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Creating a Positive Work Culture in Your Cafe or Coffee Shop

  • 10 min read

Let’s face it, not all places are great employers. Internal disputes between individuals, oppressive oversight, overbearing management, dilapidated facilities, antiquated equipment and unclean anything can all add up to a workplace that screams ‘get me outta here’.

So at a time when there’s a shortage of people to employ and a real need to keep the few employees you have enticed to work with you, let’s discuss the value of a positive workplace culture for your cafe business.

If you’ve never thought about ‘work culture’ before and why you it might be important for your coffee shop. Now is a great time.

So what is ‘work culture’?

Work culture (workplace culture) or organisational culture is the shared understanding of the character or personality of a business. The culture of your workplace manifests in the way your team behaves – the way they communicate, how they present themselves, the things they do and don’t do, as well as how they utilise their time.

When the culture of a business is bad, people don’t want to work for the business and those that do, tend to be ‘bad for business’.

5 Reasons to Create a Positive Work Culture for Your Cafe

Here’s why putting time, money and effort into creating a positive work culture for your coffee shop is worth it to you.

1. Reduced Absenteeism

When you’ve created a positive workplace culture employees are happier to be at work, so they are less likely to need “mental health” days off, skip their shifts or quit their jobs. This is great for your cafe, because it saves you money (you don’t have to keep running job ads, hiring recruiters or training new staff) and builds a strong committed team of talented people in your business.

The more money you retain in your coffee shop business, the bigger the profits and the better your business can grow.

2. Increased Productivity

Coffee shops with a great work culture create a bond of belonging and support individual self-esteem, building a team that is more empowered. With this strong collective identity that supports the individual, employees happily go ‘the extra mile’ on behalf of the business.

For your coffee shop, this means a well functioning team working in harmony, doing all the right things at the right time. Delays reduced, wastage reduced, costs reduced.

3. Improved Employee Well-being

The ‘ripple effect’ is the pervasive spreading of unintentional effect or influence. When you create a great work culture, your employee well-being improves – not just within their workplace but out into their home lives, community and the world in general.

A positive work culture makes people better human beings, and for your business there is significant benefit.

Firstly, your customers get a great experience when they are in your cafe, so to do suppliers and others who come to your coffee shop to do business. Then there is the flow on effect… these nice people you employ go into the world and their good actions get associated with the brand of your business. That’s a ‘goodwill’ multiplier right there on the value of your cafe business.

4. Increased Innovation

When a person consistently does a job well their competence increases. Meaning they can do the job faster and without errors. The fears, frustrations and embarrassing moments no longer haunt them and they are free to be creative. This creativity created by the positive workplace culture, is often expressed as original ideas or thoughts of new products and is very valuable for a cafe business.

Within a business creativity and innovation gives it a competitive advantage by being able to come up with new concepts and ideas that would work exclusively for your coffee shop. Rather than following trends set by others, your cafe business leads the way – improving processes, increasing product value, making ‘wow’ moments for customers, boosting sales initiatives, expanding marketing success and growing business financial success.

5. Improved Customer Satisfaction

Few people want to shop where the sales assistants ignore customers or visit an amusement park where the attendants are rude. Most people when they are out and about want to have a good time; especially when they are spending money they worked hard for.

A cafe where people are enjoying their work, good at what they do and does things to make the customer feel well-looked after, is a coffee shop people want to go to. That positive work culture vibe has a ‘ripple effect’ for your customers too. The ‘happiness rush’ of being treated well, having a good time and enjoying your cafe experience is what builds strong customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Remember, your business valuation skyrockets with every loyal customer and raving fan your business makes.

How to Create a Positive Work Culture in Your Coffee Shop

The Capitalist idea that employees (working class) must work just to survive and that wages be the only motivating force necessary for a good job, is as outdated as the word ‘egad’ or ‘bumpsy’!

Ever heard of ‘The Golden Rule’?

It’s the moral principle of treating others the way you want to be treated… or can be summed up as (that classic biblical line) ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.

Let’s consider the question – If you were a staff member in your own coffee shop how would you like to be managed – spoken to, rewarded for doing a good job, taught to do better when you got it wrong. What would you need to make you happily want to come to work each day, other than getting paid?

1. Recognition and Rewards

We start with this one, because many people still believe that ‘throwing more money’ at a problem will solve it.

Paying more overtime when you want an employee to cover extra shifts, giving staff a bonus when they negotiate a better deal for coffee beans or offering a cash reward for more sales of the daily special. They all seem like reasonable ideas and could be considered a show of generosity.

The challenge with always recognising desired performance with money, is that eventually your teams mindset adjusts. Eventually they will only perform at that high level when you pay them extra.

Studies show that over time using a single type of reward system the level of performance at a regular wage slips, that team cohesion breaks and internal competition and pressure builds… then people start quitting.

It’s time to think differently about how you reward and recognise the good things your team are doing.

Interestingly, for many younger people public recognition is a more memorable and better received reward that they can leverage for their personal goals. Social media shout-outs in particular help them build their personal reputation within their peer networks and future career networks.

Private recognition with thank you notes, letters of commendation or certificates, medals and trophies when awarded genuinely are also highly prized.

While in a cafe business promotions are hard to come by, increasing a persons set of responsibilities or taking away responsibilities for undesirable tasks are effective ways to reward a team member.

Consider a blend of different ideas. Borrow inspiration from other industries. Ask your team what they would like. Maybe even consider spontaneous, ‘out of the blue’ things, like a smile and a heartfelt thank you.

2. Career Support

In Australia where working in hospitality still isn’t recognised as an honourable occupation (as it is in Europe), working in a coffee shop is often considered a stepping stone to a career in another industry. Fortunately, the celebrity status of championship winning baristas and Instagram fame and notoriety of avant-garde cooks and bakers, is changing that idea.

A coffee shop that supports staff in pursuit of excellence within their job, so that they are recognised within the industry by peers, colleagues and aficionados builds not just your employees personal reputation, but that of your business as a ‘hotbed’ of new talent.

From competitions to skills training workshops. Providing access to career boosting activities for your employees builds a positive workplace culture that’s hard to beat.

Side note: if you have to offer incentives for your staff to undertake additional training or to improve themselves… take some time out to think about what that really means for your team and business.

3. Community Building

There is an African proverb – “it takes a village to raise a child”… and your cafe business is like a child.

For your cafe business to flourish and succeed it takes many people. From the people you employ to run the business, to the customers who buy from you. Your coffee shop exists within a bigger world that it can call on for support and assistance.

Just as a child must do its bit to fit in with others, to earn their trust and respect, so too must your coffee shop.

From being a good neighbour, to representing the values of the local community, to supporting bigger issues that affect even more people (eg. waste, recycling, equality, etc). Your coffee shop needs to be likeable within the business as well as outside it’s doors to grow and succeed.

4. Workplace Consultant Stuff

In the field of positive work culture development there are ‘frameworks’ and ‘model’ that Workplace Consultants use for telling you how to build a good workplace culture. With names like ‘Culture Alignment Framework’, ‘The McKinsey 7S Framework’, ‘The Cultural Iceberg Model’ and ‘Hofstede’s Model’, these usually ‘boil down’ to doing the following –

  • Share your values with everyone to set clear expectations and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
  • Have measurable goals at lots of different levels in your business so you can ‘know what good looks like’.
  • Create and maintain an environment that makes it easy for people to trust one another and avoid conflicts.
  • Make it easy for people who don’t belong to recognise that and exit quickly without turning it into a drama.
  • As the owner, be the living example of the greatest employee/human being ever (behave as if the paparazzi are filming your every move, recording your every word… always).

How to Tell If You Have a Positive Work Culture

There are a number of signs you can check for, that will help you evaluate whether or not your workplace culture is healthy or needs a bit of work.

Employees Stick Around – When a good employee stays with you for a long time, chances are they like their job and workplace.

Employees Become Friends – A workplace that is a breeding ground for genuine friendships is a good sign of a positive work culture.

Employees Make Suggestions For Socialising – When employees want to do things together with each other after work, you’ve got something really special happening.

Employees Tell Others When They’ve Messed Up – Owning up to mistakes and sharing the ‘bad stuff’ means you’ve got open channels of communication and people willing to ask for help.

Employees Celebrate All Wins – Whether it’s their own good news or that of team members, being able to authentically enjoy success is recognition of shared values.

Employees Talk Openly – Employees openly talk about their job satisfaction, ideas for changes to make improvements and aspirations.

Employees Keep a Clean and Comfortable Workspace – Keeping a workspace clean and comfortable to work in is welcoming and demonstrates care and respect for one’s self and others.

The Workplace is Free From Factions – A positive work culture workplace is free from gossip, power struggles and in-fighting; and while they may happen from time-to-time, they are not the ‘norm’.

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