Winning the battle for staff retention

One of the toughest jobs confronting a B&B or guesthouse owner is staff retention. Louise Newman, managing director at critiQuie.com, reveals best practices when it comes to holding on to your staff and making your independent hospitality business smarter

High turnover of staff can mean not only the loss of expertise but can also impact staff productivity, performance, moral, and team dynamics. It’s not a great advert for your business, possibly impacting guest loyalty, and adding an additional cost, with the hiring process, training and building relationships, which can have a huge burden on time, effort and fundamentally cost.
Small independent businesses may find this more of a challenge, being less able to offer financial gains and training. However, taking a more personable approach, treating staff as you’d like to be treated yourself, recognising good work, and putting in a support structure to assist, all helps in staff retention. Working in a ‘family’ atmosphere brings loyalty from the bottom-up, and this business structure often is the most successful to reduce absence and retain staff.

I interviewed Robert Richardson (RR), GM at The Grand, Folkestone for his additional words of wisdom based on his breadth of experience, which I’ve placed against fundamentals for retaining staff in the hospitality arena.

`These are key areas which make employees look outside of hospitality:

  • Unsociable working hours, approx. 70% of employees leave hospitality due to unsociable hours.
    Robert Richardson says: “In 2019 flexibility and perception is key. For example, there is no job that cannot be tailored to the life style of the recruit.”
  • Low pay and benefits, approx. 60% of employees leave hospitality due to pay
  • Lack of career prospects, approx. 40% of employees in hospitality wouldn’t leave if they had career prospects
  • Robert says he sees the current perception of our industry as “as poorly paid with limited progression creating a ‘barrier’ between potential recruits and business”.

If you don’t look after your staff then you won’t have staff to look after… BUT it’s not all doom and gloom. These four areas can help retain your staff:

  • Appreciation over remuneration
  • Build a positive work culture
  • Get communication right
  • Look after employee wellbeing

Further fundamentals are listed below, and adapting just a couple into your business should see an improvement in staff retention:

Recruitment strategies – set expectations and gain enthusiastic staff from the start

Hiring the right people from the get-go may sound difficult but following these guidelines can be invaluable:

  • set up the job application to fit the role you are offering
  • look for the right things on a CV
  • ask the right ‘open-ended’ questions at interview
  • ask for references and check for ‘butterflies’
  • ask about long term ambitions, goals and motivators, plus previous experience.

You’ll get the right fit of skills and passion to fit your business culture. When you get it right from the outset the effort, time and cost saving going forward will far outweigh the initial investment.

Career Advancement: hospitality has career prospects

Set goals and make sure you can support what you promise when your staff meet and exceed them. Transferrable skills and responsibilities make work life more flexible and varied which assists promoting internally and raises staff morale. It’s worth considering engaging with local schools to support and employ pupils so they work with you and continue a career in hospitality’.

• Training and development: continual improvement and investment in development helps motivation
Improve and make a stronger business by building on staff expertise.
Training can be used as a ‘perk’ – growing employee skills and experience makes them happier and from a business perspective you gain more productive employees.
Staff achieving their potential is great, make sure you recognise it and reward it so they don’t go looking elsewhere.

• Strong positive business culture: think of the hard and soft skills as both have a huge impact on staff:
– trust, aspirations, teamwork, passion, personalities and communication skills.
The hospitality industry encompasses a number of different cultures, nationalities and religions so incorporate ‘diversity and inclusion’ into your ‘retention’ planning – especially in regard to specific holidays, dietary requirements and respecting differences in ‘everyday life’ – to make employees feel valued and included.
Developing the right attitude will also drive ‘leaders’ who in turn will strive for better business.
Good employee-employer relations can ensure a healthy and enjoyable atmosphere – which guests will love.
Robert at The Grand says: “The beauty of our industry is that to be successful you need to be a people person. That automatically creates a great people focused ethic that promotes inclusivity and diversity, something I think the world needs more than ever right now.”

• Ask and Listen to Employee feedback: employees can help ‘problem solve’
You need to be able to take the rough with the smooth, appreciating and acting on all feedback. What do they want and like as an employee? What would they want/like as a guest?
Employees are your eyes and ears on the floor. Make giving feedback a short and snappy experience – not an arduous task.
critiQuie.com provide a quick, easy and fun feedback tool – whether it’s used for consumer or staff feedback, training, events or wellbeing. Higher volumes of feedback give you insight you need rather than low volumes which don’t capture enough data to make good business decisions.
Using technology really helps – with fast, inexpensive online surveys there’s little effort for the business or employee but a huge gain in data to act on.
Don’t forget to take actions from the results of employee feedback – there’s nothing worse than giving feedback and find it goes nowhere. Implement ‘frequent, short and actionable’ feedback – as opposed to just annual surveys – to ensure you are a responsive business. Where you can’t take action, ensure employees are told why, and if possible what could be done instead.
Be positive about all feedback and don’t take it personally – it Is additional knowledge to improve your business. Robert says: “No person is the finished article and no person knows everything, therefore feedback is essential in the development of a good business and a good people focused operation. You will always have louder and quieter voices; the mark of a good people leader is the ability to give everyone the opportunity to speak.”

• Employee-engagement:–ensure your staff know you value them
Wherever possible engage with your staff, and to alleviate some of the pressure from you find mentors in and outside of your business for every member of staff. They can give guidance, support and recognition as well as examples of their own experiences to assist employees.
Robert says he sees staff investment as “not about how much money you put in… it’s about the amount of effort and time… Sitting and listening to someone’s ideas and looking at how to work them into your operation is just as valuable as competing with the payroll offering of your competitors”.
• Communication: don’t leave it to an annual formal appraisal
Continuous communication works wonders – staff feel you’re interested in them. Make sure you have informal chats as well as formal meetings so staff know you’re taking them seriously and also to make sure the goals and expectations are being met. Give praise where it’s due and a support structure where assistance is needed. critiQuie.com can give you the right tools so employees are able to communicate regularly and openly with you, especially where they may lack in confidence to do so.
• Empowerment, perks and thanks: invest in your workforce, happier staff means happier guests
Increase motivation and productivity. Provide flexible hours or working patterns, employee involvement practices, financial incentives and bonuses. Options that increase work/life balance are always a WIN and will help improve productivity, loyalty and reduce absence and increase retention.
Perks don’t have to be a big cost – small things are better than nothing at all.
Recognition and reward for performance and efforts across your teams can bring huge benefits – without a huge monetary cost, social events bring good memories and boost morale.
When your team feel valued – entry level through to management – you’ll see productivity gain.
Robert says people “…are the greatest “think tank” that you will have at your disposal. Have them help you arrive at the destination you need to arrive at, as you will never get there on your own”.
• Be realistic: some staff will leave, no matter what you do
As part of their exit, gain their thoughts on your business and take on board any improvements which will not only assist the way you work with your employees in future, but also improve your guests’ experience. As a silver lining, this is a positive where you can hire improved talent, bringing in new ideas for business success and keeping you competitive by learning new ways of working and experiences you can give your guests.
Robert says: “Some turnover is healthy… In order to fully develop your professional skill and experience there is a need to work for more than one business and, essentially, gain experience by seeing “how other people do it”. A progressive employer will respect that and will always welcome past-employees back to their business.”

• Well-being: don’t just pay lip service to it, it doesn’t have to be daunting and your business depends on it
Whilst wellbeing is focal on boardroom agendas, many are either sceptical or don’t give the time it requires. However, let me briefly explain why WellBeing is important to you, your business and your staff. When we refer to someone’s mental state we’re not trying to psychoanalyse the individual, all we need to know is ‘are they alright?’
If they are then great. If, however, they aren’t then you need to know and do something about it.
critiQuie.com provide a WellBeing tool, to ‘keep it simple’ – as there’s no need to over analyse this. Ensuring your staff can communicate how they are 24/7 and ask for assistance where needed.
Making sure all the parts in your business are functioning well is good for your business overall.
Getting ahead of potential problems, giving your staff an environment where the business is genuinely interested in their state of mind, shows staff you care about them. This leads to stronger relationships, greater respect and increased retention.
Robert states: “It is a fact that the more time and effort you put in to your people, the better your business results… I would recommend remaining open to the topic of wellness and subscribe a few hours a month to discuss and implement initiatives; it really is not an all-consuming process. If you value something you will always find the time.”

• Finally, extras: remember to make the extra effort and take the extra time
Make sure you appreciate employees who are positive, passionate, and have potential so they remain in your business.

More from Bill Lumley (Editor)

Winners of the 2018 eviivo Awards announced

The winners of the 2018 eviivo Awards were announced last night at...
Read More