That was the main message from the participants in the discussion People Drive Profit - how to seek, recruit and retain the right people who will make a difference in your business at the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester last week.
Despite high levels of unemployment among those aged 18-24, the hospitality industry is still struggling to recruit staff for vacant jobs, so according to the panellists, employers are advised to change their ways rather than expect workers to accept the status quo to overcome the problem.
Panellist Craig Bancroft, managing director of Northcote Group, said his business had recognised it needed to amend its training process and staff management systems in order to survive.
"Without people we haven't got a business," he said. "We value every single person who works for us and where we find it critical is we have had to change. The time has gone when we worked a 65 hour week for little money. There are a lot of wiling and good people out there but we have had to find a way in this financial climate to attract and retain them."
Employees across Northcote Group's hotel and four pubs are given the chance to swap shifts via a dedicated Facebook page set up for the purpose and the company has also made itself flexible around employees' childcare arrangements.
Daily meetings for all staff at sites also allows communication across and 'buy-in' to the business, said Bancroft, who will pay for training schemes, such as the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust's Level 2 in Wine and Spirits, for staff, but a condition - employees must stay with the company for 12 months after the end of the training, or they will have to pay back a proportion of the cost of the course depending on when they leave.
"We have to be much more aware of the needs of our staff," he said. "We have to questions 'will they be happy coming to work?' because they have to got to want to deliver to the customer."
Personality and professionalism
People 1st marketing manager Gerry Brown said making hospitality a profession and ensuring that staff are developed throughout their careers could help with higher levels of retention across the industry.
He also said employers should consider waiting to find the right person for jobs within the business and should consider their character as highly as their skills.
"Sometimes you're better off holding a vacancy than recruiting the wrong people and then having to do it all again a few months later," he said. "It can also be worth focusing less on their skills and more on their personality and behaviour."
Bancroft and Brown were speaking along with Mark Gallen, company director of MG Sales Performance at the AHC at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate on 4 October.
For more suggestions on how employers can find and nurture the hospitality workforce of the future, come to BigHospitality's panel debate Heading towards 2017: How to secure the talent of the future at The Restaurant Show at Earls Court 2 at 1pm on Wednesday 10 October.