[img id=”1″ align=”right”]

    One of the toughest spaces for any social brand manager to navigate is the world of your employees on social. Whether you are in marketing, HR, recruiting, or operations, every day brings new opportunities and challenges for your brand reputation and voice. This panel, held at Summer Brand Camp, included workplace, marketing and labor relations experts who discussed the current state of mind of restaurant employees and the rapidly changing workplace issues confronting managers and employees alike.

Panelists: James Fripp, Senior Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion| Yum! Brands, Inc., Scott Hicks, Senior Director of Business Insights | Snagajob, Avery Block, Customer & Team Engagement | Taco Bell Corp., Michael VanDervort, Executive Director | CUE, Inc.

This panel focused on the relationships between brands and their hourly workers, including job outlook, labor relations and the impact of social media.

Hourly Workers State of the Union

The U.S. is sitting at a 5.4% unemployment rate, down from a high of 10%. We’re back at pre-recession levels at the moment. This means that it’s more than likely that your next rockstar employee already has a job right now, and if they’re looking for one at all, they’re looking for a better opportunity than the one they have. One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of hiring great talent in a worker’s market is to improve your mobile and online application process. Digital Natives are used to knowing when their pizza comes out of the oven and how far the driver is from their house, but when they go to apply for a job online, everything goes dark – only about 10% of desktop applicants make it through the process, and a stunningly low 2% of mobile applicants get through. They’re frustrated and confused as to why the technology is so difficult and takes so much time. Companies like Uber, Yelp and Facebook have slick apps and define what “good” is. Maybe you can’t do everything they can, but you can take a look at the process and vastly improve your applicant-facing technology to stand out from the crowd and find the best people.

Employee Voices

The rise of social media has given brands a huge opportunity to tap into a previously under-represented marketing vehicle – their own employees. Young workers today are ready, willing and able to be fans, ambassadors, advocates, champions and leaders of your brand, provided youunnamed approach them the right way and give them the tools and benefits they need to get the job done. In order to give your team members a voice within the brand, you should give them ways to connect that are meaningful and relevant to them, helpful in being successful in their own lives and find ways that keep them connected to their community (both external and in-company). With this opportunity comes responsibility, so remember to educate team members around brand reputation during training, especially on social media etiquette regarding company policy.

Labor Relations

Some of what makes social media so powerful and a force for good, however (sharing lives, having fun on digital platforms), can also get you into trouble. In one recent example, two hourly workers walked out of the restaurant they worked for because the air conditioning broke. They made little paper signs and stood outside the building for a selfie in minor protest, but then it went viral. Once that happened, the story got blown out of proportion, and the media started reporting it as an employee strike due to unfair working conditions. In reality, the owner shut down and sent everyone home shortly after the AC broke, but on the web it looked like there was an all-out war against the company. It’s in your best interest to be aware of the changing labor relations market (there’s currently a push for a $15 minimum wage for QSR workers in many major cities) and always give credence to the needs of your hourly employees. The biggest thing they want, even more than high compensation, is to feel that they’re being “invested in” as people first. One easy way to find out what’s important to them and how you can help is to provide a survey to your people, asking something like “of these 10 areas, which are the top three that would make the biggest impact in your life (in terms of what our company can offer right now)?” Being proactive in these areas will go a long way towards improving employer/employee relations in your business.

Nate St. Pierre is a consultant with BTC Revolutions, connect with him on Twitter.