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Fri 29th Nov 2019 - Friday Opinion
People and Training thought leadership special 

Subjects: Employer brands, back on the floor, engaged employees, Apprenticeship Levy can fill talent pipeline, and breeding loyalty
Authors: Katy Moses, Conor Shaw, Katie Wan, Jill Whittaker and Julian Ross

Employer brands by Katy Moses

This is hard for me to say but for one minute I’d like to take your focus away from the customer. 

I’m sure you already know what your customers think of your brand – you probably get daily updates. You (hopefully) also know what your employees think of your organisation as I’m sure you have some kind of employee engagement survey in place. You may even measure eNPS alongside your NPS. 

However, do you know what your potential employees think of you? Those people who you’d love to employ in the future but you don’t even know their name. How do they feel about your organisation? Do you know? You probably should.

Take a look at your employer brand
As an industry we spend significant amounts on measuring, developing and protecting our consumer brand – and rightly so – but it’s your reputation as an employer, not your consumer-facing brand, which is more important to attracting a potential employee. 

In a survey, 2,000 UK adults told us the number-one thing that encourages them to work for a specific company is their “reputation as a good employer”. Pesky things such as pay and benefits both came lower down the list of drivers. “Reputation as reliable and trustworthy” and “ethical stance” were also in the top five. 

Potential employees want to know a company isn’t going to go under in the next 12 months, sites aren’t closing, the business cares about more than just making a healthy profit, and there isn’t a #metoo scandal on the horizon. 

Put bluntly, they want to be sure their job is safe and they’ll be fairly treated. If that reputation isn’t in place, all the free food, games rooms and “fun Fridays” in the world won’t sway a decent potential applicant.

The fight for talent
If there was ever a time to worry about your appeal to potential employees, that time is now. At conferences I’ve lost count of the number of times “recruiting or retaining the right people” has been the top concern for hospitality operators. Add this to the fact hospitality industry turnover figures are reportedly double that of the UK average; one-third of hospitality employees leave their job in the first 12 months; and the potential “Brexodus” of 15% of hospitality workers who originate from the EU, and what we have is a full-on fight for a decreasing pool of talent. Are you ready?

All organisations have, consciously or otherwise, an employer brand. It’s the way in which organisations differentiate themselves in the labour market, enabling them to recruit, retain and engage the right people they require to succeed. It shouldn’t be a passive thing – it needs to be actively measured, controlled and nurtured, just like a consumer brand. 
Katy Moses is managing director of KAM Media

Back on the floor by Conor Shaw

Nobody goes into the hospitality industry with dreams of pouring over spreadsheets in a back office. To succeed, or even survive, you need to have great communication skills and an ability to engage with customers and colleagues in a fast-moving, often hectic front-of-house environment. 

The trouble is as people climb the career ladder they’re given more responsibility for behind the scenes tasks. Whether creating the staff rota or sorting employee hours for payroll, by the time someone reaches general manager level they are likely to find themselves spending more time managing paperwork and less time managing their team.  

Our experience from working with about 2,500 hospitality sites and 33,000 people tells us the general manager is the most important factor in delivering the high-quality customer experience that encourages people to return or recommend your venue to friends and family. 

We frequently see marked differences in sales between two branches of the same brand with similar footprints. You would expect them to deliver broadly similar revenues but the reason they don’t is almost always down to the general manager.  

Look into the successful site and you’ll find a hands-on general manager who spends most of their time on the floor, managing the business as it evolves during the shift, day and week. Hospitality is a famously unpredictable industry and there’s a lot you can’t control, from weather to sports results, but a good general manager can control their team and, with the right technology, do it from a mobile phone or tablet while staying front of house. 

With a visible, approachable general manager in charge, team members feel clearer about their role and responsibilities, better informed about the direction of the business and, importantly, reassured if anything goes wrong it will be dealt with by their boss. Confident, empowered team members not only deliver great customer service, they also enjoy their job and are less likely to leave, leading to lower levels of churn with the costs and disruption that come with it. 

We’ve spent a lot of time talking to hospitality business owners and many hours in their sites, observing their teams front and back of house. Here are some of the key things we’ve learned.

Overstaffing can be as bad as understaffing: Being short of staff on a busy shift can cause stress for team members and the potential for standards to slip but overstaffing can be detrimental too. Team members feel their skills aren’t being used and they’re not contributing to the business. In turn this can cause them to become demotivated and their lack of enthusiasm soon becomes apparent to customers. 

Look beyond the team size: It’s easy to adopt a “rota by numbers” approach – two people behind the bar on a Monday night, four on a Friday – but matching people to trading levels is only half the story and smarter operators will look beyond the numbers and schedule team members to suit the trading occasion and its customers. In other words, don’t put your 18-year-old behind the bar for the pensioners’ annual knees-up! 

Balance your team: Again, smart people scheduling means assembling a balanced team for each shift. It means looking at the demographic of the customers you’re expecting and matching them to the experience, skills and attitudes of your team members. Staff a student night with your younger team members but make sure they’re supported by someone with a few grey hairs and life experience! 

How does this all translate into actions for operators? As ever it comes down to that precious resource – time – especially in a busy bar or restaurant. All operators should find ways to take their general managers out of the office so they can spend more time front of house – and technology can be a powerful enabler. 

One operator using Bizimply for workforce scheduling can create rotas for 60 team members across five sites in only an hour a week. That’s giving general managers hours back out on the floor doing what they do best – managing their team to deliver a memorable customer experience. That, in turn, gives them the advantage over the competition and, in a world where bars, restaurants and pubs aren’t just competing with each other but with the lure of Deliveroo and Netflix, engaging your teams to deliver outstanding service that brings customers back to your business is key to survival. 
Conor Shaw is chief executive of workforce management expert Bizimply

Engaged employees by Katie Wan

With turnover rates spiking across all industries in the past couple of years there has been a common drive to provide better employee experiences all round. However, much of the focus has been on providing organisational perks and benefits – we increasingly hear about better maternity-leave packages, annual holidays and flexible working hours. 

However, while these factors are important for attracting new employees and satisfying existing ones, companies must ensure they don’t confuse those factors for the real game changer when it comes to staff retention – enabling employee engagement. 

While workplace satisfaction and engagement are definitely connected, they are not one and the same. The first step to fully tackling this issue is to know that employees who are satisfied are not necessarily engaged.

While factors such as good benefits, higher pay, convenient office location and fun staff outings create positive work experiences, employee engagement runs much deeper than that. To get to the core between their differences I suggest looking into Seligman’s PERMA model for happiness. Put simply, the model identifies five key factors to unlock psychological well-being – Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. 

Translated into workplace terms, we can refer to it as – feeling intellectually stimulated and creative, feeling absorbed in the task at hand, having strong relationships with peers and managers, seeing the value of the input, and continuously achieving new goals.

When employees feel satisfied at work it often means they are content with components of their work conditions such as feeling positive emotions from saving money on a short commute or enjoying flexible lunch hours with nice colleagues.

However, employee engagement taps into a much more meaningful experience. It’s about being able to trust managers and peers, feeling like a valuable asset to the company’s goals, consistently learning and achieving new milestones, and being able to share ideas openly with the team. 

When employees feel engaged they are experiencing every component of the PERMA model from the workplace and their actual work. The end outcome is an engaged employee who holds a positive attitude towards their organisation and its values, which drives improved performance.

The most successful companies prioritise and put emphasis on following this checklist or an iteration of it at all stages of the employee lifecycle – from the moment they come in for interview to their last working day. 

For example, this means as candidates apply they receive transparency on the recruitment process, are able to openly ask about the role, and feel a cultural fit with the office environment. On joining the company, they receive an effective and in-depth onboarding, with clear expectations laid out and tailored guidance on their first tasks. 

As an employee’s time passes in the company, they should receive support for growth in their roles and regular feedback, preparing them to face exciting new learning opportunities and ultimately grow with the company into a new role or set of responsibilities. If companies are able to provide this kind of career journey to their employees there’s no doubt they will see employee engagement soar through the charts. Even if staff choose to leave the company, the best employers will maintain a sense of engagement with two-way exit interviews and feedback opportunities. However, as Richard Branson said: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Truly engaging staff throughout the work lifecycle is something most companies struggle to do – according to Gallup’s UK study only fewer than one-fifth (17%) of UK employees are engaged. Traps often include either failing to move away from the focus on employee satisfaction or only engaging employees inconsistently and inadequately at various stages of their time at the company but rarely achieving it effectively throughout. Businesses will only unlock the full potential of employee engagement and maximise the results by applying these elements to an employee’s experience – from beginning to end.

There are many benefits. Engagement reaps significantly more positive results than satisfaction, including higher levels of output, productivity and efficiency. When employees are engaged they work harder and smarter out of personal drive and passion for the role rather than the benefits they receive. 

Simply put, they are emotionally invested and this ultimately cultivates more success for your company. The Gallup survey found businesses with engaged employees are 21% more profitable than competitors with low engagement rates. Similarly, turnover rates fall 40% when employees feel engaged – a crucial statistic in the hospitality industry, which sees a costly 300% annual turnover.

If you're facing high staff churn in your company I suggest you look more closely into two crucial terms regarding the employee experience – are your employees truly engaged or simply satisfied?
Katie Wan is vice-president, head of people at Eko, an all-in-one employee platform that empowers non-desk workforces – www.ekoapp.com

Apprenticeship Levy can fill talent pipeline by Jill Whittaker

Recent figures show the uptake of hospitality qualifications has declined despite an increased focus on apprenticeships since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017 – but what effect does this have on the industry and how it works together to address the challenges?

Hospitality businesses have been tackling the skills shortage for some time but, during an increasing period of economic uncertainty, the widening skills gap will have an even bigger impact. With analysis showing the hospitality sector has a high proportion of “hard to fill” positions, the industry needs to look at ways to combine resources to attract, retain and train talent. 

One factor contributing to the skills shortage is the decline in apprenticeship starts, which fell from 28,120 in 2016/17 to 18,560 a year later, although that figure is starting to rise. This is especially prevalent among SMEs – historically the largest employer of entry-level positions. They need assistance to navigate the bureaucracy involved when offering apprenticeships, which is seen as a major barrier when other business costs start to mount. As such, the uptake of entry-level qualifications is declining. 

At the end of June 2019 the number of entry-level apprenticeship starts across all sectors was 132,000, just 26% of the number of apprenticeship starts in the year ending July 2016. Entry-level qualifications play a vital part in getting people to take their first step in hospitality and, if the industry continues down a similar road, we risk causing a barrier to social mobility and growth of the sector as a whole.

By sharp contrast, higher and degree-level apprenticeships are proving popular in the UK – almost 70,000 people have started a degree-level apprenticeship since August 2018, compared with 44,000 in the year ending July 2016. Although it’s positive to see these senior apprenticeship positions being filled, we need to ensure it’s not to the detriment of entry-level positions, which are required to continually bring new people into the sector. 

We know effective training has a positive impact on staff retention rates and morale by giving employees the opportunity to develop skills and grow their career. As a result, a key solution to fill the skills gap in the hospitality industry is through effective and long-term training programmes across all levels. However, to do this the industry needs to use the Apprenticeship Levy funding effectively.

The first step in doing this is evaluating skills gaps in your own business – from junior positions to senior management – and looking at the apprenticeship training available to address those gaps. This needs to focus on skills development that will enable employees to grow their careers not simply carry out their current role adequately. It’s then worth considering transferring a proportion of any left-over levy funding that can’t be spent internally to another business to ensure the investment stays in the industry.  

By transferring levy funds to an SME to invest in apprenticeships, levy-paying businesses can help support the industry by enabling people to develop skills and forge a career in hospitality. The bigger picture is that if businesses encourage training and long-term career prospects in hospitality, skilled professionals are more likely to remain in the industry and support a range of businesses during their career.” 
Jill Whittaker is managing director of HIT Training

Breeding loyalty by Julian Ross

I have always been a “cup half full” person and tend to look for the good in things. The industry has taken several kicks to the groin in recent times, with a perfect storm across the sector that has already been widely publicised, so I thought I’d use our insight capabilities to find a nugget of positivity to share with you. I’ve also stumbled across more insights to share with any football fans among you! 

Having heard stories recently about the “death of loyalty” I thought I’d see if that was backed up by our information. As many of our customers know, Wireless Social likes to analyse customer behaviour to track how successful their marketing exploits are proving. A big part of this is understanding how different tactics affect visit frequency and dwell time of those people targeted. This behavioural analysis can also be used to measure guests’ visit frequency, which enables us to see if people are becoming more or less loyal. 

By taking an average of anonymised data points across casual dining, bars and quick service restaurants we see all our customers are making steady progress towards breeding loyalty. Looking at 12 months ago, more than three-quarters (76.2%) of guests visited only once but that figure has come down to 71.7%. However, those who visited twice has risen from 13.4% to 15.5% and those visiting three times is up from 4.4% to 5.5%. These statistics are encouraging and would suggest the digital engagement strategies across our customer base are starting to reap rewards. 

Consistent results from email and social marketing back up this hypothesis. Our customers see an average increase in visit frequency of 54% for those guests who receive regular email marketing messages, with visit frequency increasing up to 300% for more tailored and personalised messages. 

For the full results of our loyalty analysis broken down into casual dining, bars and quick service restaurants, click here

Now for the fun bit, football fans. As a Liverpool fan, Everton fans have always told me Reds are from faraway lands while Liverpool city centre is full of Evertonians. As I’m from God’s own county, I’ve never been in a position to offer a riposte but I decided to look at the social interests of guests who recently logged into Wireless Social through Facebook to see which teams enjoy the most support in the UK’s major cities. As that number is way north of ten million, I think it’s a pretty reliable data source. Here are a few interesting facts. 

– There are three times more Liverpool fans (38%) in Liverpool than Everton fans (12%)

– There are more Manchester United fans in Liverpool (14%) than Everton fans (12%)
– Manchester United (19%) is the most supported club in London 

– Liverpool FC (10%) is more liked in London than Tottenham Hotspur (6%)

– There are more Arsenal fans (18%) in London than Spurs and Chelsea combined (17%)

– Liverpool are almost as popular as Man City in Manchester (sorry, I couldn’t resist). 

If you would like to see where your team ranks (or not) across the major UK cities, click here
Julian Ross is chief executive of Wireless Social

 
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