A lack of "soft skills" in the workplace could be costing hospitality businesses billions, according to a new report from People 1st.
Skills such as customer service, teamwork, and dealing with complaints are worth almost £8b to the retail and food services markets alone, said the report, named "Overcoming the soft skill challenge", but employers say that these are the skills that job applicants are most likely to be missing.
The report also said that the hospitality and tourism sector was struggling more than others to recruit staff with these skills, and that over 122,000 workers in retail and food services were likely to be held back by a lack of "soft" ability.
Over three fifths (61%) of hospitality and tourism businesses reported that staff lacked skills in customer handling, and 26% of the businesses asked said that they had lost customers to competitors as a result. Over half (53%) said that staff lacked planning and organisational skills, and that 51% lacked communication skills.
Vacancies considered "hard to fill" have grown significantly since the recession, having increased by 12% between 2011 and 2013, the report said.
Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st, said: "The impact the lack of soft skills has upon hospitality and tourism businesses is huge. We are a people-oriented industry and, if staff don't have these skills, it can be highly damaging. It can result in loss of business, difficulty meeting quality standards and overworking the existing workforce."
He added that the industry needed to compete better when it came to attracting able applicants into the sector, and also find more effective means of developing the skills among existing staff, including via induction programmes, and placing a greater emphasis on pre-employment and new staff training.
Workforce development charity People 1st runs courses on pre-employment skills, which seeks to monitor and improve staff achievement levels, and allow potential employees to become job-ready before they enter the workplace.