On-trade

“What we want!”

A recent collaboration between UK employee experience platform Harri and insight consultancy CGA offers an in-depth insight into how hospitality workers here might view the hospitality sector.
The survey leaves readers in no doubt about employees' biggest problem at the moment, with well over half citing staff shortages, making it even more significant than perennial challenges like unsocial hours.

The survey leaves readers in no doubt about employees’ biggest problem at the moment, with well over half citing staff shortages, making it even more significant than perennial challenges like unsocial hours.

Nearly £115 billion-worth of anticipated sales were lost in the UK hospitality trade between March 2020 and December 2021 according to estimates in a recent UKHospitality and CGA Quarterly Hospitality Tracker.

With the return of the hospitality trade highlighting a 40,000 employee shortfall in employment in the sector here, a new collaboration between UK employee experience platform Harri and insight consultancy CGA offers an in-depth insight into how UK hospitality workers’ view the hospitality sector.

The survey,  conducted by CGA and Harri among a select group of front-line employees in pubs, restaurants and hotels, entitled Working in Hospitality, finds that while some UK consumers remain anxious about Covid, concerns mount that the cost-of-living crisis will cut disposable incomes as the year goes on.

“On top of that, rising prices in energy, food and many other areas are squeezing margins in hospitality while supply chain problems are dogging the sector,” states a follow-up joint in-depth report on the survey entitled Transforming The Employee Experience In Hospitality.

In the hospitality industry both here and in the UK, thousands of unfilled vacancies only add to the problem for businesses trying to recover from Covid. This shortage is likely to remain a problem for the rest of 2022 and as the report states, “These shortages are having a material impact on sales and driving up labour costs”.

The pandemic has led to some businesses having to streamline menus and limit opening hours to reduce the pressure on remaining workers.

Recruitment

When it comes to how staff are being recruited, “Digital channels now dominate hospitality job hunts,” states the report, “More than two-thirds (69%) of surveyed employees say they have searched online for new roles and two in five (41%) have used social media. Digital channels are especially popular among younger adults and those seeking work in pubs and Quality Service Restaurant venues”.

But at 23%, just under a quarter of respondents to the survey continue to use boards in recruitment centres and in-venue job ads (23%).

Word-of-mouth remains important too and nearly one-third (30%) say they’ve used recommendations from family or friends to find work while a fifth (21%) have used networking.

“People also look for different qualities in their potential employer,” points out the report, “The most common are honesty (47%) and mutual respect (41%), followed by knowledge (39%), trustworthiness (39%), social skills (38%) and equality (38%).”

But pay remains a significant consideration for 67% of potential employees before deciding on whether or not to accept a job offer while 49% tend to look at the employment’s flexibility and work-life balance.

Training

The standard of training has also become an issue for many employees, with the UK survey finding that just under a third believe that training has been too basic. Only a quarter felt ‘very satisfied’ that their training had left them confident enough to fulfil a role to the best of their ability.

Shadowing other employees emerges as the leading training method, something experienced by 66% of employees – though online training at 51% and top-up face-to-face training at 43% are used too. Four in five said their online training was compulsory.

Retention

According to the report, “While Harri and CGA’s survey highlights the importance to employees of things like being good at the job (59%) and salary and benefits (45%), many other factors are significant too including flexibility (45%), good management (42%) and general care (29%). With such a large supply of jobs in hospitality, employers that don’t consider these factors risk losing staff to competitors.

“There are lots of reasons why employees leave hospitality, with unsociable hours (54%), insufficient pay (47%) and difficult customers (42%) among the most common. Around half (49%) say that staff shortages themselves are causing more people to leave, because they are now facing an increased workload. This shows how hospitality has become trapped in a vicious circle of shortages.”

Employees’ suggestions to rectify these shortages include better pay and promotion opportunities or better rota flexibility and variety – concepts that have increased in importance during the pandemic.

Reducing staff turnover and keeping the most talented staff has also been a focus for employers. As with recruitment, this is being done through a variety of measures like raising pay, adding benefits and improving working conditions which figure increasingly among the solutions alongside perks like generous discounts, trips abroad and retention bonuses.

Satisfaction

According to the report, well over half (61%) of employees say they’re ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with their current role, while 18% feel ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely’ dissatisfied.

Older workers and those who’ve been in the industry for more than a few years tend to feel more satisfied than newcomers.

But nearly half (45%) think hospitality jobs are less appealing than they were before the pandemic, with 72% citing factors such as insufficient pay rises, or 53% a lack of appreciation from employers. Others cite a lower level of support for hospitality (41%) and a decrease in tips (34%).

“Conversely, those who find the sector more appealing now say they enjoy more flexibility (54%), greater appreciation (42%) and more demand for hospitality roles (33%).”

Challenges

The survey leaves readers in no doubt about employees’ biggest problem at the moment, with well over half (58%) citing staff shortages, making it even more significant than perennial challenges like unsocial hours (51%).

Well over a third (38%) state that they’re challenged by inexperienced staff – another sign of employers’ recruitment difficulties – it being particularly high in QSRs and bars.

“Employers can’t do a great deal to fix some of employees’ challenges, like unreasonable guest demands (28%) and food waste (29%),” states the report, “But it is possible to tackle other big bugbears like ineffective communications (30%), a lack of training (29%) and pressure from managers (25%). By addressing these, businesses can make a significant difference to retention rates.”

Wellbeing

Over a quarter of employees surveyed by Harri and CGA state that they’re happy (29%), satisfied (28%) and comfortable (28%) in their work at the moment.

More concerning is the finding that a greater proportion of employees feel stressed (38%) and challenged (34%). One in five feel overwhelmed and anxious.

The report points out that some of the employees receive good support, like help with a better work-life balance (19%), opportunities to socialise with colleagues (15%) and monitoring of wellbeing (15%). Others say they get opportunities to have their say (14%), one-to-ones with managers (13%), helpful information (12%) and support sessions (10%).

But well over a third (38%) say they get no help at all, while more than half (52%) think their employers aren’t doing enough to support their staff’s wellbeing. The numbers are notably higher among younger staff than older staff, states the report.

Career-building

Less than a quarter (23%) of the sample chose hospitality as their career path initially. Significantly, far more worked there while studying, saving or finding work in another sector (41%) or had simply “fallen into it” as a career (36%).

Men, older employees and people working in restaurants are all more likely to have chosen hospitality as a career path.

“Those who are not seeking a long-term career in hospitality cite a variety of reasons including pay levels, unsociable or limited hours” states the survey adding to this list with, “stresses and a lack of career progression.”

Significantly, too, only half (53%) of employees are currently satisfied with the career opportunities they see.

Updating hospitality’s reputation as a stop-gap solution both here and in the UK and creating clearer progression paths will help solve hospitality’s retention crisis as one of the most common misconceptions about restaurants, pubs and bars is that they don’t offer long-term careers.

The survey also shows that teams would welcome more and better-implemented technology in the workplace, with digital clocking-in and out, smart scheduling and shift management highlighted as areas that technology could help improve their work experience the most.

Sign up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's Free