The Union Club of Cleveland’s Lawrence McFadden, CMC, GM/COO, encourages chefs to be aware of how social media activity can influence your career and your employer’s brand.
Turning off has always been a challenge for chefs, especially with the proliferation of social media and the easy access of mobile devices.
As cell phones have taken on larger roles in our organizations, “use” policies have become imperative. And we have all begun challenging the speed, response, and depth of our actions in virtual spaces. Yes, we paid for idea generation, but are we also punching the time clock? It’s something all clubs must consider. When should cooks be on phones and when should phones be put away.
Historically kitchens are domesticated. They are structured through supply and demand with deep-seated institutionalized practices labeled as shift work, job duties, or overtime. However, up until a certain point, this environment has been completely void of any mobilized communication device beyond a walkie-talkie.
The industry has also evolved as it has grown in popularity and now reasonable schedules and better pay for those involved are on the horizon and even in place in some segments. But, as a result of modernized educational platforms, cult-like public interest, and Hollywood network successes giving the traditionally closed kitchen fraternity, many chefs and cooks now have the ability to have a very public voice through social media.
These channels give chefs a position from which they can influence the industry’s direction and belief system. These privileges once required self-reflection and an owner’s hat. But here we are, living in a world where anyone can articulate a personal stance on anything.
In 2006, we had just begun to realize the potential and power of social media, cell phones, and digital connectivity. During this time, I was a Hotel Manager, learning basic communication protocols for a new position and struggling to secure an understanding of a broader employee base. All of our department meetings were either face-to-face or on hardline phone calls. Texting, Zoom and Facetime had not yet become professional protocol. Facebook was still in its infancy and organizations were creating rules on the fly.
Never would I have guessed Facebook would become the first dilemma until one of our managers failed to show up for a scheduled meeting. On my Facebook feed, that manager had posted a photo of a golf game with the timestamp of our meeting time.
This unfolded into a heated need-to-know privacy dialogue which then created numerous scenarios around an employer’s knowledge of staff’s personal time and actions.
Years of learned “wisdom” have left these resonating lessons for co-existence between myself as the employer and my staff.
Facebook privacy is the right of each person with personal time and/or actions to be left alone. I have learned through numerous examples to omit work “friends” from my friend list.
With social media, chefs can create power and relevance through blogs, podcasts, and beyond. We can balance our professional views and social causes within this space. But these sessions require proactive discussions around content and opinions before being “shared” on behalf of a brand. And while social media was built on the concept of non-censorship, employees do have an obligation to remember who they represent.
Being connected and responding immediately is part of the social media multitasking mindset. But how do these timelines interact with the chef’s job description and duties?
Let’s revisit the time clock scenario: How do we compensate our leaders today?
For many, monetary compensation is only one piece of the puzzle. Often simple freedoms just outside of their job requirements provide great value. Most employers list educational learning, for example, as one of the key satisfiers in an employee’s tenure.
As a progressive club, we support individual growth, both in talent and responsibility. This requires us to challenge traditional paradigms that a career chef has time to host various professional interests. When this philosophy is applied successfully the alignment for both the chef and the organization can provide great value.
Recently the pandemic refreshed the discussion around satellite work situations. For us, that conversation focused on personal schedule productivity versus organizational hours of operation. The conversation turned to the quality of life balanced by our club’s accuracy in measurement for joint productivity and revenue goals.
Our club promoted, for the first time, three staffers into satellite jobs, all three for pandemic health and wellness concerns. Without working out creative processes by both parties, the club might have had to furlough these talented individuals. That decision would have affected our member experience, losing mature trusted relationships.
It was difficult on our hospitality professionals who thrive in an atmosphere of customer engagement and with a sense of physical accountability. Working from home in an unregulated space certainly pushed them for more self-ownership, motivation, and accountability.
Those same motivations are what drive a chef’s personal interests, values, and professional growth outside the kitchen. Just because you cook for a living, you should not shy away from other areas of interest. (Speaking from experience, though, the artisan paradigm attached to the title “chef” can negatively influence other’s views of your greater reach.)
As an apprentice, Chef Hartmut Handke taught me a valuable lesson in professional balance. In 1988 he was a member of the Culinary Olympic Team and was also the Executive Chef of the famed Greenbrier. For his Olympic practices, Handke would leave by car for New York directly after service on Friday night. Chef assigned me or another apprentice to be his designated driver. We did this all over again Sunday night.
His action taught me that his hard-earned culinary talents were a marketing asset to the Greenbrier, but his professional schedule had to balance business levels. This is something I still practice today with my own business trips, social media activity, blogs, and community speeches. They are often are attached to the Union Club’s brand.
So, please remember that participating in social media is best when your communication is proactive and your actions promote mutual trust between yourself and your employer’s brand.