It is important to look after your new employees, especially as turnover rates in the hospitality industry are very high.
One New Zealand report that looked specifically at newcomers’ leaving rates within their first year of employment reported that 62 per cent of new recruits leave the hospitality industry each year (Lawson Williams Consulting Group, 2013). This is by far the highest rate of any industry, including the farming and retail sectors.
The report does not give the reasons why employees move on, however, other studies in New Zealand and overseas suggest the reasons people stay or leave hospitality are complex.
Research shows people enjoy working in hospitality for the social connection; they like the feeling of working as part of a big family composed of different individuals from different backgrounds and parts of the world. Hospitality workplace studies suggest an essential ingredient when building strong social bonds in the workplace is the presence of respectful personal relationships between superiors and staff (Mooney, 2014). Human resources management best practice also recommends that welcoming socialisation procedures and good initial training are vital measures that help retain new staff.
Critical workplace factors
Factors that are likely to make people move on faster from a new workplace are poor workplace relations. Weak social connections in hospitality establishments can result from the temporary and casual nature of many hospitality jobs. The demographic composition of the New Zealand hospitality workforce also shapes the high turnover of the industry as it contains a very high percentage of younger workers.
Youthful employees are most likely to crave social connections and the age group most likely to be in part time employment. The younger ‘Millennial” generation, while adept with technology and social media communication (21st century knowledge skills), is perceived by many hospitality employers to be more demanding that previous generations.
Anecdotal evidence shows they are less likely than previous generations to accept the unsocial hours and shifts of the industry. Yet, evidence from research around the world shows this generation is motivated to work hard for future goals, such as a clear career path.
Practical retention steps
So what can practical steps can managers take to retain our workers in the industry?
• Ensure your new employees get a warm welcome when they start working with you
• Make sure new employees get a training plan, no matter how brief it is, so they will know what to expect in their first few days. Many employers do not recognise the emotional uncertainty and fear of the unknown experienced by new starters. In the New Zealand hospitality industry, many of our staff come from outside New Zealand. Combined with youth and inexperience, this forms a heady mix of anxiety for new employees wanting to do well, but not being sure how to be successful.
• Follow up that initial welcome with social ‘get togethers’ for your employees in the workplace. Shared morning teas and acknowledgement of special events in their lives show that you care about each other. Milestones in the workplace, for example, the hotel’s 20th birthday should be celebrated, to show that you are all working for the same purpose
• Have career chats with your employees about where they see themselves in the future and what you can do help them achieve their dreams.
Dinosaur brain waves
When people are nervous, the sophisticated 21st century part of their brains (the part that knows how to program an iPhone or Galaxy) melts away, often just leaving the ‘dinosaur’ part of the brain in charge. These more primitive thought processes send out instructions to people in new and stressful situations to fight, flee or freeze.
This explains why it is not reasonable to expect employees to retain a great deal of information during their first days of a new complex job. It is a myth that hospitality work is easy. Professionalism and real skill is needed to do a hospitality job well, another reason why the hospitality industry needs to retain its experienced workers.
If you do not want new staff to take flight, they must be welcomed and nurtured from their first encounter with your business, starting with the initial interview. By treating all new employees as you would treat your own family members, a trusting respectful attitude is created from the beginning. In this way, you help to set your new employees up for a successful career in the hospitality industry, instead of losing them to other sectors.