Some studies have found employee turnover in the sector to be as high as 80%, while a 2016 report found that poor staff retention costs UK hospitality businesses £272 million a year.
It seems to stand to reason that happy, motivated staff provide customers with an experience that will make them want to return and keep putting cash in the till. Indeed, Clive Price, Managing Director of award winning Surrey-based multi-site operator Barons Pub Company, tells us, “At Barons we recognise what a valuable asset our staff are. Happy staff make happy customers and we value each and every one. Part of our company ethos is that we are ‘Passionate about People’. This refers to our own people as well as the customers we welcome every day.” Yet for many operators, keeping staff smiling is a major challenge.
It may seem obvious, but simply providing team members with recognition for a job well done can make a huge difference. But do we do it enough? With staggering three-quarters of hospitality workers surveyed in 2015 reporting, they feel their hard work sometimes goes unnoticed, the answer is clearly that we could be doing more.
So, what more could we be doing? There are two primary aspects to employee recognition. Firstly, and most obviously, there is immediate, specific recognition for a job well done. If you spot an employee going the extra mile to deliver a special experience to a customer, just letting them know that you noticed and appreciated what they did will help them feel valued and drive them to repeat those positive behaviours. Similarly, making a point of vocally praising team members in front of their colleagues can help reinforce your message. Be sure to be fair though; being seen to be playing favourites is a path to disgruntled staff.
A further facet to shorter term, specific recognition is tangible rewards. Many larger operators offer structured rewards schemes. Clive sees the value in this, saying, “As well as offering our staff Discount Cards, we offer performance related bonuses and run an Employee of the Month competition across all our sites. The winner receives a £50 voucher to enjoy a meal on us. In addition, we run employee events such as inter-pub challenges in the form of quiz, rounders, bowling evenings and offer days out to food/drink events”.
In a smaller business, a simple gesture like buying your staff a pint at the end of a hectic Saturday night can go a long way. As the old adage goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and being prepared to splash a little cash in rewarding your team could bring returns many times over by allowing you to retain a happy, dedicated, efficient workforce.
The second aspect of employee recognition is a more considered, systematic approach, with an eye to longer term results. In addition to offering immediate praise for specific tasks, many successful operators also set their employees performance targets, with clear, structured processes to achieve them, and rewards provided when targets are met or exceeded. This also allows managers to have productive conversations when goals are not achieved, with an emphasis on development not criticism to drive future progress.
When setting targets as part of a systematic approach to employee recognition, it’s important to communicate your intention as clearly as possible. Are you setting a minimum requirement or an exceptional aim? Ensuring your team understand what your business is striving to achieve, and feel appreciated enough to be fully engaged with their role, is a recipe for long-term excellence.