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Changing the perception of a career in hospitality – how to attract and retain talent

Shelley Heath / January 24, 2019

Let us ask you something, if we say ‘hospitality worker’ – who do you picture? A student, part-time worker, a person on a zero hours contract? In the UK, one in 10 people work in hospitality and tourism (that’s 4.49 million people, or 10% of the working population).

Big statistics indeed, and the age ranges may not be what most would imagine either; waiting staff have an average age of 26, bar staff 28 and kitchen and catering assistants 35. Yet despite hospitality being such a popular choice of career for people of all ages, there are serious challenges in attracting and retaining top talent. And as you’re about to discover, the commercial consequences of these challenges are incredibly serious. But before we question what can be done, let’s first explore today’s landscape for the hospitality worker (and their employer).

The cost of unhappiness

In the hospitality industry, workers welcome customers with wide-smiles, going all out to create an exceptional customer experience. Ultimately – whether working on a bar or in a restaurant kitchen - hospitality workers are there to make those they serve happy. And yet these workers are among the unhappiest of all – with 65% saying that they’re unhappy in their jobs, compared to 30% in the overall UK economy.

Those who are dissatisfied all too often leave, while their employers spend hand over fist in a constant cycle of recruitment, training and waving goodbye all too soon.



Just 3% of new hires see a long-term career in the industry, a figure that carries through to workers who chop and change between establishments, as well as exiting the industry all together. To put this into one hard- hitting stat, turnover of staff is 31%, twice as high as the UK average, which goes on to impact the bottom line (as well as customer satisfaction).

“An average hotelier spends 45 percent of operating expenses and 33 per cent of revenues on labour costs.’ High turnover rates cause extra costs in recruitment and training. According to the report 52% of the cost of replacing staff is productivity loss and 14% is orientation and training”. Deloitte Report – Hospitality 2015 – Game changers of spectators

In the hazy post-Brexit world, these issues may get worse, as the talent pool shrinks on an unprecedented scale. One recent survey found that 11% of hospitality workers are considering leaving the UK as a direct result of Brexit. So severe could these changes be, that some predict shutting up shop altogether.

“3 per cent of hospitality managers predict that they will be forced to close their businesses as a result of Brexit, which nationally could equate to around a £1.1 billion loss for the economy”. YouGov Poll

Unhappy hospitality: The question that demands an answer is – ‘Why?’

Low entry level wages are perhaps the first and foremost issue that impacts worker commitment and longevity. While this issue is difficult (if not impossible) to resolve (thanks to unshakeable market forces), it can be countered by encouraging employee mobility. It’s also worth noting that this issue is one to watch, as the average salaries of hospitality roles have soared by 38% over the course of 2017 – 2018.

Next up is the sticking issue of unsociable working hours. Once again, little can be done about the fact that hotels, bars, and restaurants need to be open late and over weekends. But there are steps that can be taken to make working these unsociable hours more enjoyable – which links into the final issues of hospitality lacking in transparency and effective communication.

Moving forwards, you may be wondering...

How can you beat the industry average and change the perception (and reality) of a career in the hospitality industry?

We’re glad you asked (and the five answers are surprisingly simple).

1. Focus on the positives of the industry and build them into the culture of your organisation

Hospitality is frantically fast-paced – it’s challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Shout about it. Be proud of it. Plus points include tips and bonuses; an ever-changing role; team work; a secure industry; employee perks, and more. Weave this positivity into the fabric of your organisation - from your onboarding to your refresher training.



2. Open up communication channels

Never have regular touch points between managers and staff in hospitality been more important. From day zero, workers must feel valued, with a clear path set out in front of them to motivate them and retain their attention. By opening up communication, managers can fully understand exactly what it is that works want, with opportunities that then take centre stage.

3. Peer Recognition

It’s an innate human trait – we like to receive praise from our peers, even more so when this is made public knowledge.


To encourage peer recognition, consider a simple weekly or monthly ‘Peer Appreciation’ voting system. Ask for nominations, which detail the tangible ways in which one of their peers has made working life just that little bit better by being there - helping out, working late or resolving a problem.

4. Encourage the generation of ideas and foster innovation at all levels

Your staff are the best informed and best placed to tell you about what its really like ‘out on the shop floor’. They are the best source of untapped ideas that you have, and you should nurture their ability to drive innovation. A simple addition of an ideas box, complete with rewards for those that are implemented, can lead to game-changing business changes.

5. And finally – what do your staff want? Just ask

Think you know what your staff want? You’re probably wrong. Ask them, and ask them often, about what they want from their career (and it is a career – not just a job). With their answers, you’ll know what to hand them – the opportunities and goals for stepping up through positions and progressing.

We might be able to help

If all of these things sound like big shifts in your thinking, that may be because the culture of hospitality needs a significant shake up. But make no mistake, when these factors merge, a business benefits from happy, motivated, productive employees who stay for longer and make a career out of their role.

Weekly10 is a recipe for staff engagement and happiness in hospitality, all baked into an app.

Enabling 10-minute employee check-ins and 5-minute manager reviews, Weekly10 fosters a culture of feedback, growth and visibility.

“I really enjoy the ease of use! Being able to update questions and keep re-occurring questions for my team really helps me keep track of my teams progress. I am also able to access and review my teams updates from anywhere!” Bill White CEO - Village Heights


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