Keeping it casual: Recruiting and retaining a casual workforce
Managing casual staff is a real challenge for new business owners. Having a pool of casual staff is great for the bottom line, but when you need people now, it’s galling to find that they’ve gone elsewhere. Mexican taqueria franchisee Tom Graham identifies his recruitment strategies.

Graham identified from the beginning that recruitment and human resources management is the number one factor where he can make a difference. He works hard to provide a safe, fun and rewarding work environment.

We can have great marketing, a great brand, great product, great design and great equipment – but if the people don’t want to be there our customers get a poor experience. That’s the biggest risk you can mitigate against.

Graham runs six Guzman y Gomez (GYG) franchises on the Gold Coast.

The ups and downs of a casual workforce

If you’re an employer it’s great to have a casual workforce that’s on call without you having to pay a cent when they’re not needed, particularly when it comes to filling seasonal shifts. Other benefits of casual workforces include the ability to recruit or downsize rapidly, as well as having a ready-made talent pool to choose from should you wish to employ permanent workers.

There are, of course, downsides to employing casual staff. For instance, your casual staff members may not be available when you need them, and on occasion may lack the engagement demonstrated by permanent staff. What’s more, if your staff members are not permanent, there is no guarantee that they won’t seek work elsewhere.

When it comes to Graham’s experience, he sees the positives of employing casual staff and loves hiring a young casual workforce. The simple things such as having “great music” also pay dividends with recruiting and retaining casual staff, he says.

Lining up for jobs

Like every business, there are good and not-so-good casual staff, wherever you are in the world.

“We work hard to be the employer of choice,” says Graham. It appears that it’s working for Graham, who says he never needs to advertise for staff, with potential employees walking in off the street or being referred by existing staff every day of the week.

Interestingly, GYG has also proved to be a particularly popular employer among young Mexican and other international students. “The brand really resonates with them,” he says.

A rewarding employer

In return for great service to the brand, Graham offers premium wages, growth and training opportunities, and where appropriate a career path.

His best staff members are rewarded with consistent hours even in the off season. The “manager of the year” wins a trip to Fiji with their partner.

And, because 95 per cent of his employees are students, Graham provides a number of scholarships for vocational programmes, including hospitality courses.

The interview and onboarding process

When it comes to interviewing potential candidates, Graham likes to keep it simple. The interview process is deliberately informal and revolves around a two-way discussion about GYG’s values. “It gives us a sense from (applicants) what they want out of their time with us,” he says.

Once hired, Graham, his managers and HR staff are careful to ensure even the newest GYG crew members understand the big picture. “It gives them a vested interest in the success of the business.” For example, every staff member knows the importance of the fact that GYG buys only free-range chicken and is interested in animal welfare, allowing them to share this information with customers and establish confidence in the brand.

Tools of the trade

Whilst GYG uses dynamic rostering software, which is invaluable, Graham believes the best “tool” for managing casual workers is simply taking an interest in them. “We have over 150 employees. But taking two minutes to ask someone how they are and how their family is and having that conversation around their personal circumstances really pays off. That’s more important than the software.”

Graham does, however, use WhatsApp groups to communicate on a more general level with staff and update them.