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How do you give raises? Are you influenced by seniority? Is it survival of the cutest? Do you cave in to threats of quitting?
I've been asked this question hundreds of times, and struggled with it myself. Raises and promotions should be given because an employee has earned it...based on demonstrated skills.
That's why I developed a simple system of using Pay Grade Scales. This system works especially well for non-tipped back of the house employees like line, pantry and prep cooks. But it's equally effective when assigning scheduling preferences, sections, days off, and other perks for tipped front of the house employees.
Pay Grade Scales are simple, measurable definitions of the knowledge and skills necessary for an employee to reach the next level--of pay or perks. For example, in our sample Pay Grade Scale, one of the skills required for a Pantry Cook Level 2 is that they can handle 200-300 covers. To be promoted to Level 3, the Line Cook must be able to handle over 300-425 covers. Simple, job-related, measurable.
Pay Grade Scales give employees a sense of structure, as well as tangible and achievable job-related goals. Employees are motivated when they know exactly what's expected of them in order to advance. And with a well-defined path for advancement, they just might stick around.
Job descriptions are a great place to start developing Pay Grade Scales. But if you don't have job descriptions, ask yourself, how is one employee more valuable than another? The tangible "things" they know or do will come to mind. You might ask your kitchen manager, or the employees themselves. They know best what differentiates the mediocre from the great in the kitchen.
And don't forget, skills and knowledge need to be objectively measured. I recommend both written and demonstration tests. For Trade Secrets Members, we've provided a downloadable sample of a Pay Grade Scale, a written test and a demonstration test for a Pantry Cook.
A couple of thoughts about giving raises or promotions based on seniority. I don't advocate using time in service as the only requirement for advancement. Keep in mind that it is one measure of loyalty, and there are definitely certain skills that can only be mastered with time and with experience. So consider a combination of skills and seniority when offering advancement.