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Hard Rock HR

Eliminating a hard-knock world


If you want to keep your employees longer, you may want to give them a Rolex. That's what Hard Rock does, according to Jim Knight, senior director of training and development for the cafe and hotel chain. Everyone is eligible for the Rolex on their 10th anniversary with the company, from the dishwashers up to executives. Sure, some employees quit the day after they receive their watch, Knight conceded, "But I don't care, because 10 years, come on, 10 years." And in an industry that has monumental turnover, a Rolex is probably cheaper than
replacing that employee 50 times in 10 years.


Jim Knight spoke to  attendees at a recent CHART conference about how to incorporate philanthropy into their training programs.

Knight was one of the presenters at the 75th semi-annual conference put on by the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART), this time in Minneapolis. His topic, philanthropy, was one the association takes to heart. In their short stay in Minneapolis, members organized three fund raisers for local charities. They donated 400 Teddy bears to local firefighters to hand out to children in emergencies; collected gift cards for Ronald McDonald House and sorted food for Hope for the City. "We also had a run to White Castle last night, but that was self-serving," John Alexander of NRA Solutions quipped.

The reason for making philanthropy a major component in your company, Knight told the workshop attendees, is the effect it has on employees and guests. Knowing his company was bettering the world makes his job more than a "job." "I feel good putting my head down on the pillow at night," he said. But a company can't just write checks to charity, he warned, it has to be woven into the DNA of a company. Raising money is easier for a company like Hard Rock, which has a natural tie-in to musicians, but there are ways other less celebrity-rich companies can connect with the younger generation who are looking to work in companies with a social conscious.

Top five reasons to do good at work:

  •  It engages the entire organization—from the CEO to the kitchen staff. "It takes away all titles," Knight said. "At the end of the day the king and the pawn go back in the same box," he said in reference to an analogy about a chess game.
  •  It gives the frontline staff an emotional connection to work; it makes it bigger than just a job.
  •  It reinforces your brand with guests. Social-minded guests are making purchasing decisions based on a company's social consciousness, he said.  It provides opportunities to get partners (from suppliers to nonprofits) involved.
  •  It offers positive media and PR opportunities for both corporate and local marketing.

Knight admitted it's an easier row to hoe for Hard Rock than for others: "Our differentiation is rock (music). It's easy to attract media attention when U2's Bono is designing a T-shirt," he said, adding that other companies can also find tie-ins to their market through their vendors by being creative.

Doing good is not totally altruistic. "We want to drive traffic in our stores," he said. "We don't have a cross on the top of our building."Here's what you can do, even if you don't have Bono as a draw:

  •  Tie your store's grand opening into a local charity. For instance, if you're supporting the local food shelf, ask customers to bring a can of food as their entry ticket.
  •  Devise a server contest to encourage competition in promoting your charitable fund raiser. Servers are naturally competitive, and this is a good morale booster.

Establishing green practices are another way to keep younger—and older—workers involved.

Green practices that don't cost greenbacks:

Print your kid's menu on recycled paper and add an environmental twist or a positive message to the activities. Hard Rock includes a seed packet with their menu so kids can go home and plant a tree in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.

Set up a recycle program. Cups made from Poly propylene 4 can be recycled in most recycling centers. Hard Rock takes it a step farther and recycles leftovers from diners' plates to their local pig farmers who raise the pigs for their pulled-pork sandwiches. "That's more than you wanted to know, right?" Knight asked, laughing.

Print your letterhead and business cards on recycled paper. Sure, it won't be as shiny and slick, but it sends a different message.

Establish a shift drink policy: Workers bring in their own mugs so they don't waste paper cups or water washing the company glasses each time they have a beverage.

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