How to both keep your hospitality staff and keep them happy

25th October 2018 - Business & Marketing
How to both keep your hospitality staff and keep them happy

The hospitality industry is facing a crisis of staffing. According to The Morning Advertiser, the hospitality industry’s yearly staff retention sits at 70%, but the UK average is 85%. This is supported by a survey from street food equipment supplier, Nisbets, where it was revealed that hospitality staff start to look for other jobs after only 2 years at their current position — the average is 4.5 years for other sectors. This causes a problematic cycle within the hospitality industry, as frequent departures across the sector means the sector as a whole has plenty of vacancies for others looking to leave their current company.

In this article, we will take you through a step-by-step process of gaining, training and retaining a valuable staff member, so you can reduce how often you’re putting up job adverts and enjoy the security of an experienced, loyal workforce.

Step one: knowing exactly what the job entails

Your job advert is a two-way communication. Not only are you looking for an employee, but your potential employee is looking for a job that suits them. Be careful not to oversell the job and risk an inflated expectation that will leave the prospective employee feeling disappointed with the reality and looking to leave quickly.

Instead, make sure your job description is clear and honest. If the candidate is expected to work in a busy kitchen, state that. If the work will be split shifts, tell them. Don’t worry about “putting people off” — honest job descriptions, with notes on the positives and the difficulties of the job, will mean you receive applications from people who know what they’re signing up for.

For entry roles, consider handling the recruitment process yourself, as recruitment agencies will not be aiming to bring quality through your door. They’ll just be looking for quantity.

Step two: consider the candidate in the long term

You’ve found your ideal candidate for the job, but are they the ideal candidate for the long term of your business? Take a look at their employment history and see if they have hopped jobs rapidly, as this can be an indication of how they view their jobs. Ask them about their plans — if they’re heading to university in the summer, the job is not going to be their main focus for long.

Get to know your candidate a little more, too. Will their personality and work ethic slot in to the rest of the team? A trial shift can provide valuable information for both parties regarding this; you can see how they work, and they can test the waters to see if they are comfortable in the offered role.

Step three: goals and guidance

Once you have your team in place, it’s time to build rapport and give them something to work for; working without meaning will cause employees to seek new pastures, particularly with the Millennial generation. Regular, one-to-one reviews are hugely beneficial not only as a chance to address any budding concerns quickly, but for the simple connection they build. One-to-ones mean your staff are less likely to feel like they can’t approach higher management, and as a result, it will prevent any “us vs them” mentality developing. Showing genuine interest in their career path will be repaid with the desire to work hard for the company that is supporting them!

Don’t just give your workers targets and goals. Talk to them about what they want to get out of working for you, how they want to progress and what they aspire to. Build goals together, and you’ll find your workers will have a reason to work beyond just getting through the shift.

Plus, these regular reviews provide a great opportunity to make your employees feel appreciated. Note good performance and thank them for their efforts; or, if there are areas for improvement, discuss them here in a way that sees both of you working towards that goal.

Perhaps there’s something stopping them from working effectively and hitting that goal. Maybe they feel they need more training, or perhaps there’s an office-known issue with hardware. Again, these reviews are a brilliant way for you to hear about these “ground floor” matters that you might not otherwise be a part of. Make sure your employees feel they can speak openly about these issues and address their concerns on what isn’t working — seeing you actively respond to something they have suggested will make them feel involved with the business.

Step four: this is a team

This follows on from the idea of preventing the “us vs them” mentality which can prove damaging to your employees’ morale. With new starters, introduce them to all levels within the company. This will make them feel part of a team, rather than just a worker.

Foster the team spirit further by organising work nights out and celebrate staff birthdays. This could include going to a concert or on a comedy night out, ideally something that can be widely enjoyable among the employees. Getting to know each other a little outside of work can bring a further sense of loyalty and teamwork within the working day. Plus, it’ll encourage a positive atmosphere, which is vital in a customer-facing hospitality company.

Step five: reward

Reflect an employee’s efforts with rewards — or they’ll find a company that will.

Review salaries annually to make sure they are still reflective of the amount of work and skill the employee is bringing to the company. Also, implementing a bonus scheme based on the company’s performance as a whole is a brilliant way to get people feeling a part of the whole process, rather than just their individual job.

It’s worth noting that, for hospitality businesses in particular, it’s frowned upon for the business to take a cut of the staff tips. If nothing else, that isn’t what the customer intended for the money they have parted with when it comes to tipping. Also, splitting it with the kitchen staff without discussion is problematic too. Have a staff meeting to see how the workers want their tips divvied up.

Extra considerations

Business Leader noted the top three reasons for leaving the hospitality sector are lack of career prospects (35%), low pay and benefits (63%), and most importantly, unsociable working hours (69%). We’ve already outlined how to deal with the issue of pay and reward, as well as setting goals to work towards in terms of a career. But what about the issue of unsociable hours?

As the workforce becomes predominantly more Millennial-based, it’s important to consider their priorities. Flexibility, hand-in-hand with a good work-life balance, is particularly important to Millennials. But the hospitality industry, by its very nature, can have long and unsociable hours. So, what can be done?

Consider a compromise in the form of later starts or agreeing to work longer on busy days in exchange for the time being repaid as days off during quieter periods.

Millennials also like to work for a good cause, something that will benefit others. Consider the current view on plastic in the oceans — particularly for the hospitality industry. Can you help address this issue through your company’s work?

Learn from leavers

If you are presented with an employee’s resignation letter, arrange an exit interview to find out why they are leaving. This is a good opportunity to highlight areas you may need to work on in order to retain the rest of your staff.

Replacing staff is not only costly, but it takes a long time for a new staff member to catch up in terms of experience and know-how. Staff retention is a vital part to the smooth running of any business — how will you connect with your employees to ensure they stay?


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