As featured in Propel’s Friday Opinion – 6th December 2019: Retaining the best staff by Carlo Platia

The nature of the workplace is changing – and fast. Younger generations are no longer driven solely by money – they want to feel good about where they work, to be part of a team and to feel special. 

The pressure is firmly on the hospitality industry to evolve and adapt policies and procedures to meet these demands. If we don’t, we’ll lose the battle to attract and retain the best employees in a talent war that’s raging ferociously on the high street fuelled by a shrinking pool of workers, which is something likely to be exacerbated further by Brexit and a subsequent cut in EU workers. Failing to attract the best workers has a direct impact on the customer experience – we’re in the people business after all – and if you consistently deliver sub-par experiences in today’s competitive climate you’re going to struggle. 

Many outstanding businesses have worked tirelessly to put culture at the centre of their business. Be At One, for example, built its whole ethos around creating a fun, vibrant environment for customers by recognising it needed to start with its staff. Some would argue it’s easier to create a winning culture in a late-night cocktail bar than replicate it at a casual dining site in a remote leisure park with minimal midweek footfall. I would argue it can be replicated, however, with the simple things making a huge difference. 

Recognising and acknowledging those who go above and beyond in the workplace is rocket fuel for a business. That isn’t limited to hospitality, any business in any industry will benefit if managers recognise the hard work of their team – it goes a long way. The challenge comes when identifying who the best workers in your business are when you’re operating at scale. 

Before founding Feed It Back, my wife Julia and I ran a bar in Weybridge. It was a family affair and we knew who our best workers were and acknowledged and rewarded them accordingly. However, this depended on us being in the business day in, day out and was very time-consuming. Replicating that across a large estate would be impossible – and that’s where technology plays its part.

When talking to prospective customers, their focus is too often on introducing a check and balance on their offer to identify when things aren’t up to scratch. Don’t get me wrong, this is very important but what is equally vital, and often overlooked, is the ability to look at what – and who – is driving positive reviews. 

Recognising and sharing the moments when a particular employee delivered an outstanding experience is not only great for boosting team morale, it also rewards the best team members in your business. From the restaurant, bar or nightclub manager to the senior C-suite team, technology can allow all levels to identify the best employees across the site, region or entire business. With this information they can pinpoint common themes shared by outstanding workers and promote them to ambassadorial or training roles while learning from them and sharing their expertise across the business.  

The data also acts as a great incentive for employees to drive performance. Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas uses data from the Feed It Back platform to track employee performance and identify those individuals who consistently go above and beyond, offering an all-expenses paid trip to Brazil in its “race to Rio”. An incentive such as this, and acknowledging those who go above and beyond to deliver the X factor that wows guests, breeds an infectious culture in a continual pursuit of learning and development. 

The beautiful thing about the hospitality industry is it’s a genuine meritocracy and fast tracks enthusiastic, hungry and competent team members into management roles. You would be hard pushed to find an industry with as many success stories of work floor to boardroom. It’s something we should be immensely proud of.

In time I expect the balance of power to flip, with prospective employees quizzing businesses about the technology they use, perks they offer and opportunities for progression before they accept a role. With this in mind, now is the time for operators to get ahead of the curve and ensure they are using everything in their power to retain the best people and position themselves as a leading place to work.