With one of the highest labour turnover rates in the UK (23 per cent), employers in the hospitality industry could be forgiven for thinking ‘why bother’ when it comes to investing in their staff.
After all, if an employee is only needed for a particular season, or could move on to the next new restaurant, hotel or pub when it opens in the area, why spend money arming them with new skills only for them to take them elsewhere?
“Because if you don’t train someone then it is more likely that they will leave,” answers Sharon Glancy, director of training at sector skills council People 1st.
“One thing we found when we carried out our State of the Nation report last year was that people feel invested in when you train and develop them and if they feel that then they are more likely to be loyal to the organisation,” she says.
“It’s always a big challenge deciding what to do, but organisations who do train people do retain them for longer.”
The figures back that theory up. According to People 1st’s State of the Nation 2011 report, 87 per cent of employees said they were more likely to stay with a company if they felt engaged with it. That is to say that those who have been introduced to a company properly, shown best practice and made to feel that if they do the job well they are contributing to the company’s success, will remain there for longer.
And chefs who are offered training while they are in the job stay with their employers for an average of six and a half years, compared with just over four years if they don’t.
“When you train someone to work in your business you are giving them knowledge about it and they can see how their role can make a difference,” says Glancy, “If they understand your brand and how you operate they are more likely to see what other career opportunities exist within the company and could aspire to get there.”
Think about your customers
Retention of staff is a major benefit of training staff and, of course, one that brings with it its own consistency to a business, but on a more basic level, it arms staff with the skills you need to run your business and ultimately keep your paying customers happy.
“Hiring staff who are naturally inclined to offer good service is exactly where every business should start, but unfortunately this cannot be the sole strategy," says Tim Ogle, European chief executive at Market Force Information.
“Every member of staff must be well trained and inducted into the business’s culture and understand what the customer journey should look like, to ensure a consistent brand experience is delivered to every customer, during every visit.”
Glancy even advises business owners to ‘walk the walk of the customer’ and tailor their training scheme accordingly.
“One of the key things is about setting standards for your business and training staff to meet those standards so that all customer needs are met,” she says.
Experts in this field also believe that training doesn’t stop at the induction stage and refreshers for even the most experienced members of staff can be beneficial if you want to keep up with consumer trends.
“When people are first employed they need to be trained to get a solid grounding in your business, but it is also important that their training is monitored throughout their careers so they can keep up with trends in service,” says Sophie Roberts-Brown, executive director at the Academy of Food and Wine Service.
“Things change over the years, for example there have been big improvements in the serving of coffee in the UK in recent years. We now have coffee shops on every high street serving high quality coffee so when people go into restaurants, hotels or gastropubs they expect the same level of quality and for staff to know where the coffee beans come from.”
Ogle adds: “It’s important to remember that the customers’ expectations will continue to evolve. If you wow a customer during their visit you are raising the bar. They are sure to return, expecting not just the same level of service, but an even higher one.”
Employees who have been in a role for a while may not even feel they need training, but Glancy believes it can be beneficial.
She says: “It’s human nature to become comfortable in a role, but training can reinvigorate and re-energise those who have been in a role for a while.
“We did training with companies in the run-up to the Olympics and people came out saying ‘I feel completely re-energised and excited about things going forward, which is great for morale.”
How to train for consistency
Since the start of the recesssion 64 per cent of hospitality companies have moved training back in-house, indicating that there is less money to be spent in this area.
Nevertheless, it also proves that a large number of companies are actually training staff. Indeed, the figure has risen over the last two years according to People 1st who have been advising many businesses on best practice.
“One thing we do is provide the resources to companies to be able to carry out their own training. One of the key things is to ‘train the trainer’ and teach people within an organisation how to teach and motivate others,” explains Glancy who has her own personal experience to share in this area:
“I used to work as a chambermaid part time while I was at college and I loved it. While I was there the hotel invested in me, training me up to make me responsible for training the new chambermaids.
“I decided to stay there after I graduated because I had a new level of responsibility, but it also meant the hotel had someone to train new staff and keep standards consistent so it was a win win for both parties.”
In summary, training can have major benefits to your business overall.
"We work with many major consumer-facing brands to ensure an excellent and consistent brand experience is being delivered," says Ogle. "Within that work it is noticeable that companies with robust training programmes tend to rank higher on customer experience scores.
"The level of engagement an employee has with the business they work for has a direct impact on the service they deliver. Someone who has been well educated about the culture of your business and the environment and atmosphere you want to create will be far more relaxed and confident in conveying this to your customers."
All this week on BigHospitality we will be sharing training ideas from across the industry. To find out more about training schemes run by restaurants such as Red Hot World Buffet and Gaucho, check back tomorrow.