In a people-centred business like hospitality, it goes without saying that your staff are your most important asset, so you want to hang on to them.
Whilst it might be fine for your customers to leave after a few days or weeks, you want your best employees to stay with you for years, yet the hotel industry has notoriously high staff turnover rates compared to other sectors. People 1st estimate that it is 30% but anecdotal evidence suggests the true figure may be considerably higher – as much as 50% – and all indications are that the situation is about to get worse.
According to a recent KPMG report commissioned by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the industry already struggles to recruit chefs, kitchen and house-keeping staff, with many of these roles filled by EU migrant workers. The KPMG study estimates that 75% of waiting staff, 37% of house-keeping staff and a quarter of all chefs are from the EU. In Scotland, around 18% of the sector’s workforce are non-UK workers. These figures have prompted the BHA to warn that the hospitality sector faces a shortfall of 60,000 workers a year if migration is too tightly controlled post-Brexit.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said recently, “It is clear that hospitality and tourism face major problems in recruitment if there is any major cut in the number of workers allowed to enter from the EU…The Government must be aware that in the medium to long term we will still need considerable numbers of EU workers.”
The organisation has called for a ten-year ‘transitional period’ to allow the sector to adjust to the recruitment challenges – but what can hoteliers be doing in the meantime to improve the situation?
Many employers see the ‘revolving door culture’ as part and parcel of working in the hotel sector but when you consider the costs of recruiting and training new staff and the valuable expertise lost when employees leave, it is imperative to look at ways of improving retention rates.
Most employees start new jobs bursting with energy and enthusiasm – so how do you capitalise on that and ensure they stay just as motivated?
Industry experts believe there are a number of key issues. Money and benefits are important but so are things like career development, feeling valued and having a good relationship with other staff and managers.
Two years ago managers at the Auchrannie Resort on Arran decided to try a novel approach to their recruitment – using psychometric tests to help select the best candidates for senior management roles and ‘match’ them to the other staff they will be working with. The programme – Discus Personality Profiling – has provided useful insights during the interview process and helped improve the calibre of the staff who are being recruited.
Claire Johnston, HR & People Development Manager at Auchrannie, explains, “Candidates do a Discus Personality Profile which we cross-reference with a Relationship Report in line with anybody they will work with. For example, if we were recruiting a restaurant manager we would do a Relationship Report for that person in relation to the other three restaurant managers that we have, plus the Food & Beverage Manager. The profile explains who would take what role in the team, how they would work well and any clashes that might appear.
“It’s very interesting and it also enables us to put together a personal development plan for that person before they join the company. Through Discus and the interview process we will have identified areas of improvement or training development that may be required and we will have put that together already.
“Our culture is not to recruit the perfect manager but to recruit people who are 80% so that we can train and develop that additional 20% and help develop them into the best managers in Scotland.”
Meanwhile the Glynhill Hotel & Leisure Club in Renfrew has come up with its own take on a popular slogan with its Pure Dead Brilliant programme which launched in February as an incentive scheme to reward staff for going ‘above and beyond’. The idea was to acknowledge any member of staff throughout the hotel (from senior management, to part-time waiters/waitresses) who actively went above and beyond their call of duty.
All hotel employees are able to nominate any staff member and the employee who receives the highest number of vouchers wins an overnight hotel stay and £100 towards a meal for two.
Ross McLaughlan, Marketing & Sales Co-Ordinator at the Glynhill Hotel, explains, “The idea was not specifically to reward staff for doing their job, but to encourage them to do more, which would in turn become what was expected
“It is important to us all that our staff are motivated, and enjoy their work, particularly in an industry that is notorious for poor retention rates. We felt that this added level of competition would encourage staff to improve the service they are offering, in an attempt to be rewarded. Ultimately this would in turn improve guest satisfaction levels when staying at the hotel – so it was an investment worth making!”
Macdonald Hotels has just launched Macdonald CONNECT, a communications and discount tool for all their staff. The programme involves giving exclusive employee discounts on everything from groceries and shopping through to holidays, insurance, days out and restaurants working with leading retailers like Marks & Spencer, Boots and Thomas Cook. The discounts can be accessed through reloadable store cards, online cash back and instant vouchers.
Lynn Hood, Director of People & Talent North at Macdonald Hotels, explains, “Macdonald Hotels has almost 4,000 employees, all of whom we want to ensure have a successful employee journey with us.
“Recognising that pay is not everything and that additional benefits are often the things that help to keep employees with you, we went in pursuit of finding something interesting to bring to our employees. We wanted to find benefit provision that had resonance with them and selected Reward Gateway to provide the solution for us. On the front end of the programme is a communications tool which is set up to message all our employees.
“These measures are about addressing retention and they are part of our attraction strategy and we’ve had a great response so far.
“We recognise that a range of benefits is very important to continue to attract and retain
Occupational psychologist Kirsten Godfrey says that employees also need to have meaning attached to their work, as well as direct financial rewards.
She adds, “One of the issues for the hotel industry is how you attract younger people and retain them when there might be lots of other businesses competing for the same people.
“Some people might come to a job and be quite happy to work nine to five and as long as they are paid well that is fine for them – but if you want to keep people for longer they tend to need to have some sort of other meaning attached to their work and what they do.”
Susan Bland, Chief Human Resources Officer at Redefine BDL Hotels (RBH) agrees that whilst money plays a part in attracting an employee to a role, other factors are much more important when it comes to retention.
She says, “I strongly believe that money plays a huge part in attracting someone to a role, but once they’ve joined a company it becomes more of a hygiene factor than a motivator. There are a host of other factors considered far more important for retention as part of the team.
“That’s why RBH focuses on supporting health and wellbeing, and making sure we give everyone the chance to give something back to the communities in which operate.”
RBH has also developed a SMILE learning management system, where employees can enrol on various programmes, delivered online and face-to-face. So far this year, the access rate for the portal is almost 90 per cent.
Career development is clearly a critical element to retention. If staff have the opportunity to advance, they are much more likely to stay and to remain committed to helping you achieve your business goals.
The rational style of command and control management – where employees are spoon-fed and told what to do – is still fairly prevalent in the hospitality industry but there is a lot to be said for taking a step back and trusting them to make the right decisions.
Guy Holmes, owner and managing director of Captivate Hospitality Consultants says that empowering your staff in this way helps them feel valued and encourages them to take more pride in their work. He explains, “Staff meetings, getting together and speaking to everyone on a regular basis, updating them on what’s happening with the business, getting their feedback and asking them what they would do is really important.”
Steve Graham, CEO of Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group, wants his staff to feel that their contribution is valued and that they are part of something. He is also committed to helping them with career development and is determined to ensure that, going forward, his business is achieving more than just the industries average retention rates.
As a result the group has put in place a number of incentives and benefits, including a major charity initiative which has boosted team motivation and team building and given staff a sense of achievement. They also engage staff through challenges and competitions – like their current contest to see who can make a French Martini in the fastest time. They also host annual staff awards.
Steve says, “At Manorview we have lots of ways we motivate our team, but a key element is through training and guidance. We find especially through our younger staff members, that they are very motivated by development, and by being given a chance to grow in their careers.
“There are lots of career paths in our group, and we chose to lead by inspiration, rather than by manipulation. We are helping people to grow but equally they are also helping us to grow as a company. Their contribution is valued and we want them to feel that, and to feel part of something.
“I want people to say: Manorview is a company I am proud to work for and I want to work there.”
The issue of staff turnover in the hotel trade is not a new one – and neither is it going
to go away any time soon, especially with Brexit looming.
However it is clear from the number of innovative reward schemes and programmes designed to help employees progress and develop that it is one the sector takes very seriously.
Hopefully the industry will now start to reap the benefit of its own rewards.