Planning Staffing

Before we know it, busy season will be upon us.  Most wineries will be looking to add staff to accommodate summer visitors.  Now is the time to begin the planning process for hiring and onboarding an All-Star Team.

We need to get management to view staffing as a variable cost.  If we work exclusively with a headcount cap, we’ll end up with insufficient staffing.  We need to justify staffing decisions based on sales dollars per labor hour, new club sign-ups per labor hour, visitors per labor hour.   We also need to measure average order value, WISE Triple Score conversion rates (orders, clubs, and contact data), outreach metrics (calls, e-mails, notes, gorilla networking).  Remember: average order value and conversion rates will increase with a higher staff to guest ratio.  So, if our AOV or conversion rates drop dramatically when we are really busy, we do not have enough staff.  And don’t forget what too many winery executives just take for granted – all the time it takes to support PR, trade / VIP tastings, gatekeeper relations, etc.

Err on the side of overstaffing.  Knock your socks off service requires a little overstaffing.  Average order sizes and wine club close rates are higher when we have enough staff.  This will more than pay for the extra hours.

What is staff doing during downtime?  Just cleaning and re-stocking?  Plan out other sales opportunities including outreach projects (phone, email, thank you notes, and gatekeepers).  It’s also a great time for peer-led, continued training and role plays.  GMs go crazy when they see staff standing around – they see it as a cocktail party. But they should be thinking of it as a fire station – we need people there prepared to jump.  Meanwhile we can make the downtime much more productive with creative, on-going training and customer outreach.

To raise the bar, it’s important to start fresh. Think about the super-star team we’re trying to build. What do our great staff members have in common?  We want to look at qualifications from different angles. Knowledge and skills can be measured easily, but we also need to find the right behavior traits which are more difficult to interview for.   Here’s some insight into the behavioral traits of the most successful tasting room associates.

Their personal work style is steady, even-paced.  They do quality work and are calm under pressure.  They are fine with repetitive routines and they are thorough in completing tasks.  They follow guidelines and work within established standards and procedures.  Their personal communication style is service and people-focused.  They are friendly, out-going, and warm. They are good listeners.  They like frequent contact, interaction and communication with a wide variety of people.  They are agreeable, accommodating and helpful, and supportive of other team members.

With the job market for qualified tasting room associates so tight, how do we make sure we get the best staff for our winery?  We need to be flexible, and accommodate staff’s individual requests. Successful tasting room professionals need to have a lot of energy and this can be a real burnout job.  It may take extra planning on our part, but we need to help them make sure there is gas in the tank.  Studies show that workers with flexible hours are more satisfied with their jobs and more focused at work.  They have a sense of control, a feeling of empowerment and respect.  Flexible work hours mean balanced lives – employees may be able to spend more time with their kids, take care of aging parents, attend school.  Having balanced lives means they are in the “no excuses zone” when they are at work.  When they need to be on they are on.  That’s our goal.  But being so flexible is a pain, so what’s in it for us?  It can help retain valuable talent, promote cross-training, reduce overtime, tardiness and sick days, increase productivity, boost morale, loyalty. It’s a great recruitment tool, which can give us an edge in a tight labor market.