“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
(Some people say it was - or wasn't - written by Albert Einstein, but that is irrelevant for the sake of this article).
In the restaurant business (or any other industry) the key point is that it's important to take note of the 'trees' that you are expecting your employees to climb. Are you listening carefully enough to them to find out what makes them tick...if it's the right 'tree' so to speak? Are you asking them the right - sometimes difficult - questions, "are you sure this is the right job for you?" And are you guiding them or supporting them in the right direction?
It's not just important for us to direct or guide our employees in their day to day operations and duties, but it's as important for us to be open to their guidance of what they feel most excited or energized about. What fuels them?! This could be with us or eventually another company or even industry! We must listen openly and without bias. Sometimes easier said than done, I know.
For example, if you're a manager who likes to micro-manage and your employee doesn't work well under those conditions, you are robbing them and yourself of an opportunity for them to shine! If your chef who works in the kitchen starts to be interested in being a bartender, give them that opportunity. That's their potential 'tree'! I know you wouldn't want to lose a chef, but it's better to gain a good bartender than lose a chef and a potentially good and inspired bartender! The list goes on. You'll be surprised though how many managers don't think that way.
A progressive manager should have a very open communication with their employees, guiding them throughout their time in the company. This could be as they are working their way through the ranks, or a move to other departments if they're interested to get their feet wet. With this type of open communication, you might even have employees who feel safe enough to come to you with a potential job offer for another company; not to ask me for more money, but to ask you if it's the right next step. That's the type of environment that should be created. There might be times where you'd agree and worked on an exit plan with them and there could be times where you'd think it would be best for them to stay...sometimes many more years.
In essence, we know that in any business, there is no forever. That's obvious. But it's always a win/win to find a way where we can work with our most prized assets, our employees, and make their time with us a mutually beneficial experience.