Keeping Employees For The Long Haul

Tips for hospitality employers on how to retain employees through difficult times

Turnover is a major issue for many businesses. It’s estimated that one out of every four workers leave their job within their first year. That means that turnover is costing money and productivity. However, there are ways to reduce turnover and create a more stable work environment.

Why does retention matter?

Employee retention should be a natural workplace objective, but is even more critical for the hospitality industry. With attrition or turnover levels from 50-75%, hospitality employers are acutely aware of the impacts of always hiring new staff including recruiting, hiring and training costs and loss of productivity.

The costs associated with employee turnover can be high, especially for restaurants. When you consider that an average restaurant might have several hundred employees on staff at any given time and turnover often occurs in waves due to local or seasonal demand, this is a significant expense to bear over time.

Some of the benefits of employee retention are:

  1. Better customer service – Employees with longer tenure understand their responsibilities and know how to do their jobs better

  2. Reduced training costs – Retained employees have already been trained, so there is no need for more training to retain them

  3. Higher productivity Retained employees tend to be more productive because they feel valued by the company’s management

Improving Employee Engagement & Retention

With the current labor shortage, the difficulty finding new workers, and the historically high turnover rate – it’s not surprising many hospitality employers think that retention is not within their control. But with some planning, communication and effort – it is definitely possible for restaurant and hotel owners to keep workers engaged:

Onboarding & Training

Staff members who don’t receive proper training are typically unhappier than ones that do. Lack of training can leave employees feeling unaccomplished and unsupported. Additionally, upskilling or reskilling training can make an employee more productive while also help them feel like you are investing in their development. Here are some ways to enhance your onboarding & training:

  • Consider that onboarding starts before the employee’s first day, so be thoughtful about your communications before their first day. Is there any information you can share in advance to help them feel more prepared and/or less nervous about their first day?

  • Plan out the new employee’s first week(s) with a combination of learning about your business’ values, procedures on how do their job effectively and don’t forget socializing to build relationships with other staff.

  • Have regular check-in with new staff and get feedback their experience as a new set of eyes within your business. Motivate and encourage by recognizing their strengths and provide support for areas it maybe taking longer for them to learn.

Healthy Work Environment & Culture

Successful work culture can be hard to define. A workplace that treats all employees fairly and with respect builds a loyal team who enjoys their work and values their employer.  On the flip side, a toxic work culture is a recipe for a high staff turnover rate and low morale.  There are numerous studies showing that people leave managers or supervisors, not the business itself. Here are some good practices to create a positive workplace:

  • Having a strong and well understood code of ethics or values within your business, has huge impacts on the work environment and employee experience.  If you and your supervisors treat and model behaviors such as honesty, courtesy, accountability and cooperation, it will nurture a positive workplace culture with those qualities.

  • Have a zero tolerance for harassment, abuse or offensive statements for any one within the business. If employees come to you with concerns with supervisor or other employee – document everything, investigate and deal with it as soon as possible.

  • Have team building events with a combination of relationship building and training/ growing skills & development.  Consider investing in training like improving customer service or conflict management to be conducted with your managers and employees

Incentives & Recognition

Job satisfaction increases when employees know their hard work has been noticed. Many times, the most dedicated workers will move on to a new job simply because they feel unseen and unappreciated. Every business has superstar employees, but sometimes the pressures and everyday distractions of running a restaurant obscure their shine.

  • Appreciate effort and acknowledge achievement. Say thank you and tell your team they are doing a good job often.
  • Having frequent contests with monetary, paid day off or in-kind rewards (food, gift cards they can give as gifts or use) help drive desired behaviors and help further compensate employees for great effort
  • Have discussions with each employee to better understand what motivate them and what their future plans are. If they are front-line and are interested in moving up into a supervisory role, you can work on a long-term plan to give them opportunities to learn and grow until they are ready to do the job first hand

The hospitality industry may be full of short-term employment opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you should stop striving for employee retention. By focusing on the long term and working to reduce turnover, you can create a better work environment for yourself, your employees, and your customers.