Serge runs a profitable chain of five rapid- service restaurants that sell submarine sandwiches, non-alcoholic beverages, and related snacks such as potato chips and pretzels. Customers either take out the sandwiches or eat them on the restaurant premises.  “Serge’s Subs” also caters to local businesses for luncheon parties and to homes for sports gathering.

Asked to identify his biggest management challenge, Serge replied, “Keeping good employees. Most of our workers are part- timers. Some are students, some are older people. Most of them want part-time employment.

Making a submarine sandwich may look easy, but there is skill involved. For example, you have to remember what the customer asked for. A beginner might ask the same question a few times about what the customer wants on the sub. “It takes a few weeks for a sub maker to get sharp, and to move quickly enough to take care of a surge in orders, like Friday lunch.

“The problem is that too many of the good sub makers leave after a couple of months. My store managers have to keep finding and training new employees.” Asked what he and his managers have attempted so far to increase retention, Serge replied, “We tried increasing pay 15 cents per hour. We are also being more generous about allowing employees to make their own subs to eat on premises or take home.

“So far these two initiatives haven’t had much of an effect on reducing turnover.” Asked what reason workers give for leaving, Serge answered. “Sometimes a worker will say that he or she needs more money. Sometimes the answer is that school has become too demanding.  Sometimes a senior person will say that he or she finds the work too physically demanding, especially standing up all the time. “But the biggest complaint I get is that the work is boring. Instead of thinking of preparing a sub as a work of art, a lot of the guys and gals say that the work is boring. Once you’ve prepared a hundred sandwiches, they’re all the same.” “So far, I haven’t figured out how to make the job of our basic worker more interesting.”

Discussion Questions

  1. How does this case relate to job design?
  2. What recommendations might you offer Serge for making the position of sub shop preparer more satisfying?
  3. What else can Serge do to find out what is lacking in the job of sub shop preparer?

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