I was at our local hoteliers' association meeting the other day, where one of the topics of conversation was finding good quality staff, in particular chefs. We already know that there is a lack of new talent entering the industry so it's important that we hang on to our best people. The hospitality industry has always had one of the highest labour turnover rates in all sectors of the economy, so are we just deluding ourselves if we think we can beat that trend?
Why do they quit?
Staff turnover can be infectious, the more people come and go, the easier it is for others to make the decision to leave. Unless we understand why staff leave it’s unlikely we’ll reverse the trend.
In an ideal world some kind of confidential exit interview should be conducted and wherever possible this is best done by someone other than a line manager. Let’s face it, if the reason is it's poor management or leadership that has prompted the move, it's unlikely that you're going to learn the whole truth if the line manager is asking the question! The saying goes people don't quit jobs they quit bosses.
But even if your staff structure doesn't allow for this it is important to find out as much as possible about people's motives for leaving.
Recognition and reward
If the reason they give is more money look to see how your rates compare with the competition (bearing in mind for some roles your competitor for staff may be in totally different industries). But also look at what benefits your staff are getting that they may not be getting elsewhere and ensure people are aware of everything that makes up their package.
What about the less tangible aspects of their package. Recognise and reward performance and achievements. Celebrate and share successes; identify and utilise people strengths, training, delegating and giving them control and ownership where appropriate. Be sure to recognise all departments, including back of house staff, e.g. housekeeping is often the most undervalued department, but is commonly the most profitable aspect of a hotel.
Encourage and reward loyalty by conducting regular pay/benefits reviews. Think about incentives that are within reach of any member of staff who performs well. This might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has an opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills or strengths.
Career and prospects
Career and prospects
If they're moving for career progression, is this something that you could have given them but just didn't make them aware of the opportunities? What can you do in future to ensure that all your team get the recognition and development they need for their career progression?
Grow from within where possible, and give people the opportunity for career progression as well is enhancing the skills to do their existing job. Think also about life skills; for example offering English lessons. And make use of the training grants available through the tourist organisations, colleges, and government-funded schemes.
You won't be able to accommodate everyone's aspirations particularly if you're a small hotel, but having some kind of succession plan in place does give people something to work towards. However, be careful you don't make promises that you are unable to keep.
Make training a part of day-to-day management, so it's not seen as something that is additional or optional. This goes for both staff and supervisors/managers. Identify those who have an interest in developing their CV and are willing to take on training responsibilities as part of their own development.
I’ve worked with a number of businesses recently who have had to make cuts and changes. This makes people uncomfortable, and so when another opportunity comes along, they jump at the chance if they feel it has better long term security.
Communicate any changes that are happening in the business before they happen, and how this might affect them.
Set standards so that people know what’s expected of them, and can measure their own performance, and not left in doubt about their contribution. Be consistent, ensuring the same 'rules' apply to everyone. Focus on telling people what you want to achieve, i.e. the end result, rather than dictating how to do it. This gives people flexibility to adopt their own style (you'll be surprised how often they end up improving the process) rather than living in fear of not being able to comply with strict processes. And make sure you provide the appropriate tools, resources and training to do the job effectively.
Training your staff in the mechanics of the business operation puts them in a better position to contribute to cost control and income generation. If people understand how the business makes its money they are then in a position to contribute to this and put forward their own ideas. A win-win for both.
What if you are the problem?
We may not want to admit it, but you or your management team may be the reason that people leave. Rather than hide your head in the sand, reflect on what you need to do to change. Find out what are the things that people find difficult or frustrating about working for you or with you, and then figure out a way to change your approach before others decide to jump ship.
How much direction do you provide? Do people know exactly what’s expected of them, and have the tools, time and resources to deliver? Lead by example so there are no mixed messages.
Ensure that you and your management team are approachable. Provide support when it's needed, and be receptive to when this is required. Not everyone will be confident enough to ask for help. Consult staff and listen to their ideas; they may be able to offer better ways of doing things.
Take time to talk to staff to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals. Listen to and act quickly on any concerns. Identify what's important to them recognising that with the varied cultures and backgrounds of your staff that their values and priorities may sometimes be different to your own.
Give constructive feedback -what have they done well and how it has contributed; where they have fallen short and how this can be improved.
Communication is a two-way process, not only do people need to know what's going on, they want to be heard. Daily briefings need to include what's happening that could affect the operation or the customer experience in any way (e.g. maintenance, staff shortages, unavailable products or services), as well as any feedback from staff on their observations or ideas. Let your team know how the business is performing, and what this means to them.
Having a happy and motivated team will not only help you retain your talent and reduce staff turnover, but will lead to better productivity and customer service, maintaining sales and controlling costs.
If you want to retain your best people you need to give them what they want.
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years’ experience in business and management development, and founder of Zeal Coaching, specializing in working with hospitality businesses. You can hear more on the topic in Caroline’s recent teleseminar
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