How Can Employee Engagement Help Transform Britain’s Hospitality Industry?

Stefan Wissenbach, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer at Engagement Multiplier.

Stefan Wissenbach, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer at Engagement Multiplier.
It is well known that the hospitality industry contributes hugely to the UK’s economy. It is the fourth largest employer, and over the next five years, could create up to 400,000 jobs. But the industry faces uncertainty – staff turnover and employee satisfaction remain huge problems, and the unknown effects of Brexit loom large.

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is how it can promote the positive aspects of working in hospitality to more UK workers. There isn’t a one-size fits all solution, but I believe that a critical part of the answer needs to involve employers like hotels and restaurants doing as much as they can to communicate that there are a myriad of long-term career opportunities within the industry and position themselves as businesses that really care about developing their employees.

Here are three things that I believe the industry needs to focus on to address the major challenges:

1.) Focus on engagement to improve retention and job satisfaction

Rather than getting bogged down in the details of navigating how Brexit will impact the industry or just accepting that staff turnover will always be high, the mission of hospitality employers should be to transform their businesses by creating ways to empower staff to do their best work, as this will improve their own engagement, as well as guests’ experiences.
Implementing an employee engagement programme that helps businesses communicate with employees about what they need in order to do their jobs more effectively is an excellent first step toward increasing employee’s job satisfaction and demonstrating that employers are invested in the long-term prospects of their workforce.

The figures about how engagement improves a business speak for themselves: according to this years’ Gallup Workforce Study, only 37% of engaged employees are looking for new opportunities, compared to 73% of actively disengaged employees. This should make the industry question whether high staff turnover, should be accepted as the norm.

In my own experience, I’ve found that hospitality businesses that focus on engagement, don’t have a turnover problem – I frequently travel to Chicago and always stay at the same hotel. Employee engagement is an integral part of their business, and I’ve enjoyed building a rapport with the same staff there over a decade. I’ve seen first-hand how engaged employees = engaged customers because engaged employees deliver unique, memorable experiences.

Research bears this out as well: the University of Bath’s Engagement Report found that just 17% of non-engaged employees feel they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs, but 70% of engaged employees feel that their understanding empowers them to do so.

2.) Work to create a positive, purpose driven culture

If employees don’t feel connected to their work, this can lead to feelings of frustration and disengagement. To combat this, employers should have a clear purpose that clearly communicates what their business does and why.

A purpose should be written down, easy for everyone to understand, and it should be as much about your employees’ experience as your guests. A great example from within hospitality is The Ritz-Carlton’s purpose: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen; this exemplifies the unparalleled service the brand empowers their staff to provide customers.
So a British B&B’s purpose might be to create an environment where guests feel as if they are visiting friends, and staff feel like they are hosting friends.

Whatever your businesses’ purpose is, every member of your staff should understand how their actions support it – this helps everyone unite around a common objective and contribute to an overall goal.

3.) Measure engagement levels, and ask for staff’s feedback about what could be done better

When you measure your staff’s engagement levels, and ask for their feedback about what can be improved in a business, you are tapping into an incredible resource of ideas and knowledge. After all, who knows a business better than those that are working in it every day?

Establishing an anonymous two-way communication system to measure engagement and ask for feedback can help identify concerns before they become real problems – this could cover a whole range of things, e.g. how physical premises are impacting customers’ experience which could help prioritise repairs and upkeep. Most importantly, what’s measured can be improved: when you focus on improving employee engagement, you end up improving customer satisfaction as well, as employees who are engaged and empowered in their jobs feel motivated to deliver the best results they can for their business.

Employee engagement clearly isn’t the answer to all the problems and issues faced by the Hospitality industry, but it certainly addresses many of them. And those it doesn’t address are so much easier to tackle with an engaged team!

By Stefan Wissenbach, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer at Engagement Multiplier
Stefan is a serial entrepreneur and speaker who is passionate about the transformational impact of engagement on people’s lives and businesses. His company Engagement Multiplier is a digital platform that enables businesses and individuals all over the world to simply and efficiently measure and improve engagement levels by generating real, honest feedback from anonymous surveys every 90 days.