Ask most hospitality operators what their biggest challenge is, and they will say recruiting and retaining staff. With staff turnover across the industry estimated by some at 75% a year - and a few companies reporting 100% - it's clear they are not wrong. It's chastening, then, that the mantra of many human resources experts is that "people leave people they don't leave a company". With that in mind, it's worth looking at a few tips from the experts to see what you could be doing to make your staff stay.
1. Recruit effectively
Avoid the temptation to fill job vacancies too quickly, as taking the time to find the right person will pay off in the long run. Don't recruit on gut feeling alone, nor take on people you happen to like, regardless of their skills. And remember to consult existing staff about new team members, so they feel involved. See www.startups.co.uk for guidance on recruitment.
2. Make wages fair
Getting pay levels right makes it easier to attract quality staff and retain them. Check job pages to ensure you're paying the going rate, otherwise you could lose staff to competitors and make sure that varying pay scales are fair to avoid unnecessary staff conflict. Acas (www.acas.org.uk) offers advice on salary setting.
3. Keep things interesting
You risk losing talented employees if they are underused, frustrated or bored. Increasing the variety of tasks or level of responsibility makes work more stimulating, while encouraging staff to try different elements of other people's roles can develop versatility and team spirit.
4. Plan inductions
Research shows that half of all leavers resign within the first three months of starting a job. A well-planned induction will minimise this risk and can help identify any problems early on. Try to be creative - nobody wants to be faced with huge manuals detailing every minute policy and procedure on their first day. For a fact sheet and induction tools go to www.cipd.co.uk.
5. Be a good leader
Be an example of what you want from others. If things go wrong, deal with it, and always be energetic even if you don't feel like it. Remember that people might apply for a job because of the brand or product, but what keeps them there - or not - is the leadership and direction from their boss or manager.
6. Be flexible
Try to accommodate staff if they occasionally need to leave an hour early, or look at implementing some form of flexible working long-term. Nine out of 10 employers with flexible hours have experienced improved staff-retention rates and higher motivation levels, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission (www.eoc.org.uk).
7. Carry out regular appraisals
Appraisals are an important tool to ensure staff reach their individual potential and meet the needs of the company at the same time. Some objectives are best covered in a less formal setting, so it's useful to use both structured appraisals and regular, informal meet-ups to keep in touch with your staff. See www.cipd.co.uk for tips on conducting appraisals.
8. Listen to your staff
A business where only senior managers are allowed to "have ideas" rarely achieves great staff satisfaction. Encourage good two-way communication by asking employees for their feedback, and acting on it if necessary. Spend time with your team so you are aware of how they feel about aspects of the business.
9. Create a pleasant work environment
Nobody wants to work in dingy, unwelcoming surroundings. Try to provide staff with a separate area they can use for breaks, a quick catch-up with other colleagues or simply have a quiet five minutes away from work. Similarly, simple touches like free tea or coffee and biscuits are likely to be appreciated.
Encourage staff at all levels to learn new skills, and think about carrying out a training audit to find out what areas would interest people the most. Helping staff develop will keep them motivated and ultimately result in improved morale, not to mention a workforce that's more likely to stay with you for the long-term. See www.cipd.co.uk.
11. Go green
Growing evidence shows that "green" employers are viewed more favourably by potential recruits than those who don't consider the environment at all, while in a recent survey for BT, more than two-thirds of staff wanted their employer to be more environmentally responsible. For advice on how to make your business greener see www.envirowise.gov.uk.
12. Celebrate achievement
Praise your staff when they are doing a great job and give them feedback. All too often bosses can focus on the negatives and pay little heed to the positives. Publicly recognise achievement, no matter how small, and remember to reward results.
13. Be culturally aware
If you employ different nationalities, make sure that staff are helped to integrate via training or language classes if necessary. Contract caterer Charlton House, for example, offers computer-based training in health and safety and food hygiene in several different languages. For guidance see www.employingmigrantworkers.org.uk.
14. Don't be a harsh critic
Empower staff to make decisions by themselves, and avoid creating a blame culture by acknowledging that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process. Make people feel secure and confident, so that if things go wrong, they can learn without fear. One idea is to hold a weekly session to chat through what went well, what could have been better and what was learnt.
15. Be open
16. Allow people to grow
Create opportunities for embracing new tasks and responsibilities. Give people the chance to stretch themselves and create space for further development. Allow people to shine - the level of skill and knowledge in the company will increase and staff will feel challenged and more enthusiastic about their part in the organisation's success.
17. Keep it fun
Every hard-working team needs a little downtime. Social events or fundraising for a local charity, for instance, will improve communication at work and can help to break down barriers between staff or different departments. Try to get employees to "buy in" to what's organised - nobody wants to be forced to have fun - and vary it, rather than always going to the pub.
18. Look to the future
Work with employees to identify their career path and plan their progression within the business. Equally, make sure staff truly understand the goals of the organisation. If employees are happy with their career and clear on where they are heading, they will be less likely to look elsewhere. See www.businesslink.org.uk - for business planning advice.
19. Say thank you
Make your staff feel valued and appreciated by noticing their input - if somebody has been putting in long hours recently, for example - and saying thank you. This reinforces the idea that each person matters, and for many people genuine praise is more important than financial rewards.
20. Incentivise staff
Incentives allow you to reward good results and can motivate staff to do well, and help with retention. Think about what you are incentivising - team performance, individual results or meeting objectives - and remember: incentives can vary from simple vouchers, a meal out, or simply a Friday afternoon off, as well as more formal bonus schemes. See www.businesslink.org.uk for more on staff incentives.
- Jane Sunley, Learnpurple, www.learnpurple.com
- Sara Edwards, vice-president of HR, Maybourne Hotel Group www.maybourne.com
- Sean Wheeler, group director of people development, Malmaison/Hotel du Vin www.malmaison.com
- Suzanna Hunter, director, Chess Partnership www.chess-partnership.com
- Hannah Bailey, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment www.cartwheel.co.uk
- Jo Cowey, human resources manager, Charlton House www.charltonhouse.co.uk