Businesses in the hospitality sector have every right to be worried. At least a quarter of the 3 million people working in the hospitality industry are EU nationals, according to a report by KPMG. The sector is a labour-intensive contributor to the British economy and many hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes across the UK are already reporting that they are finding it harder to recruit staff.
At a time when the hospitality industry is actually doing quite well, could Brexit take many businesses in the sector from boom to bust? There’s little doubt that businesses in the sector will need to adapt. So, what can they do right now to fight the Brexit recruitment disruption?
What Brexit means to the hospitality industry
The hospitality sector stands to face a shortfall of 60,000 workers per year. Post-Brexit recruitment in Britain’s fourth biggest industry is a key issue.
As well as the issue of recruitment, the hospitality sector also faces challenges with its supply chains. The Brexit-induced drop in the value of sterling has contributed to higher costs on imported produce. Businesses are already adapting their supply strategies, sourcing more foods produced in Britain. But, procurement planning is another big issue for hospitality.
As well as setting out plans for potential supply chain disruption, the industry needs to focus on building an engaged and motivated workforce without relying on immigrants from the EU. Improving employee engagement could prove part of the solution to the recruitment crisis.
What is employee engagement?
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), “employees who have good quality jobs and are managed well, will not only be happier, healthier and more fulfilled, but they are also more likely to drive productivity, better products or services and innovation.”
Employee engagement is a workplace approach focusing on the emotional commitment employees have to the organisation and business goals. It essentially drives the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs and the effort they put into their roles.
Why employee engagement is crucial for the hospitality sector
Employee engagement is important in all sectors, but it is more vital in the services and hospitality industries than in any other. In customer-driven sectors, staff are brand ambassadors. They are critical for creating a happy customer experience and improving customer loyalty.
Employees in hospitality roles are part of the lifeblood of the business. Brexit poses its challenges in the supply of labour. Existing employees will be faced with longer hours and have to work harder to fill the gaps. Employee engagement will help employees to feel they are appreciated and have a future in the organisation they are working in. It will also help uncover under-utilised skills.
High staff turnover is costly. It takes time and money to train a new recruit. It makes sense to invest in existing employees. Excessive turnover is disruptive and causes morale to plummet.
What do the best hospitality companies do to retain staff?
Last year, the uber-chic Firmdale Hotels group launched its Employee Engagement week. Without a guest in sight the group’s employees gathered across the group’s eight London hotels to network, upskill, learn and get enthused. The programme of events included inspirational talks, demos, information about company benefits, career advice and tips on building better relationships.
Speaking to hospitality magazine, The Caterer, Julia Murrell, director of people and development at Firmdale, said “I believe retention is driven around engagement. We have a diverse workforce so we have to think of new ideas all the time.”
Group operations manager, Anna Jackson, added, “We spend time on guest engagement, work on how to exceed expectations, how to turn that visit into a repeat stay, and we need to apply those principles to our team, too. We need to look at how we engage them from day one – make them feel special, understand their needs and meet those needs around every role and nationality, as we do with our guests. It is a people business after all.”
Employee engagement can’t be imposed. It’s all about creating a cultural shift. Here’s how:
- Make work fun
- Recognise employees with rewards
- Offer ongoing training
- Create a strong team environment
- Encourage collaboration
- Give your staff opportunities to develop
- Let your employees know you value them
- Share information
- Give regular feedback about performance
- Offer fair pay and competitive benefits
- Reward creativity
- Be open to employee feedback
- Weed out toxic employees
- Promote from within
Richard Branson says “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” In an industry with a high turnover it’s easy to become too focused on recruitment and forget about existing staff.
The hospitality sector has been heavily dependent on immigration. To weather the recruitment storm, hospitality businesses need to prioritise employee engagement and retention now more than ever. Hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars need to attract UK workers and keep them. Employee engagement is just a part of the answer for future-proofing the British hospitality landscape.
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