That’s how our CEO flipped burgers at a local Five Guys. I, meanwhile, joined the team at the restaurant/pub chain The Greene Turtle as a bartender and server. I was curious to see if I still had what it takes to keep up with the fast-paced world of restaurant work, and how my experience as a technology executive might help me rise to that challenge.
Instead, I found it was the other way around: Over the course of my shift, I learned exactly how being an hourly worker and waitress prepared me to be a successful product manager and company leader. Here are four key lessons every executive can learn from hourly work and take back to his or her corner office.
1. Get into your customer’s head — and shoes.
I walked into The Greene Turtle a little intimidated by what looked like a pretty packed house, only to learn from my new co-workers that this was nothing compared to when sports events are on. During my shift, I experienced what motivates, frustrates and inspires our core customer, the hourly worker.
My favorite part was getting to connect with each employee and learn about who they were — a full-time student working to complete his business degree, and a mother working to support her 5-year-old daughter. Through their stories, I was able to see firsthand how these people approached their hourly job, what they got from the experience and how they handled challenges. This learning reinforced my own day-to-day mission: to create seamless technology that puts people into the right-fit positions so they can maximize their potential and lead more fulfilling lives.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the needs and behaviors of our customers — the hourly workers and employers who use our software and online platforms. But I rarely have the chance to live their experience, and I was reminded just how important this kind of regular connection is with our customers.
2. Hospitality is important in all aspects of business.
While the “hospitality” industry is a clearly defined sector, my shift at The Greene Turtle illustrated how hospitality underlines all industries. The staff were generous with their time and expertise, training and guiding me through every step of my hourly shift. Even as the line at the bar stretched longer and the customers’ demands grew louder, my crew helped keep me calm under the pressure.
This particular team had a strong rapport with one another, and their warm, welcoming attitude radiated in their interactions both with each other and with their customers — even the demanding ones. Every minute, each team member skillfully observed the restaurant to see if a customer or fellow worker might need special attention — a top hospitality sector skill which optimizes the dining experience for customers, creates a safer environment for workers and vastly improves efficiency.
The conscientious care that The Greene Turtle staff brought to their jobs was incredibly valuable — and transferable — to any sector and across business settings. I returned to my office the next day vowing to bring that same focus on hospitality into my own workplace. Do my product team members have everything they need to succeed? Am I doing everything I can to show my appreciation for my employees, both individually and as a team? Do I offer enough personal training and guidance?