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Retaining your staff from day one: discussions with experts at HRC

28/03/2022 Kieron Bailey Comments Off

Back to the bubbly face-to-face events with tasty freebies! Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd of March, 2022 were busy at the Hotel, Restaurant & Catering convention at ExCel London, where the team went to give a couple of conferences on tackling the staff shortage crisis and building communities in hospitality.

For more than 86 years HRC has displayed hospitality innovation, welcoming thousands of visitors every year to discover the latest products from the finest suppliers in the market. And after two years of virtual gigs, we were excited to be back in real conversations, so we thought we’d enjoy this opportunity to raise our profile!

Hosted by our founder James Lemon, the talks welcomed speakers from various companies. You already know Cat Pengelley or Naomi Hollas, our amazing Otolo mentors, and we were delighted to welcome other experts working for vibrant companies like The Pig Hotel or Yo! Sushi. During the talks, leaders shared amazing anecdotes referring to their backgrounds and insightful points of view for the audience, and here is another fun event recap!

A poor perception of the industry

In an industry where there are more job openings than applicants, there is an urgency to get together as one and solve the staff retention challenges. With 42% of front-end workers wanting to leave the industry and only 1 in 5 people considering a job, things must change, and we addressed these challenges in a conference organised by Tried & Supplied, hosted by James Lemon, who welcomed Sarah Hammond, Head of People at Yo! Sushi, Steve Rockey from The Pig Hotel and Dan Hudson, Founder and CEO of gigl.

The thing is, people are scared, they do not trust the sector anymore, because it does not respond to their needs. Need for flexibility, better salaries, engaging company culture… even if we see more companies achieving more for their employees, there is still a long way to go.

“During the pandemic, we have seen hospitality at its worst shape, and it is the most competitive market. People are scared after being furloughed, and it is a hard job! Long hours, low pay, bad employers… so to get back into the industry they want more clarity, especially in terms of salary, because money is money. We need to promote cool jobs so people will want to come and work for us.” – Dan Hudson, Founder & CEO of gigl

A need for better company culture and people development

So, what is next for the industry and how do we change that? What are the alternatives? A need for acting is vital for the health of the industry: we could create a stronger apprenticeship structure, be more diverse and inclusive, and join efforts to massively shift perceptions.

“What are we doing to make work more interesting in the industry? In hospitality you compete against brands you sit next to in a high street. But the game’s changed and is all about collaboration and joining forces.” – Steve Rockey, The Pig Hotel

A lot is on employers as they need to implement new processes for their people to be happy to work where they work: improving the candidate onboarding and experience, running trial days, making sure the team sticks together, offering a fair and competitive salary, attractive benefits because it will be the first thing employees will look at; and breathe company values.

Company culture is at the heart of tech firms that polished their attractiveness by building a truly engaging employee experience with advantages and benefits to their people. The speakers mentioned there is a need for the industry to be more fun, more attractive, with openness and willingness to listen, and the ability to offer their staff internal career opportunities.

“The development of your people and what you can achieve is phenomenal – people need to recognise that they can build lengthy career opportunities in your company.” – Sarah Hammond, Head of People at Yo! Sushi UK

For instance, in recruitment, video applications can sometimes make a much higher impact than the standard CV and it is perfect to get a sense of their fit for hospitality. 82% of candidates apply because they already know the company, and employers must treat their applicants like their customers with good customer service (replying at the right moment).

Taking care of your staff as you would take care of your customers

As like-minded businesses face struggles to recruit and retain, the number one priority to help change the perception should be to take care of your staff. Every employer needs to know their people as individuals. Because Gen Z is made of digital natives who make their own rules, it is crucial to adjust your culture to these new trends. What are your employees looking for? What are their soft skills that could be beneficial to your business? What are they passionate about?

“Give them the chance to build and develop their career plan, from day one when joining the company because if people have a poor experience they won’t come back and they will tell their friends, their family about it. It is all about being aware of it and checking regularly on your staff and recognising their successes. Flexibility is also key as individuals are used to get what they want so we need to be courageous and adapt our models.” – Sarah Hammond

Overall, it is up to businesses in hospitality to play a part in the change and show their people how they can grow and how this workplace is awesome for them in achieving their goals. Plus, smaller companies can offer flexibility much easier than bigger groups where collaboration is trickier. Startups for instance are really trying to make their place a better one with a strong diversity and inclusion policy, the ability to empower and trust their employees, and the ability to use the benefits of tech. To tackle the fact that millions leave the industry, the use of social media can be massive support in attracting and engaging newcomers.

“As a business in a highly competitive industry, you have to take charge to do 3 things differently: attract, keep, and train people better. The role of tech is fundamental in backing the industry efforts.” – James Lemon, Founder and CEO of Otolo

The need for taking charge of learning and career paths as individuals

Even though most of the initiatives mentioned above should be implemented by employers, employees also need to build their own learning plans, because you cannot rely on your boss or your manager for everything you want to achieve in your role. If you are passionate, you have to teach yourself, learn from like-minded peers in your industry, and develop your problem-solving skills. To do that, having a mentor can be a solution to support you in the decisions you will make at work and help build the confidence and the autonomy you need to fulfil your job.

Joining communities can be useful, too! And that is what we discussed at HRC in our second conference organised by Kieron Bailey from EXP101 at the Vision Stage with Cat Pengelley, Leisure Sales Manager at Mandarin Oriental Hotel GroupNaomi Hollas, Founder of Event Grads and David O’Connor from The Alan Manchester.

Joining or building communities to fuel your career

We know the pandemic helped shake things up virtually and people used that time amid lockdown to find their tribes and join communities aligned with their careers or interests, to palliate the lack of work and social lives as well.

“I have been made redundant in October 2020, and I have a feeling that most companies talk the talk but do not walk the walk. Honestly, it has been a tough two years as so many of our colleagues lost their jobs so we must take on board what is going on in people’s lives and stop that brain drain.” – David O’Connor, The Alan Manchester

Getting together virtually has been helping many people feel less lonely and reconsider their career paths.

“I’ve connected with lovely people, and we got along so well. I have made friends and we met virtually on Otolo or LinkedIn. Having that level of community allows you to understand that you are not a lone wolf. I wanted to get back into hospitality, but I realised very quickly that I had no connections in this industry, so I started to listen to podcasts from hoteliers and interviews from leaders to build my knowledge. I wanted to be in these communities and build my own network.” – Cat Pengelley, Leisure Sales Manager, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Taking that first step to building your network

If you are new to hospitality, you may not necessarily know where to start, so we asked our speakers if they had any tips for a person to approach people for the first time:

“As a young person communities can be daunting. Even though LinkedIn got a lot better, it can still be difficult to make that first step. Make that first connection by sending a quick note, listening to a podcast, commenting on it, letting people know you are open to work, etc. Industry newcomers and graduates should use LinkedIn to become thought leaders, share their opinion by writing a blog, for instance. These can be quick wins to start building your bubble.” – Naomi Hollas, Founder of Event Grads

“It is going to sound basic, but to find communities my first step was to google hospitality network UK. The reason I wanted to build my network was that I wanted to get back in hospitality and honestly, hundreds of people were going to apply for that same job offer. So, I think as a first step you should show who you are on your LinkedIn profile for people to find you out there. Show your personality because LinkedIn offers much more flexibility than a standard CV. To stand out on LinkedIn, write about what makes you so passionate about hospitality. It is important that your personality shines through and you can start building your network by connecting with your friends from school.” – Cat Pengelley

“Be honest. We’ve all been there with people who are struggling with stuff at home. How many senior leaders can cope with their people’s issues? I want to become that open voice ‘I’m struggling, I don’t know what to do’ and we need to curate teams that are open with that. I do not know if we have enough safe space now and we need to be more open to each other, and that goes for online connections, too.” – David O’Connor

Communities are everywhere, you just have to find yours

Communities can truly be found everywhere, but what matters is to find relevant groups or platforms that will help you achieve what you want or find the support you need and don’t necessarily have at work.

“I had the joy to work for Dorchester and Holiday Inn, both were great communities of people to learn from. We have to stand for each other, be open and vulnerable to change the perception of hospitality.” – David O’Connor

Naturally, staff need to feel supported in their career development and it is the role of the employer to keep making them feel valued and encouraged to stick with you in the long term. However, even if they don’t want to stay in your company, having a healthy relationship with your employees and accepting that they may need something else will only help them feel good and speak positively about your company.

“If I was an employer and my employee leaves, for me it means that this person wants to grow a community in the industry. If you cannot identify that, then it is a big red flag! We work in a huge industry and people come and go, travel, go elsewhere and there is nothing wrong with that. If you gave them the support they need, they will come back to you!” – Cat Pengelley

We would like to thank all our speakers who attended and discussed at HRC with us this year, as well as our wonderful team who had some fun attending the convention and networking at LibeoDeliverect and Mr. Yum‘s afterwork at Vagabond Wines 🍷!

We hope this summary will have given you the insights you need to consider hospitality for your job. We will never say it enough, at Otolo, but mentoring does help in building your career in hospitality. You cannot make it on your own in such a competitive industry, and, to build your learning curve efficiently, peer learning, training, communities definitely help make a difference.