Recruitment: Improving staff retention through training and incentives

By Melodie Michel contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Management

Training and career progression are crucial to improve staff retention
Training and career progression are crucial to improve staff retention
At 20 per cent, staff turnaround in hospitality is one of the highest in the UK. Though this is an improvement on the 30 per cent recorded in 2008, continued retention efforts are needed to relieve the sector’s recruitment burden.

In exit interviews, former employees often cite work/life balance, training and management as reasons for leaving.

“Exit interviews often find that the reason an employee leaves is more to do with the way they are managed, the culture and what they are learning than salary. A lack of work/life balance comes up 95 per cent of the time as well,” says Barrett Clark hospitality specialist Lee Redding.

Work/life balance

Although hospitality’s unsociable hours have given it the reputation of a career that doesn’t leave much space for personal life, employers are increasing efforts to improve that balance for their staff.

Redding recommends having the correct staffing levels at all times to create a lighter rota, but even when that proves difficult, advance planning will ensure employees can plan their personal lives around their work hours.

The Northcote Group’s HR manager Jane Wilkinson explains: “We get our managers to focus on that to make sure people do get out and don’t work the traditional crazy hours typical of the industry.

“People clock in and out so we can monitor their hours, and our managers recognise when they can release staff and give them that extra time back. We also make the rotas four weeks in advance so people can actually plan their private life.

“As an industry we need to work a bit smarter and recognise that people need their work/life balance. We need to invest in them and change the reputation of the industry.”

People_1st_Policy_Insight_1 - infographic 2
Statistics by People 1st

Culture and belonging

Making employees feel included in the company is a great way to improve their working environment. At Marlin Apartments for example, all 120 staff can submit ideas, thoughts and suggestions confidentially via an internal software programme called Work Vibe.

Managing director Susan Cully says: “As a company we treat employees as the most important asset that we have. It’s very much a family culture, it’s very inclusive, there is no hierarchy, and everybody has their say and access to every layer of management. The confidential software we just trialled enables us steer the company on issues that employees might be reluctant to bring up to a manager or director.

“We have all sorts of initiatives up and running and we invest a lot in our people to make them feel included and part of the company, because they effectively are our company. Without the people you don’t have a business.”

Training and progression

Career progression is a huge incentive to stay in a company, and hospitality groups have invested heavily into training in the recent past. At around 68 per cent across around 2,000 staff, Côte qualifies its retention level as high, and attributes it to its progression opportunities.

Recruitment director Scott Williamson says: “Our staff retention is very strong. We’ve got staff at all levels that have been with us for an average of three years or more, and a lot of people that have really grown into the business. Ninety per cent of our senior head office team are home-grown – that’s our area managers and area chefs.

“We offer training at all levels – it’s quite personal and individualised. We don’t believe in e-learning so it’s all personal and no one sits behind a computer doing modules. It’s all done through courses and structured handbooks. Management training is a five-week training programme that covers three aspects of the business. They train as a waiter for a week, a chef for a week, and then get three weeks’ management training.”

Growing leaders

Jamie's Italian's Growing Leaders programme helps staff improve their managerial skills

The Jamie Oliver restaurant group has also spent a lot of time and money lately to develop its training. The company started its Growing Leaders programme at the beginning of last year, with the idea of developing managers into leaders.

“We’ve always been pretty good at development as a business but it’s always happened very naturally because we’ve always been opening and launching new sites, so there have always been lots of new roles that people could move into. But with Jamie’s Italian we’re not doing ten sites a year anymore. We’re still expanding, but not as rapidly as in the first five years. So we asked ourselves how we could offer our managers other development opportunities that weren’t just about moving into a different role. That’s when we developed this programme,” says people and development director Stacy O’Hagan.

Aiming to develop 12 behavioural patterns under the clusters ‘Think’, ‘Involve’, ‘Inspire’ and ‘Do’, the programme focuses largely on the psychology behind management, and can lead to a globally recognised qualification by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). “As far as we know today we’re the only restaurant group that offers it, so we’re really proud of that,” adds O’Hagan.

Including workshops and e-learning, Growing Leaders also offers ‘alternative’ subjects such as stress management and meditation. The group has four courses running this year, with about 40 people due to graduate, and is working on further training and development ideas. “We’re conscious that there are a lot of restaurant groups opening all the time and they’re keeping us on our toes, so we want to make sure that we can hold on to our good people and keep them happy,” she points out.


Employers should also consider giving staff the opportunity to move between departments if they wish to. At Marlin, housekeeping and reception staff are offered English courses, and all staff can try a different department from the one they work in through a development track.

“The development track enables them to dip their toe in the water and try a different department for a little while without affecting their existing job. If they then decide it’s not for them they can go back without any consequence. Initially they would spend time out of hours with somebody in the department they want to go to, be shown the ropes and have to complete assessments to really engage them with that team. If they are willing to go on, they then go on to the formal apprenticeship scheme,” says Cully.

She adds that Marlin’s managers are “always talent watching”, so that even employees that don’t dare ask for it are offered opportunities beyond the role they are in if they show capabilities for it.

“If you can bring out the best in people they’re going to have a very happy work environment and life. We spend most of our time in work so if you’re miserable coming into your job it manifests everywhere, and vice versa: if you’re happy in your job you end up with a very inclusive team – that is something that we strive for at Marlin.”


Tourism wages are lower than the national average

Though it is generally not the main reason why people leave hospitality jobs, salaries are also an important part of keeping employees happy.

For example, Côte pays its salary staff overtime, something Williamson says is “very rare in our industry”.

Smaller things, such as discounts, good staff meals, social events, competition and good staff facilities also constitute important incentives, and should not be ignored.

“We’ve invested a lot in staff facilities, so we have a brand new staff canteen with a TV, a chill-out room for people doing split shifts; we’ve got a library with computer access; we do things like supplier talks on a monthly basis to talk about the products we use. We’re continuously building on their knowledge and trying to look after them as well with good staff food and a good work/life balance,” says The Northcote’s Wilkinson.

Are you looking for a job in hospitality? Or perhaps you want to hire a new employee for a key position within your company? our jobs website​ specialises in vacancies across restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs and clubs.

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