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5 tips for attracting and retaining hospitality staff

If you're struggling to hire new staff or finding it difficult to hang onto team members post-Covid, you're not alone. In this article, Mike Hardman from catering and kitchen equipment suppliers Alliance Online shares his tips for recruiting and retaining quality employees.

While COVID-19 has caused chaos for every industry, there's no doubt that the hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit — especially when it comes to employment. In fact, according to the Office of National Statistics, the number of employees within the sector are 11% below what they were before the pandemic. As a result, job vacancies in the hospitality sector have increased dramatically, yet the positions are proving hard to fill.

As the economy gets back on its feet, hospitality businesses with vacant positions are still struggling to recruit new staff, all while attempting to prevent those already in their employ from looking elsewhere. If you're one of the thousands trying to find new workers to cope with increased demand after coronavirus, or if you're trying to retain the employees you already have, below I'll share some top tips for getting your workforce back up to scratch.

Focus on Engagement

The first area to review for any hospitality business looking to hire or retain more staff should be your engagement techniques. Employee engagement extends beyond organising social events — it's equally important to provide appropriate channels for informing your employees of company-wide updates, while ensuring there's a two-way system for communicating issues or concerns.

Hospitality staff are perhaps more likely than most to suffer in silence and look for another job if they don't feel valued, or confident that problems affecting their ability to work will be resolved. Keeping all employees informed of what's going on within the company, through a weekly newsletter, team meeting, or another method, means they're more likely to have a stake in the company.

Similarly, managers and team leaders need to be approachable and able to listen to your staff. If their workload can't accommodate this, you could consider appointing an 'engagement champion' on each team who is the first point of contact for staff with questions or concerns.

Give Employees Recognition

Another way to make workers feel valued, and thus improve retention, is to have several systems of recognition in place. One of the most successful employee recognition systems is to have your staff nominate someone on their team who has gone above and beyond for a weekly or monthly award, as it encourages collaboration and bonding within your workforce. The winner can then receive a shout-out, or even a certificate and a small prize.

Don't forget that recognition from management is important too, so your senior staff should take an interest in their team. This could be done in a number of ways, from providing free tea and coffee and a quiet place to take breaks, to remembering birthdays and work anniversaries, to joining staff at formal and informal social events. This is well worth their time, as 63% of people who are recognized at work consider themselves 'very unlikely' to seek a new job in the next 3-6 months (according to research by Survey Monkey).

Provide Incentives

Taking recognition one step further by providing incentives is a great way to reward staff for hard work, but it may even help to increase productivity too. Employees will likely work with increased fervour for a prize they really want, and your willingness to provide it means their perception of the company will be increased too — which will no doubt raise the profile of your business.

The incentive scheme you provide should depend on your company goals. If you want to focus on delivering individual recognition, you could offer personal bonuses or commission based on performance. Alternatively, if you want to encourage teamwork and collaboration, then dividing your workforce into groups and having them work towards a common goal is ideal for this.
Talk to your staff to work out what the most incentivising prize would be. Outside of financial incentives, you could reward the winning team with an event or themed prize. Alternatively, winners could be offered 'first dibs' on shifts, given an extra holiday, or treated to an early finish. 

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Offer training and professional development

In many ways, the opportunity for professional development is an incentive, as employees may be more likely to apply for and stay on at your establishment if they feel their career can progress there. While advertising your position and during the interview stage, make sure you highlight what career opportunities you provide and how employees can access them.

For example, you may be able to promise: a promotion to a senior position after so many years of working for you; a lateral move to a different department of their choosing, within your company; or access to training resources and qualifications.

Another method of training you could offer is to assign mentors to new employees who can show them the ropes while addressing any queries or concerns they may have. This is an attractive prospect to jobseekers and means you can widen the pool of applicants to include those who may not have worked in hospitality previously. The buddy system can make new staff more invested in their position at your establishment, as they will feel supported — but they also won't want to let their partner down.

A Guide to Training New Restaurant Staff

Create a positive company culture

Company culture is becoming increasingly important to employees in all industries, with many even choosing a positive work environment over a higher salary when deciding where to work (according to research by Glassdoor). A culture is made up of several different aspects, including the provision of engagement, recognition, and other resources mentioned above. But there are other important elements to consider putting in place or improving if you want to attract and retain the right talent.

Health and wellbeing programs can help keep your staff happy and healthy, which has benefits for you both. If you have access to these facilities, you could offer free or subsidised fitness classes or spa treatments, or you may opt to provide memberships to places nearby. To keep staff on long-term, it's worth looking into retirement plans or private healthcare to help improve their quality of life.

You should also consider whether your company culture is diverse enough to attract all kinds of applicants. Flexible schedules, inclusive facilities, and equal representation of staff from different backgrounds can all help contribute towards a more diverse company culture. This not only encourages people from all walks of life to apply, but it will hopefully give your establishment a better atmosphere overall for your patrons to enjoy. 

Finding great employees can be difficult at the best of times, but after the pandemic it's proving to be an even bigger struggle. It's therefore crucial to demonstrate that you value your staff in order to recruit and retain within hospitality, and the tips above can help you figure out what your business needs to do to pull this off.

New eBook Reveals How To Successfully Open A Restaurant… Free E-Book!


About the Author

Alliance Online are leading providers of catering and kitchen equipment to the UK's hospitality industry and public sector. With an emphasis on quality and trusted brands, they supply a large range of commercial catering equipment, disposables, and cleaning supplies nationwide to hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars, schools, colleges and universities, health and leisure clubs, nursing and care homes, and many more. To find out more, please Visit: allianceonline.co.uk