Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The future checks in

In the not-too-distant future, restaurant employees will try to land a new job by showing the would-be hirer how many service compliments they’ve garnered on Foursquare. The applicants might hear of the opening from an alert their cell phones deliver as they drive past the understaffed place.

That’s not what-if stuff, but capabilities being refined right now, says Nate DaPore, a software veteran who’s about to launch a new suite of HR products for the restaurant business. He thinks the industry is poised for a quantum leap in its ability to find, train and retain the best personnel, or what HR professionals call “talent management.” The springboard, he says, will be technology based on the sort of devices the restaurant labor pool increasingly uses, like smart phones and iPads.

That’s not exactly a new world view. The a-ha to DaPore’s expectations—near-term ones, he stresses—is what personnel information those devices will generate, collect and provide on demand for employer and employee alike.

For instance, the portable databases will soon serve up detailed records of what training a job applicant has undergone, including ServSafe certification, he says. That’s in addition to a detailed work history, a resume-in-bytes, so to speak.

Some of that banked information will come from customers, he says. Through an application already being written, DaPore explains, Foursquare users will be able to rate the performance of employees at restaurants where they’ve checked in. Those “merit badges” will go into the staffer’s file, which will travel with the staffers as their foodservice career progresses. “They’ll take their merit badges and job history with them as they move from job to job,” says DaPore.

He wouldn’t say precisely when those capabilities would be introduced, which isn’t what restaurateurs like to hear. After years of hearing technology promises, many are skeptical until they see the new tools in use.

But DaPore suggests that HR technology has leapt farther than many restaurateurs realize. He notes that his company, People Matters, is about to introduce a system that determines if new hires are eligible for tax credits, which the program then automatically secures and processes.

He’s not alone in that regard. Technology suppliers stress that foodservice employers have a host of new capabilities available to them. Decisions that were once made on a purely gut level—a go or no-go on a frontline hire, for instance—are being simplified by new screening or evaluation tools. They suggest that operators were so focused on surviving, understandably, that they haven’t noticed significant advances in the HR technology available to them.
Better times, of course, could be the eye-opener.

Finally, an aside to regular readers: You’d be hard-pressed to find a mention of many other vendors in this space. Indeed, I’ve avoided it out of habit. Business writers have to avert readers’ suspicions that a company is being named because of some quid pro quo. The safest course is not to mention advertisers, potential advertisers, non-advertisers or just about any brand name you can possibly avoid. If there’s not so much as a reference, how can there be some financial agenda?

But because I don’t accept advertising here, and don’t make a dime off this blog, I’m suspending that policy. I’m in the enviable position of being able to write what I want without any taint of a financial connection. I can’t be called a whore if there’s no money on the pillow.

It’s freeing because many suppliers have a wealth of information and insight on the problems hamstringing restaurateurs. That potential assistance doesn’t get an airing because it’s suspected of being a sales pitch, if not an empty come-on.

If something worth telling should arise from the supplier community, I’m no longer going to dismiss it per se.
But you operators have to ensure I’m not misled or duped. If I fall for some supplier’s BS, please yell. Loudly.

1 comment:

Mise en Place said...

Excellent article. As someone who is going through a job search myself and considers himself a very good employee, I wish some of these tools were available now. I would love to walk into a restaurant and say "Here is what my guests say about me on Foursquare. See, I have a ServSafe, Learn2Serve and HACCP certification. You are hiring so hire me."