Hospo Stories

How to battle the hospitality generation gap?

That COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the hospitality industry globally is well known by many. What is maybe less known is the exact impact this will have on the industry in the years ahead.

One thing we can be sure of is that many hospitality businesses will have to do much more with much less for a variety of reasons.

Investors, owners and corporates will be looking to regain their losses. However, they will at the same time struggle to find a workforce. Especially if they think the same pre-covid work force still exists.

A large number of hospitality workers who were made redundant won’t come back. It is estimated that one-third will not return as they have found better pay, better hours and less stressful jobs. Besides that, let’s not forget about the next generation of hospitality workers who never entered the industry and potentially never will.

In the countries where things are slowly turning back to normal, hospitality businesses are under pressure and many experience staff shortages already. Some cannot even go back to normal operating hours as a result.

So, how do we save one of the largest and probably most fun industries in the world? An industry that has proven its right of existence through the many lockdowns, when so many people have been complaining about that missed drink, meal or holiday?

In the same way many people have been re-thinking their career paths and priorities, companies and their leaders should re-think what they offer and what’s important to their teams if they don’t want to miss out on a generation of talented hospitality workers.

It’s obvious that some businesses have realised that the expectations of hospitality workers have changed, and it is interesting to see the different approaches taken to tackle this manpower shortage, from sign-up bonuses to increased pay and better benefits. At a first glance, not too bad as it sorts out one of the industries’ major complaints: the low pay.

However, how sustainable is this approach? Your neighbour does the same and even offers a little bit more; for an industry already known for its high staff turnover, this might just add fuel to the fire and result in the same group of employees circling around.

The real solution is in retaining staff and attracting more people to join the industry – but that’s easier said than done. So, where to start? Let’s consider some basic human needs: the feelings of belonging, security, freedom, and self-fulfilment. What we need to realise is that many hospitality workers have missed all of these for a very long time. Business leaders will have to have a close look at their company cultures and be critical about them. What is your current culture? How do other people talk about it when you leave the room? Do all of the leaders understand it, and more importantly do they execute it?

A strong company culture does not only retain staff,  the staff will talk favourably about their jobs and the business and help to attract new team members. This is a factor that is easily overlooked, as most of the time the focus is very much on the customer and what they say about the business. In a good culture both are equally important, and one will feed the other.

So, what else can be done?

Work-life balance is always an idea that gets a good laugh when mentioned to a hospitality worker. However, this might no longer be as acceptable as it once was. Flexibility in working hours doesn’t mean multiple different shifts any given day of the week. The industry will have to re-think the term ‘flexible’ work hours and apply it in a better manner – one that doesn’t only work for the company, but also for the individual.

Invest in your leaders, and not just in teaching them how to do the paperwork better or sending them on another leadership course. Take time to listen to them, to get to know them, to show some humanity and make them feel that they are important to you. The benefit? They will do the same with their teams and, if not, you can address the issue. Remember that so important company culture? This is a key part of that!

Put as much time and effort into promoting your business to current and future hospitality workers as you do to bringing in customers. Make it fun, show all the great things about your business and the industry, get them excited to join and to share – or to find – their passions. Have close relations with hospitality schools, not just to fill some roles but to assist them in their efforts to recruit and educate the future generations essential for the industry!