Today I have an intriguing South African story about recruitment and team management. Roy was our first host on our South African trip and besides his wonderful cottage, he shared valuable recommendations for the Garden Route we were about to embark on, and a delicious breakfast at his restaurant Rose Garden. We had some time to talk during breakfast.

The staff members of the Rose Garden are kind and friendly and not only because the owner sits at our table, they are like that with all clients. I am asking Roy about the business and more specifically about one of my favorite topics – the way he picks out and motivates his team. And with this question, I open the floor to a fascinating story.

I recruit only people who have never worked at a restaurant and only with a word of mouth advertisement, says Roy. I prefer employees who haven’t been trained anywhere else, who haven’t been subjected to different management practices, and who have open minds and hearts, and come eager to learn. We have very specific culture and this is one way we protect, develop, and nurture it.

And what’s the culture, I am hastily asking?

We make all decisions together, as a team. When someone makes a mistake, explains Roy, it’s not me who determines the consequences, it’s the team. They get together, discuss, present alternatives and arguments where necessary and then come to me with a solution. I am stunned with amazement. And what if you don’t agree with their suggestion? I can’t remember this happening, but hypothetically – we would meet again, I would explain my point of view, and again – we make the decision together. I ask for an example, as my corporate way of thinking still prevents me to grasp the method.

One of the girls was systematically late for work and one day didn’t show up and provided no warning. As this behavior continued besides the initial measures suggested by the team, such as – team discussion, talk with the manager, and talk with me, they reached a consensus about 1-week suspension. She is back with changed attitude and seems engaged. The change, however, lasted a couple of months and she went back to old habits. This time, the team suggested the toughest possible measures – 3 months suspension combined with detailed explanation of the reasons. During the suspension, the other team members maintained contact with her and she had the opportunity to re-think her values and priorities. This same girl is a key employee who works for me for 14 years now.

Even though corporate environment is quite different from the small and blended restaurant team, can we learn from Roy’s innovative approach to recruitment and human resources management? Instead of looking for employees with matching experience who can begin to add value right after they start working for us, can we give a chance to people who are making a career shift or are just graduating and train them? Of course, this methodology requires courage and investment, but in this way we can (at least partially) address the human resources shortages especially in the IT environment. I already hear the skeptics saying – what if we train somebody, develop them and after a few years of experience with us, they went to our competition for a bigger salary or a hotter technology?

And what if – after we’ve hired the inexperienced people and we trained them, we manage to motivate and keep them with our organizational culture? Environments are different, people are different, motivational factors are different, but the essence is that people stay if they feel valued and appreciated.

Of course, Roy’s approach is more suitable for small teams and will definitely need tailoring in larger organizations, but we can try, can’t we?

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