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Finders Keepers?

finderPeter Davies, WMT Chartered Accountants, considers how the hospitality industry is dealing with the staffing crisis.

Recruiting and keeping good staff has long been a challenge for the industry. The Brexit vote, and the corresponding drop in the value of the pound isn’t helping. Overseas staff feel less welcome and the money they earn here in the UK isn’t worth as much as it used to be back in their homeland.

Everyone is hoping that this is all part of the adjustment process; that the economy will settle down and business optimism will return to pre-Brexit levels (or better!). In the meantime, what is the hospitality industry doing to cope with staffing issues and how can you benefit from adopting some of your competitors’ strategies?

Keeping staff

You don’t have to read reams of research on leadership and teamwork to know that open and transparent communication with staff helps to retain and motivate them. Operators at every level from sandwich shops to top class hotels have found that transparent two-way communication improves staff retention and helps deliver better customer service.

What you do to make sure communication between staff and the business works doesn’t have to be complicated or particularly time-consuming.

I’ve seen many restaurants benefit from simply briefing staff at the beginning of service – how many covers are expected, when service will be busiest, and how staff can help the business to reach its targets. Sounds obvious – but often this gets lost in the day-to-day rush to be ready for service.

Others have turned to technology and set up closed social media groups, held an ‘any questions or ideas’ webinar for an hour now and again or used a specialist app to keep staff in the loop and collect their ideas. I

ncreasing staff commitment

Just as the trend in experiential dining is attracting customers to venues, employees are looking for jobs that offer a richer and more varied work experience.

Online recruiter CV library reports that 96% of workers say they are less likely to leave an employer if they are offered training and development opportunities. But this can add to your costs, so what sort of training should you offer?

Hotels and restaurants have found that offering cross departmental training and shadowing opportunities are a win-win option. Employees learn about each other’s jobs which means they work better together, resolve issues between themselves and customer service improves as a result. It also makes the workforce more flexible.

There are benefits in kind that could work for you also. A popular option is to sign up for a service that provides employees with discounts and offers such as free mobile phone insurance, money off their supermarket shop and deals on cinema tickets. It is a taxable benefit but the savings they can make far outweigh the cost to them. Other employers can always offer cash to try and lure your staff away, but if you are offering your team something else that they value as a part of their reward, that can help you fend off your competitors’ advances.

Share options are also worth considering, particularly for key staff. Businesses using share options to retain a top chef or restaurant manager usually offer a share in the profits in return for meeting income levels over a period of time. Why not add other metrics into the mix such as staff retention levels and the outcomes of 360 feedback on their management skills?

Recruiting new staff

No matter how good you are at retaining staff, you’ll always need to recruit new ones.

If you’re struggling to identify potential new recruits, try offering a financial incentive to employees to introduce candidates. Just take care to strike a balance between offering a reward that makes it worth their while and one that encourages them to introduce anyone and everyone.

Once you’ve got a candidate, your tronc scheme can play a key part in making an employment package look attractive. If you suspect that yours isn’t work as hard as it could, consider getting some advice on how to make it more effective.

Strong competition for unskilled and semi-skilled workers is coming from other industries as well as other restaurants. The winners in this tug of war are likely be those who can combine opportunities for staff development as well as reward based on achieving goals.

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