The Hospitality industry has the worst reputation for extraordinarily high staff turnover rates than any other sector. With a constant stream of young students hopping onto the part-time bar work bandwagon and departing at the first sign of graduationsville its no wonder the industry is crying out for experienced, dedicated, permanent staff.
A recent survey by hospitality and catering recruitment specialist The Buzz found that two thirds of workers had only been in their job for less than two years, while almost 70 per cent of workers planned to change employer within the next six months.
“Organisations need to understand what really motivates their workforce and to adopt a clearly defined strategy for both recruitment and retention,” said Bala Sanmugan, MD for The Buzz. “The old idea of long term loyalty to a company is dying out.”
The main reasons respondents cited for wanting to change employer was pay (39 per cent), their employer’s culture and ethics (28 per cent), and lack of training (26 per cent), the latter being most important to people aged under 30.
But are businesses trying to convince their part-timers to adopt a professional career in hospitality, or even making the most of the non-student staff they do have?
While a good strong team of staff is beneficial to any employer, Bob Cotton at the British Hospitality Association warns businesses against thinking all staff turnover is bad. “The hospitality industry employs many students and part-time workers at the height of season, which is a good thing because it provides employment flexibility,” he said.
While that is probably the most important time for businesses to sink their claws into staff, management should think about implementing long-term solutions for enticing employees to sticking around for longer than the summer holidays.
“Employers will need to create an environment that gives people the flexibility and variety they seek, together with the training and development to succeed and the autonomy to get on with it,” Sanmugan added.
Talk, talk, talk
So how can employers create this environment where their staff can be happy? When around two thirds of people in the industry feel they have untapped potential and skills that their employers don’t utilise, the obvious remedy it seems is communication. Speak to your staff about who they are, what they can do, what they want, and about where they see themselves in the future. By giving them some control over their career they may be more inclined to see how it pans out. But don’t forget communication works both ways. Listen to them and try to accommodate their needs, and in the meantime try and keep them in the picture with what is happening with the business.
“Better communication between management and staff would enable everybody to working in the enterprise to work to a common goal, enable them to achieve greater work satisfaction, and encourage them to work more as a team,” explained Cotton. “Staff need to know what’s expected of them and how to achieve the standards the business is aiming for.”
Guoman Hotel’s Training and Development Officer Sarah How says communication is key to motivating their staff. “Regular staff meetings, especially where all staff have the opportunity to feedback their issues and concerns, are a must. This breeds a sense of belonging and drives loyalty amongst staff as they feel more and more part of a family.”
But unlike a biological family, you can chose which people to include in your team, and the recruitment process is the most important step when it comes to retaining your staff. Finding the perfect person for the job is vital, as staff turnover tends to be highest in the first few weeks of employment. They either need to possess the core skills needed for the job at hand, or you should be prepared to train them effectively.
Celebrated Indian chef Cyrus Todiwala’s CafT Spice Namaste was recently praised by the government’s Department for Business for his training and development policies, which has seen his staff turnover rate fall to practically zero.
“I think implementing a training and development programme is vital,” he explained. “When I first came to Britain from India I thought that finally in Britain I will have highly skilled staff. The sheer shock of finding that the staff we had here were in fact pretty poorly trained or nil, pushed me back into introducing and in some cases originally enforcing training.”
Todiwala has used a variety of activities and training courses from role-play situations and field trips, to putting his staff through NVQs, and IT training to ensure they are completely qualified to do their job. “Our managers decide what they wish to train in and we try to help them find the relevant courses. We believe that every single employee has a right to develop ones self and we have a duty to develop them too albeit for selfish reasons.”
When a quarter of hospitality workers are citing lack of training as the main reason for changing jobs, employers should invest some time and money into satisfying their needs.
The Academy of Food and Wine has this year launched the License to Work programme, a training course designed to improve the minimum standard of newcomers to the industry by setting an minimum level of competence. The course covers food and wine service, customer care, health and safety, basic food hygiene and interpersonal skills, although only entrants deemed motivated enough to work in hospitality will be accepted.
The government-led Train to Gain programme can provide businesses with bespoke skills advice on everything from Investors in People, basic skills through to leadership and management training specifically for the hospitality sector.
Borough Market restaurant Roast made use of the Train to Gain initiative, implementing more innovative training techniques that included body language and face-reading, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and found their staff were more keen to stay in their jobs in order to further develop themselves.
Empowering your staff can also help to boost their confidence in the workplace, making them feel needed. By handing down some responsibility to employees they can get an immediate feeling of being a key element of the business, leading to a heightened sense of pride of their work.
At the same time it is also very important to reward staff that have excelled in their work. “Too often, extra effort isn’t rewarded properly,” says Cotton. “There’s nothing quite so deadly for staff as lack of recognition by management for extra effort; staff should never be taken for granted.”
A simple ‘thank you’ at the end of a long, gruelling shift goes a long way, but sometimes a more physical reward such as a bottle of wine or cash bonus can reinforce your gratitude and encourage staff to work hard more often. Focusing on the little things that reinforce this sense of a family like staff meals, birthday cakes, after-work drinks or even events to reward star performers like Guoman Hotels do, make teams feel engaged and valued.
Investing in a properly trained team of staff that are gratified and respected will ultimately lead to them working more effectively and efficiently, reducing the need for more staff. They are happier in their roles and the business can only benefit from a team that runs like clockwork.
Sarah How’s Top Five Tips for Motivating and Retaining Staff:
Regular staff meetings, especially where all staff have the opportunity to feedback their issues and concerns, are a must – as long as points are actioned in a reasonable and timely manner. This breeds a sense of belonging and drives loyalty amongst staff as they feel more and more part of a family.
2. A well-structured reward system
Recognition and rewarding employees who shine no matter what their position and whether they are customer facing or not is very important.
3. Work culture and environment
At the heart of any company must be a mutually inclusive, caring environment. The fact that we are in business and, at the end of the day, all have pressure from investors, shareholders and institutions, need not mean we lose sight of what we are and focus on a keeping morale high and employees happy.
4. Recruiting the right people and training all employees to the company’s business standards
In the recruitment and promotion process, there needs to be real focus on identifying who is right for the jobs you have available. As an example of how all these strands link together, it is simply pointless to promote a person because they have performed well, only for them to find themselves in a role they hate or that does not make the best of their core skills. Our investment in training and the academies demonstrates to our employees that improvement is a two-way relationship that helps them in their future careers.
5. A competitive benefits scheme to attract and retain people
Potential staff will be lured by the added benefits such as sufficient holidays, food on site and other incentives and discounts. Guoman Hotels work with Reward Gateway which allows employees to log onto the Internet where they can qualify for discounts in high streets shops and online.