HR staff at Pizza Hut try working at restaurants

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The restaurant chain is re-modelling its whole UK estate, so HR staff are experiencing shifts on the shop floor. Every member of the central function is required to serve customers at least once, according to HR director Kathryn Austin.

Austin said members of the team now work a peak shift at one of the company’s restaurants to better understand the needs of frontline staff. “It gives our back-office staff even more respect for what they do,” she said. “The physical and mental demands of a busy shift are quite something. You certainly don’t need a gym membership if you work in one of the restaurants.”

The exercise helps central HR staff understand the best way to interact with their restaurant colleagues. “Communicating to our frontline teams can be challenging. It’s important to understand the way they work and when they best receive communication,” Austin said.

Pizza Hut is remodelling its entire UK estate and big changes are being made to the equipment used and skills required by staff. 

A new site in Crawley, West Sussex, was busier than expected on opening, requiring the HR team to think on their feet. Austin said this kind of challenge stretched the HR team’s
internal processes to the point where restrictions around recruitment, and other company rules, were temporarily ignored. “We had to break some of our rules and internal processes just to cope,” she said. 

“It was great for our team to have to react to those real-time situations,” she added. “With so many new sites, all of our HR staff have to be project managers now. Our HR team has become very segmented, with HR business partners all over the country working as their own squads of matrixes.” 

Austin added that Pizza Hut’s central HR team is relatively small for such a big company, shunning the shared services model that many organisations are adopting. It can do this, she said, because it entrusts restaurant staff with HR activities. “We have devolved quite a lot of the HR activity, such as recruitment, to our restaurant managers,” she explained. 

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