Bravo’s Ramm: Assessments yield savings, career road maps

Behavioral assessment tools helped Bravo! Development [3] Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based parent of three Italian restaurant brands, save an estimated $5.5 million in hourly and management turnover costs. Now the company is using behavioral data to help employees craft career advancement plans.

Aclear promotion strategy and help in getting there is one more reason employees will choose to stay with a company, said Jeff Ramm, vice president of human resources for BDI, which operates 72 restaurants in 20 states under the brands Bravo! Cucina Italiana, Brio Tuscan Grill and Bon Vie Bistro.

BDI teamed with the Dallas-based human resources consulting firm Batrus Hollweg International to develop the behavioral assessments and competencies for management positions.

A$5.5 million savings is sure to get the attention of senior management.

It does give HR a seat at the table. In many of our companies, the HR piece isn’t always seen as a financial contributor. In this regard, the HR piece actually brings very significant, real savings to the table.

It is an estimated figure that represents money that wasn’t spent for hourly and management training [of new employees] over the past three years.

Why did you begin doing behavior assessments?

In 2004 we were experiencing an accelerated growth of our turnover at management and hourly levels. It was due to a lot of different factors, but it’s common to see accelerated turnover during accelerated growth in the number of restaurants. And the economy was strong. You usually see increased turnover when the economy is strong. But our sense was this was not going to turn around in the near future. Knowing we had some systems that needed to be revised or replaced as we went from a company with less than 50 restaurants toward one with 100 restaurants or more, we knew we had to run our business differently.

How much were you able to reduce turnover?

By the end of 2007, we were down to a 94-percent hourly turnover; we were tracking 125 percent only three years ago. Management at the end of 2007 was down to 19.5 percent, and it had been tracking over 30 percent in 2005.

Impressive. So how are using the assessment tools for employee development working?

With the help of Batrus, we identified what the competencies are across all positions and also identified the additional competencies that are needed, to be learned as you moved up the ladder in each position. Say you want to move from assistant manager to general manager. The restaurant manager competency is efficient execution, but at the GM level, that changes to personal effectiveness.

All this is spelled out for employees?

We’re using this material to add to our Rising Star program, an internal-promotion program. We’ve done all the legwork to put this in place, and we’re going to use these competencies to create new performance appraisal tools.