Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in the Hospitality Industry

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Here’s a quick task for you: think back to your last holiday, cafe visit, or perhaps a recent meal out with friends. Chances are that you can think of at least one instance where good service – or bad service for that matter – made an impact on your dinner, hotel stay, or cup of java. It’s kind of a given that the experiences we have when we’re out and about are largely determined by the folks we directly interact with. People are the real asset in the hospitality industry.

Here’s a quick example. Say you’re staying in a tiny rural village on a quiet weekend break. It’s got one restaurant, so you book a table. The place might be very far from cutting-edge in terms of decor or menu choices, but the wait staff are incredibly warm and friendly; they go above and beyond. The chef might come out and ask how your meal is going, the bartender might give you a few sightseeing tips – perhaps you get a drink on the house before you head out into the night. You have a great time, you go home, and you retain great memories of a cosy night out where you felt well looked-after. What’s really working here is not the food, or the lighting, or the colour of the carpet, but great customer service; and the hospitality industry is heavily dependent on talented individuals who know how to deliver excellent customer experiences naturally.

In the hospitality industry, keeping hold of those kind of individuals and retaining them to help build a strong culture of great service is a tricky business. And if you’re looking to recruit, it can be even harder to attract them in the first place.

The State of Play: Why Are Good Folks So Hard to Find?

While the global hospitality industry is currently expanding rapidly, it’s a tough time for managers and recruiters who are experiencing a distinct labour shortage across the board. You may have found this yourself. Attracting, and keeping the best people for your operation is becoming increasingly difficult.

So let’s take a closer look at why this might be. Fierce competition from other industries other than the hospitality industry is one reason, and the rise of the gig economy is another factor that’s not helping. The bulk of cafe, hotel and restaurant employees do tend to be on the younger end of the age scale, and millennials and Gen Z’s – the largest groups at the coalface of the hospitality industry – are often looking for autonomy and flexibility. A few may even be seasonal employees who’ll be off to study when autumn rolls around while some people are really looking for opportunities to grow and advance. Another reason you might not be keeping your best people for long is distance. Those working directly with customers can be pretty far removed from internal or managerial decisions and feel like new procedures are implemented without communication from the top – without any regard as to how that affects their work day.

How Do I Attract Hospitality Talent?

Sounds bleak, right? Well, there are ways in which you can attract and retain top hospitality talent, and here, technology can be your friend. One of the key things that many hospitality managers or CEO’s overlook, is that their current workforce and their company’s work culture is one of the first things potential candidates look at. The reputation of your establishment is a draw, and if the word on the street is that there’s no room to advance, skilled people just won’t come knocking. Career development is crucial to everyone, regardless of their role or industry. When it comes to the hospitality industry, a strong culture of learning is one surefire way to keep standards high and staff engaged with their goal of moving upwards. Once you have this, then your hotel, or restaurant, or cafe is much more appealing to applicants.

Elearning Builds Careers

So, what’s the best way to stimulate a culture of development and get talented people to apply? Get yourself a learning management system and have everybody you currently employ – including upper management – involved in collectively training online. Elearning comes with a bunch of benefits. First off, it’s got the potential to train everybody collectively, and presents goals that are realistic and tangible. Group hospitality training is a positive move for the brand identity of your business, but also great for employees. Staff will see that what they’re learning online through your chosen LMS is not only helping them do their job more effectively, but also rewarding them incrementally with new responsibilities and making them eligible for promotions. And if current employees can see this clearly, then there’s a good chance future ones will clock the atmosphere too. An elearning system can even be delivered via mobile application, making staff training software game-like, bite-size and digestible. For busy hospitality staff, earning unit credits in a matter of ten minutes a day is much more fun, and frankly, achievable than being sent off for a dull lecture once in a blue moon. By incorporating online training into the work day of your teams you’re demonstrating that you care about your people’s development, that you want them to move up, and that their careers are important to you. One of the major reasons that hotels and other hospitality establishments lose talented employees fast is down to a lack of possibility for career development. One of the main reasons individuals with potential go elsewhere is that they see from a distance that your company is pretty static when it comes to promotion. Well-chosen elearning software can really change both of these things for the better.

Flexible, Autonomous Learning Online

Remember how we touched on the idea of autonomy and flexibility earlier? Well, here’s where online training for your hospitality staff can help here too. LMS software at some level does assume a degree of initiative and autonomy from its user. Now, as an employer, you can build, modify and target different grades of training for different individuals to ensure the necessary skill sets and engagement levels are addressed. If some people need more support and encouragement, then a good LMS will be able to provide it on a daily basis. You might find younger employees take to online learning like ducks to water while older ones need a bit of hand-holding. Different programs and courses can be delivered in an effectively supportive and attractive way for those who need a bit of help getting going, and for staff members with an ambition to move up, you can really give them a flexible online learning platform to strive upward and be rewarded for learning in their own time as well as on the job. Once you’re handing all your staff opportunities to independently widen their skill sets tailored to their abilities, and the training software is giving them feedback, you’ll likely see an increase in pride in everyone’s work. Across all age groups and kick-off skill sets, the potential for results with online hospitality training is huge if you take advantage of its customisable nature.

Communication Is Key

A good LMS can help you retain skilled staff by improving work systems and communication in the workplace too. Often, experienced employees are handed the task of training newcomers or supporting struggling staff members – on top of their daily duties. This can lead to employees and managers who already have plenty of complicated stuff to do being burdened with extra work that they just don’t have the time for. Next up comes resentment, workplace disputes, take-home stress and in the worst-case scenario, quitting. Nobody wants to lose a valued staff member because another less-skilled employee leans on them too hard. So here’s a solution. From the beginning, Elearning software can provide basic training to get newbies started independently with the feedback – and let’s be real – the encouragement or praise we all need when we’re just starting out. A great LMS can also offer resources for particular tasks if they’re infrequent, and instructions or refresher courses if they’re needed too. Online training can be many things for your operation: an introduction, a support resource, a mini-library, and an exercise in reminding staff of details when it comes to their lesser-performed tasks. Crucially, online training can be a line of communication to everyone in your company that reiterates what you really need from everyone, and what behaviours aren’t cool. A happy workplace never suffers from a high staff turnover and elearning courses can include tasks that gently underscore what toxic behaviour is, and isn’t. If you use online training to reiterate these kinds of things, it’s likely they wont rear their ugly head.

Exchange, Learn and Grow

Additionally, while we’re talking about communication and company culture, it’s maybe important to outline here how LMS’s can assist if your operation decides to change how things are done. Staff generally don’t like surprises, and you might lose great people in your teams if you try and change procedures radically. It can make people who previously felt competent, feel suddenly inept. Morale is incredibly important! If you design and deploy online training courses to gradually inform staff of changes in procedure, they’re going to feel prepared and perhaps excited about a fresh way of doing things. From another perspective, online learning also generates feedback, and so upper management will see whether new strategies are working and what the uptake on new skills is like.

This links back to a point we mentioned earlier – about staff on the front line sometimes feeling too distant from internal decisions. Elearning management software is most effective when everyone, from the big hotel boss, to the brand new coat check person is engaged. And that’s a pretty strong note to end on, because adopting elearning or online training is not just the introduction of an extra element to a work day, but it is to offer advancement, bring a workforce together and find a way to communicate an ethos. It’s possibly just the tool you’re looking for when it comes to attracting and retaining the best people for your business.