Enlightened operators know the value of investing in the development of employees. Emily Manson explains how to support your staff as a sustainable asset
Hospitality staff are a transient workforce that can continually be replaced with no adverse effect on business. Scarily, that is still the view of a significant proportion of hospitality operators who see their staff as easily replaceable figures merely delivering a product. But more enlightened companies know that treating staff as an asset to be nurtured and supported is the best way to have a successful business. Indeed, treating employees as a sustainable asset is fast becoming the way employers set out to retain the best people and deliver the best service.
Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, says: "Restaurants that put time and effort into sourcing their food and that care about their carbon footprint are more likely to care about and invest in their employees.
"This is the best example of sustainable business being synonymous with good business. Treating your people well brings the obvious rewards of lower staff turnover and a more motivated workforce."
We're not talking fluffy niceties. There's a hard-nosed business rationale behind this stance, as Jane Sunley, chief executive of HR and training specialist Learnpurple, says. "Your people are the face of your business; this is a key area where sustainability makes smart business sense."
When employees leave, she explains, it's not just the cost and hassle of recruiting a replacement and getting them job-ready; it's also the indirect costs to your business, such as knowledge loss, service disruption, plus the effect on team dynamics, customer relationships and morale.
This was borne out by People 1st's State of the Nation 2011 report, which estimated that £33m a year is lost in ongoing recruitment and initial training.
"By putting effort into employee engagement and retention, your business will be stronger, more sustainable and will increase its equity value," Sunley advises, predicting a return to the 1990s "War for Talent" as the economy recovers.
This is something Liz Hartstone, managing director (London) of recruitment company Profile, agrees with. Over the past five years she has noticed a trend towards big corporates and some key independent companies placing more value on their people.
"What used to be lip service is now measured," she points out. "Employee engagement surveys have become the norm, but now GMs and VPs are being judged and rewarded on the results, so whether they actually believe in the process or not they have to do it."
Conversely, employees' attitudes are also changing. "They are thinking, ‘What can employers do for me?'" says Hartstone.
The smartest candidates want to work for companies that offer the best personal progression programmes, she says. "Companies that recognise this, such as Four Seasons, IHG, Jumeirah, Lexington, Bartlett Mitchell and BaxterStorey, have become very sought-after because of the way they treat their people."
Hartstone cites IHG's development plan for every employee, which sets out not just the job ahead but two jobs ahead and which is signed off by two line managers, as "a massive shift change for the industry - and ahead of the game".
What sets all these companies apart is the development of the person as a whole. Hartstone explains that while companies can give extra days' holiday or gym membership, there's nothing better in employees' eyes than investing in them, be it through online learning or university courses.
"It's that personal investment which gives them loyalty to the company, and even when they move on they may well return further down the line," she adds.
People 1st's research also backs this up, finding that training has a strong effect on retention and employee engagement. Chefs who are trained, for instance, stay in a role on average for two years longer than those who are not. More generally, hospitality workers who are offered training and development are 88% less likely to leave, while 53% said training would also encourage them to work harder.
People 1st chief executive Brian Wisdom explains: "During a recession it can be tempting to cut your training budget as a quick fix to reduce your outgoings, but this kind of short-term thinking can be a real false economy.
"Research has shown that businesses that don't train their staff are nearly three times more likely to fail than those that do, and staff retention has a major role to play in this."
When budgets are tight, he advises using low-cost ways to help engage and develop staff, from Government-funded apprenticeships to "train the trainer" programmes.
"Businesses that continue to invest in the skills of their staff will be best-placed to benefit when the economy picks up," he adds.
Mentoring to motivate at the Clink
Prison restaurant and employment scheme the Clink is about to see its business model go nationwide, with the next site planned in Cardiff and another one in Brighton next year. The Government also has plans to build another two restaurants a year for the next four years. Why? Because the mentoring programme involved has seen reoffending rates reduced to 10% from an average of 74%.
Started by Alberto Crisci, the scheme takes offenders with 6-18 months left on their sentence and trains them in practical hands-on restaurant experience, as well as giving them softer skills such as pride, confidence, social skills, and professional qualifications such as the City & Guilds NVQ.
Last year the scheme extended its reach by linking up with Springboard UK to continue to mentor, motivate and support offenders once they are released. This additional process starts with a mentor for each candidate helping the offender to write a CV and disclosure letter, introducing them to prospective employers on site, meeting them on the day of release, taking them to their first day at work, and then meeting in the workplace every week.
Chris Moore, chief executive of the Clink charity, says: "It's giving them a horizontal joined-up approach so there are no cracks in the system as they reintegrate back into the community. Springboard mentors hold them by the hand to make sure they don't slip through the net. It's about protecting our investment. Since we introduced this extra support in September last year, not one has reoffended."
Rewarding staff at Red Carnation Hotels
Last year Red Carnation Hotels' staff turnover was 32%, compared with some operations, which experience anything from 50% to 100%.
This year the group will be running 70 different internal training courses, in four categories: foundation skills for team members, foundation skills for managers, technical skills, and development skills. It also holds a one-day company induction course, with a follow-up two months later for every new member of staff. In addition the group has launched a leadership training programme for upcoming heads of department and deputy general managers.
As well as formal training Red Carnation has over 20 more informal initiatives, schemes and rewards for staff to make them feel valued. These include annual family days out, children's Christmas tea parties, summer boat parties, free theatre tickets, monthly tea parties, "catch a star" rewards for jobs well done, paid days off for charity work, a new baby congratulations pack, a mentor programme, access to computer facilities, external training support, chiropodist facilities and a long-service award scheme.
Managing director Jonathan Raggett explains: "Our training and mentoring is done to make us better than our competitors. We give our people confidence to do their job and to perform a brilliant job. Much of the training we give prepares people for their next role in a supervisory or management position and gives them the tools needed to succeed. The thing that differentiates a property is its people and those offering genuine hospitality."
Matching the right person to the job at Fifteen
Each year Fifteen takes 18 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 and retrains them to become professional chefs. Many come from chaotic backgrounds, but over the year they are offered a combination of training that involves learning butchery, bakery and fishmongery skills as well as working with the food team learning recipe testing, food styling and writing recipes for Jamie Oliver's books.
They study level 2 professional cookery at college and also go on work tasters to fully understand the range of ways food can be a career. There is also a lot of welfare support to help with punctuality, attendance, resilience, coping strategies and development of emotional intelligence.
Programme manager Tromie Dodd says: "It's about looking at the whole person and individualising the package within the framework so it adapts to each person's needs and keeps their motivation going throughout the year. It involves some weird and wonderful projects, like sourcing trips to producers, and helping them stay focused on the end goal and realising their aspirations."
Trainees are actively encouraged to move on and work in the wider industry, and mentors work with them to find jobs. Dodd explains that a lot of effort is spent on matching the right person to the right job. "The nurturing and support is ongoing," she says. "We carry on working with them even when they've left, to ensure there are no blips. We have an open-door policy and alumni training courses and hope that some of them in a few years will come back and become trainers."
Average cost of recruiting and inducting a new member of staff (among those who have paid to recruit)
Job role - Cost
Owners of the business/employed managers - £2,292
Chefs or cooks - £1,394
Waiting staff - £823
Bar staff - £615
Kitchen assistants - £828
Customer service staff - £1,213
Domestics - £422
Source: People 1st Employer Survey 2009
10 ways to develop a sustainable workforce
Recruit Make sure you employ the right people who "get" what you and your company are about.
â- Engage From the first contact, do all you can to win over hearts and minds to fully engage them with your business.
â- Induct Make sure people know what a good job is and that they have the tools and guidance to do the best possible job for you.
â- Communicate Consult as well as instruct.
â- Listen Some of your best ideas will come from your people: lose your own ego and let them have the limelight.
â- Support Ensure people feel confident to be individuals and do their jobs, yet know where to find support if they need it.
â- Feedback Encourage frank feedback, and if things aren't working out, deal with it swiftly so negativity doesn't spread.
â- Develop Think of low-cost/no-cost ways to engage your people: mentoring, job swaps, projects.
â- Progression As well as learning, people need to work towards their goals, so understand what these are and help them.
â- Wellbeing A healthy and contented workforce equals a happy and productive one. Introduce employee-focused benefits such as family -friendly policies, subsidised gym memberships, flexible working, free fruit. It's a key weapon in the attraction and retention war, not a fluffy "nice to have".
Jane Sunley, chief executive, Learnpurple
Responsible hospitality resource
For more information on how to run your business responsibly, visit our online resource www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/responsible-hospitality. The Responsible Hospitality channel, supported by Accor, Gram UK - and Kraft Foods, features tools and guidance that will help you reduce waste and energy usage, while offering examples and information on increasing recycling, ethical food sourcing and social responsibility.
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