How to address the real reasons for the staff shortage

15 July 2021 by
How to address the real reasons for the staff shortage

Employee expectations on how they will be treated at work have changed, so now is the time to look at your company culture and decide if it is showing the industry in its very best light, says Jane Sunley.

As if being closed for most of the past 15 months wasn't crisis enough, from every newspaper, trade publication and digital journal the headlines scream out – hospitality businesses are not able to recruit the talent they need. A lethal combination of Brexit and coronavirus has thrown an industry, which contributes 5% of UK GDP and employs 3.2 million people, into a tailspin. Hospitality has suffered labour shortages for decades and it now faces its toughest challenge yet.

It's a real positive that people in hospitality are stepping up the recruitment and ‘PR' efforts. However, unless this industry gets its act together and becomes a truly great place to work, all of the shiny new recruits that are attracted simply won't be retained. Existing employees are also recalibrating their aspirations to expect better or they'll walk too, as the recent open letter from mistreated Brewdog employees all too sadly shows.

What employees value

The data from The Caterer's annual Best Places to Work in Hospitality survey identified the criteria hospitality people value most highly and therefore seek in the workplace:

  • Respect
  • Teamwork
  • Work-life balance
  • A positive working environment
  • Communication
  • Being paid on time

Post-pandemic, wellbeing and flexibility should surely be added to this list. In fact, according to workplace messaging service Slack, 56% of all UK businesses have improved their workplace culture to increase flexibility and improving wellbeing. Hospitality must follow suit.

Blueprint for success

But let's get being paid on time out of the way first. Does this mean that it's routine for people in hospitality not to be paid on time? If that's happening in your business, it's highly likely that someone is acting illegally. It's unfair, unacceptable and there's no excuse for not having a reliable system in place.

Respect, teamwork, work-life balance, a positive working environment, communication, wellbeing and flexibility all fall foul of what I call ‘initiativitis' – ticking a box instead of addressing deep-seated cultural issues that will make the good stuff become part of a company's DNA. An example of this would be a company introducing wellbeing solutions when addressing the attitudes of managers and the way people are expected to work would prevent many wellbeing issues occurring in the first place. I could give you great advice for all of these areas, but unless your culture is a positive one, with owners, leaders and managers wholeheartedly in support, you would be wasting your investment.

Where to start

  • Culture: Work out what's positive and less so about the way things are done in your organisation. The only way to do this is to consult with your people. Then the hard work begins to define and embed your culture.
  • Leadership: Ensure every leader is able to be a role model for your defined values and behaviours and is able to support, strengthen and develop your culture. Try the Purple Cubed website for a variety of blogs, podcasts and survey options.
  • Pay: Review and address factors such as pay and conditions. Remember, however, that if you're getting everything else right, it becomes less about the money and more about working in a positive environment with purpose where the work is enjoyable, leaders are supportive, people can work towards their potential, the team are great, and people feel proud of the valuable and recognised contribution that they make.
    • Tools We live in a digital world, so embrace the possibilities. Employees need more choice and control over when they work and their ability to shift-swap, and labour scheduling software makes this easy.
    • Metrics Put simple yet powerful metrics in place so you know you're getting it right and picking up any anomalies quickly so they can be dealt with before they erode your culture.

Only then can you shout about what a great employer you are, and people will believe it.

Jane Sunley is the chief executive and founder of Purple Cubed

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