in a business so they go where they are needed at any given moment. Therefore, you can maximize your staff since they can better handle thefluctuations of sales. If a team member calls in sick, the others cover for him. The one sick also knows what this does to the team so it minimizes the number of sick days to only those times when staff are actually sick.

The concept of creating a team is not new and can apply to every business whether the business is a restaurant or retail operation. Managers need to understand the six stages of group development to understand how to make it work, specifically the forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning stages.

In forming the team, you need to hire the right employees. Have existing team members take part in the hiring process so you have a better chance of finding like-minded individuals who will work well together. After forming the team, it is natural to have the members go through a period of getting to know each other and understanding the roles they will play. This stage is referred to as storming. A manager should expect this period of group development but should to try to minimize the duration and degree. Many managers explain each team member’s role to help expedite the group development to the norming stage. At this point, team members are starting to figure out how to work together. While this stage is better than storming, a manager should not be satisfied. The goal is to get the team to the next stage, performing. This is the stage where the group is cohesive and dynamic, where they are accomplishing the goal(s) and doing so effectively and efficiently. But as with all things, there comes a time when a team member leaves or the team is disbanded and that stage is called adjourning. Then the process begins again with a new member or team.

This different approach to staffing has been proven to yield greater profits since businesses are able to do more with fewer employees. Turnover should decline; absenteeism should be minimized, and customer satisfaction should remain strong.

How to get there? First, lead by example. Second, choose only those employees who are willing to work all stations of a business. In the case of a restaurant, the chef will not only cook food but also serve and, as needed, help with dish washing. Not every potential employee will embrace this concept, but choosing those who are willing will make a significant difference to your business. Just make sure you are compensating well, ensuring a 40 hour work week and consider a profit-sharing plan. You will not only see the difference in labor costs but also in customer satisfaction ratings.

A strong team will want to come to work to support the others, enjoy work more, and take greater pride in their accomplishments. They will not only feel, but will be important members of the company. All this should yield a better-run organization. Has this been proven? Yes. Studies have repeatedly shown that creating a team environment yields in greater efficiency and effectiveness which will result in achieving company goals and objectives.

Theresa Freihoefer is a business professor at Central Oregon Community College.

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