It’s the People, People!

Most companies are only focused on using technology to eliminate the talent challenge.  They’re ignoring the other massive opportunity – using technology to solve the talent challenge.

There was an article floating around the office the last couple of weeks about the “turnover crisis” in the fast-food industry.  Employee turnover is well above 100%, with many companies dealing with 130%-150%.   Bureau of Labor statistics bear this out – the turnover rate for the entire restaurant sector was around 82% in the period between 2015 and 2017, and industry experts say it’s only gotten worse.   Many companies have given up on making their stores an attractive place to work and are instead spending billions (yes, that’s billions with a B) automating their way out of the problem.  To us, that’s a huge mistake.  Automation certainly has a place, but there are two sides to this coin.  Most companies are only focused on using technology to eliminate the talent challenge.  They’re ignoring the other massive opportunity – using technology to solve the talent challenge.  There are very humanvery affordable, very tech-driven ways to attract, retain and develop talented staff, even to the fast food industry.  Here are a couple of suggestions. 

First and Last Job

Be that best first job…or that best last one. 

Service industries have spent decades standardizing and “routinizing” jobs – taking the skill out of them and creating “turnover-proof” jobs.  The embedded assumption was that there would always be a huge supply of unskilled labor available, mainly fresh-faced teen-aged baby boomers who were growing up alongside the industry.  The Posts, Millennials and Gen-Xer’s that came along behind them were fewer, more affluent, and more focused on competitive academics.  There are far fewer of them who need or want a part-time job. 

On the flipsidemany of those baby boomers are now on the back side of their careers.  They’re facing the dual realities of an under-funded retirement plan and the retirement isolation, and they’re ready to downshift.   

Recruiting carefully, designing the work to be engaging, and providing development opportunities that are both related and unrelated to the work are essential on both ends of the age spectrum. 


Play long-ball

Even if robots are truly the “low-skilled” workforce of the future, it’s going to take time.  Just look to ATM’s as an example.  When they were invented in 1967, there were 300,000 bank tellers in the US, and everyone said the job was obsolete.  By 2010, there were 600,000.  Industry changes and branch consolidations have only recently led to an automation-driven decline in the bank teller workforce.  The automation pundits were right – they were just off by 50 years. 

The business model has changed – these jobs aren’t nearly as unskilled as they used to be.  Competition has driven menu proliferation and customer choice to the brink, and many franchisors are now focused on peeling back those very expensive and complicated menu investments.

Better HR Leaders

Help small- and medium-sized business leaders to be better HR leaders. 

SMB owners work very hard, put in very long hours, and generally have to focus their energies on marketing and operational priorities.  However, in a major client survey of more than 1,000 independent dealers, they identified talent as their #1 constraint to growth, with major challenges to their personal health, work/life balance and the long-term sustainability of their franchise.   Recruiting, engaging and developing their staff is usually way down on the list, even if it can be the answer to many of their issues.   

The problem is, really good HR solutions need scale.  SMB’s don’t have the resources that Fortune 500 companies have for talent outreach, selection, engagement and development… and this brings us back to those franchisors and independent dealer networks who are spending billions automating their way out of the talent issue.  Most organizations see technology as a way to eliminate talent challenges rather than solve them.  After all, that’s been their MO for a half-century. 

A few organizations have recognized that there are technology solutions – Jiffy Lube’s on-line university is just one great example.  Similarly, there aren’t a lot of companies who have developed ways to tackle SMB talent challenges.  Patheer ( is one, and to our knowledge, our TalentBoost platform is the only product built specifically for franchise and independent dealer networks (

The 100%+ turnover problem is solvable and solving it can make a big difference for SMB’s and the huge segment of the US workforce who rely on them for jobs.  Yes, professional and executive talent acquisition is interesting and challenging, but working at the other end of the workforce continuum is equally challenging and interesting…and impactful.

Jim Kerwin is a senior product manager at TalentBoost (  The team at TalentBoost have developed a platform specifically built to deliver big company HR capabilities to small- and medium-sized businesses, by partnering with franchisors and independent dealer network operators.