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Harri: How engaged are hospitality workers right now?

18 February 2021 by
Harri: How engaged are hospitality workers right now?

Harri surveyed over 1,600 hospitality workers to get a picture of how they are faring and what the future looks like for them, because – let's face it – it's not that clear. What we do know is that there is light at the end of the Q2-2021 tunnel, as a result of increasing levels of vaccination across the population.

Of our respondents, 43% are currently unemployed due to Covid-19. With furlough as the safety net, do employers have no choice but to let their staff go? If UKHospitality's latest Future Shock report is anything to go by, with 30% of licensed premises closing at the end of October 2020 and an annual loss of £53.3b overall sales in 2020, with a predicted rise in unemployment to 7% later in 2021, it seems that the hand has been forced. It has not been the prettiest of pictures for hospitality.

How do hospitality workers feel about returning to the industry?

Well, 78% of respondents said they would return to hospitality when lockdown eases, which sounds encouraging. Of the 22% who said they wouldn't return, they said that retail, office and healthcare environments are appealing to them.

With that in mind, the importance of attracting talent back to the industry is paramount. We need to keep up momentum and think long and hard about our employer value proposition for those people preparing to bounce back. How many of you have recently heard your organisation whisper the words "there is talent out there, let's lean towards the lower end of the salary to save cost?" And, we get it. It's tough out there for businesses right now, and, as they say – every little helps. But, now is not the time to undo all of the work you've previously done to attract the best talent to your business.

Another encouraging stat is that 76% of our respondents said they felt confident to return to work and face customers. And with 95% of consumers feeling safe in hospitality venues last year (according to CGA), employees' safety is vital in maintaining this high level of guest trust. However, employers shouldn't ignore the 24% of workers who will feel anxious. This could be attributed to not working for so long; mental health is a real issue and is something that will need to be addressed on the people agenda.

So how do people actually feel?

Communication "hasn't been great" for 34% of furloughed staff, so it's little wonder that mental health could be at risk. There have been some really good news stories around engagement, like BrewDog and their mentorships and Unicorn Fund, which shares the company's profits among all employees. And let's not forget Honest Burgers pulling their teams together and involving them in company-wide initiatives. You can listen to our Harri webinar here to find out more.

Keeping staff will be key when the industry rebuilds itself. Let's not underestimate the impact of Brexit, which could cause a national shortage of chefs later next year. We know that retention is an ongoing challenge in hospitality: 31% of respondents said that flexibility of rotas wasn't given to them historically, with 38% saying their manager didn't give them the flexibility they needed. Employees don't want to surrender hobbies, social life or even sleep due to inflexible scheduling. The days of posting a schedule the day before the employee is required to work are over. This is a matter of respect – how can people plan their lives if we don't give employees enough notice and deliver that notice digitally? Harri has a tool for that: flexibility of rotas given at the click of a button, along with revenue and labour predictions. It isn't rocket science, but a simple solution to our future predicted turnover challenges.

Kate Nicholls says that Brexit is a hidden problem. Of our respondents, 9% said that Brexit will affect their ability to work in the UK – attribute that to the hospitality workforce in 2019 (UKHospitality) and we're talking about 270,000 employees. The UK's hospitality sector employs in excess of 3 million people, and of those it is estimated that around 25% are EU nationals so the problem is likely to be nearly treble that figure. We predict a potential talent shortage that will become apparent later this year after hospitality is back up and running.

It's not all doom and gloom – there is an opportunity to plan for the return of your workforce, get your business in shape, and most importantly make sure that your tech supports you in operational efficiencies, giving you time to practice what you preach by fostering a great place to work once those doors fly open again.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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