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Roleplaying engaged Bentley’s staff with a new way of working

Bentley’s Coffee Shop owner Emily Bentley
Emily Bentley used roleplaying to develop a risk assessment and get staff buy-in

Middlesbrough-based Bentley’s Coffee Shop had to furlough staff when lockdown forced its cafes to close. 

Owner Emily Bentley explained the steps she took to mitigate risk and engage her staff in a new takeaway model.

Look at how other businesses are coping

The first priority was safety. That process meant getting everything organised and in line with regulations. Emily read the documentation on the government website, completed risk assessments and looked for ways to mitigate any risks. 

Emily also looked at Europe to see what other hospitality businesses were doing in different countries. It provided useful insight into how layouts would look, how drinks were being served and where people could sit.

Encourage staff to take the lead

Bentley’s reopened with just two staff. Emily worked with them over the bank holiday weekend to plan how they would operate. 

Bentley’s Coffee Shop sign
Bentley’s changed its menu, layout and signage to keep staff safe

Rather than communicating remotely, both staff had hands-on involvement in deciding what the flow of customers would look like. This included measuring out queuing stickers and creating designated areas where people could wait for orders.

“I suppose it was a soft run or roleplay in effect,” Emily explained. “Someone would stand behind the counter and then the other person would come down the ramp to see how the flow was going to work. They could make sure no one was going to pass coming through the door. It gave them ownership and responsibility and has worked really well.”

Keep communicating with furloughed staff

It’s crucial to be communicative with staff, particularly during periods where they might feel stressed or uncertain. As Emily explained, bringing back one or two members of staff can lead to difficult conversations – your employees might wonder why they weren’t picked to return.

Emily keeps her employees updated on the business and its current situation. However, she’s trying to avoid providing too much information about how the cafés will run when all 12 staff members eventually return. Things are changing so fast and she doesn’t want to overwhelm them with information.

“It wouldn’t be the right thing to speak to people and say ‘this is how it’s going to be’, because it probably won’t be. You’ll get confusing information. As people get brought back in and find out what information is available at the time. You can’t have a conversation about something in the future when you don’t know what it is or how their daily lives will be affected,” she said.

How is your business emerging from lockdown? Do you have an interesting story about employee engagement to tell? We’d love to hear about your experience. Here’s how.

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