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Chef Notes: Staff Development

a pot of food cooking on a stove

As a restaurant, our core mission is staff development.  We exist to train folks, set them on a career path, and then help them launch out from here.  

In many respects, every healthy restaurant (and business) should operate this way.  If we aren't investing in and developing staff, we are short-selling our greatest asset.

Around here, we often talk about how long it should take to move someone through our program and out from the Bistro. We have learned that there is no cookie-cutter solution.  

Every person is different. 

Every individual needs a different plan. 

Our commitment is to be people's success -- and sometimes that takes more time than others.

We have learned that there are three distinct stages people go through: (1) learning the job; (2) becoming competent at the job; and (3) becoming confident at the job.

One thing we are discovering is that while it is tempting to "send people out" when they reach competence, it makes much more sense to let people develop to confidence before sending them out.  After all, we all perform better from a place of confidence, then from mere competence.

In general, it takes about 3 months (full time) to really learn a job -- there is a lot of research on this.  So part time, it could definitely take longer.  It really depends on the person.  

Competence can really take an additional 3-6 months.  Again, part time workers will take longer to get there.  Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours at something to master it.  That is probably overkill, but I get the point.  

Competence also is station dependent -- just because you are competent on one station, doesn't mean you are automatically competent on another station.  That takes additional time.


That is very much driven by personality, circumstance and culture.

Personality -- some people are naturally more confident (or over confident) than others.  Some people, no matter how competent or good they are, they never feel confident.

Circumstances -- there is nothing like a crazy busy night in the weeds that you survive to build your confidence!  People need those kinds of shifts to grow!

Culture -- it takes a culture that affirms, celebrates success and gives positive as well as negative feedback to create a place where people thrive and can grow into confidence.  We work hard to create this kind of environment.

How long does it take to get to confidence?  Again, it will vary -- but it can certainly be 3-6 months after competence, and sometimes longer.

But we have learned: it is worth investing a little more and a little longer in order to get people to the point of confidence.