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Be honest and nurture a happy workplace
Published on Friday, 05 Aug 2011
Yip Yuk-Hong
Head of operations, Genki Sushi Hong Kong
Photo: Edmond So

How do companies manage and engage staff during a crisis?

Few businesses are forced to face a crisis quite as devastating as an earthquake, but following Japan's tragic incident in March and the subsequent radiation leak, Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong have suffered as customers plummeted, food supply sources dwindled and employee morale reached an all-time low. Many businesses have still not fully recovered to pre-crisis levels. Of the 600 Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong, more than 20 have closed down and the revenue of some has dropped by up to 60 per cent.

A crisis of this magnitude is bound to affect staff morale and present unprecedented challenges for management, including a lack of confidence in the store's sales and operations, abrupt changes in operations and unbalanced revenue and operations spending.

Staff may be worried that the lower customer confidence will affect sales and store operations and, ultimately, their jobs. 

Positive atmosphere 

At Genki Sushi's 38 outlets in Hong Kong, we have always taken great pride in creating a happy working environment in line with the Japanese style. Workplace conditions and relations among staff are important. To continue with our mission of introducing this unique Japanese dining experience even amid the industry's dark period, we never stop upgrading our skills, which includes implementing a systematic training scheme for all new recruits and fostering good employee relations. 

Be transparent 

During the crisis, Genki Sushi has taken additional steps to ensure our employees are well aware of the operations of the company and we have also been expanding our recruitment.

Our staff are given ample information so that they will know how to respond to customers' inquiries which will give them confidence in the company and reassure them that their jobs are safe.

They know all about the details of the items they are selling, because we have been providing clear and up-to-date information to them on the issues the staff or customers worried most - the food origin. We believe being transparent with clear guidelines is essential as well in the sense of aligning company's crisis managing strategy with the frontline operation. 

Be a role model 

Genki Sushi has always provided strong management role models who communicate closely and regularly with their staff, display knowledge and confidence in the business and implement effective solutions.

I, personally, always visit Genki's outlets to supervise operations and maintain good relations with our employees, including the frontline staff.

For this period, especially, that includes being transparent with customers and staff, providing frontline reassurance, encouraging feedback and continual updates, recognising and rewarding good work, and focusing on high-quality recruitment and expansion. All these helped Genki Sushi together with the faithful staff go through the tough times.

Yip Yuk-Hong, head of operations, Genki Sushi Hong Kong

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