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How the Employment Wheel has Turned

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I noticed this little article the other day:

“In Illinois, a branch of McDonald’s has begun offering a free iPhone to employees who stay for more than six months. Another, in Florida, has offered people $50 to attend an interview. The giveaways come as restaurants struggle to find employees. McDonald’s has said it will raise wages by 10 per cent on average to attract staff”

The Times

Whilst it related to McDonald’s in America, I’m sure similar strategies are being used in many businesses across Australia and particularly in the Queensland club and hospitality space.

Only last year, governments and politicians were on the unemployment bandwagon and talking about solutions following the COVID shutdown in Australia.  Strange how silent most of our politicians have been in trying to find solutions to alleviate the resulting chronic employment shortage.  While some are still talking about unemployment, those who are in touch with the reality of the situation have done an about-face.  Everywhere, the club and hospitality industry can’t find staff, and are using all sorts of inducements to keep current staff and attract new staff.

Not being able to recruit staff is only one of the staffing issues in the current environment.  We are constantly hearing there is no loyalty, no commitment, no responsibility, and no care from new staff members. We often hear the phrase “There just isn’t anybody out there that’s worth hiring these days.”

As usual, successful businesses will find their own way to overcome challenges rather than relying on others.  In the last 12 months or so the club and hotel industry has shown how resilient and innovative it can be in dealing with challenges.

The shortage of unemployment and the necessity to increase benefits requires the industry to have a hard look at its barriers to employment.  In many cases we are not recognising the demands of our business, the customers and our staff.  We are in the service industry, it’s not for everybody, the hours, the constant pressure to deliver, and in many cases not a good working and cultural environment. I’ve been saying for 40 years “good staff will choose where they work”! Managers who recognise this will make staff relationships, remuneration and employment conditions attractive to the right staff. To quote a well-used phrase, but seldom understood or implemented, “to become an employer of choice”.

Following are seven of my key thoughts, ideas and experiences gained over the years employing hundreds of staff in businesses and making many mistakes.

Recognise the Challenges of Our Industry for Employees

The hospitality industry is very exciting and progressive with global opportunities, but only for the right people.  Another older true saying in the hospitality industry is “always employ the personality not the skills”.  What we do is not rocket science. It can be easily taught, but you cannot teach personality, and a happy helping disposition, which are the keys to successful hospitality employment.

Employing the Right People

Have you documented the traits of the person you’re looking for? Skills and licenses that are required for a position count for nothing if new employees do not have the right personality and aptitude for our business.  Think more about what you can offer a new staff member, rather than what you want the new staff member to give you; why is it better to work at your establishment than another one down the road or better to work in your locality rather than another?  You need to think differently when trying to find the right people today.

Pay the Right Level of Reward

If your first reaction when employing new staff is to look up the award, then you’re on the wrong track; you should assess the role you need filled, the traits and talents you’re looking for and assess what you would pay for the best person you could find. You will rarely get the best person for the value of the award. Always ask people what they’re looking for in terms of remuneration.  If the best person applying for the job asks for $75,000, offer them $85,000 so they feel valued, privileged, respected and would look forward to being in your employment.

Provide Detailed Expectations and Job Responsibilities

Make sure you have spent time documenting what you expect of a new staff member, and how you are going to evaluate and reward good performance.

Management Staff Communication

Over the years, in my consulting capacity, I’ve conducted many senior staff remuneration reviews and one of the constant feedbacks from senior management is they get little interaction from their superiors other than when something goes wrong.  Sadly, this is very much the case with general managers when the board or committee doesn’t take the time to sit down with a manager and thank them for all the good things that they’ve done and point out where they’d like to see some improvement; managers tell me this is what they want regularly. I know it is the same for all staff, but all too often reviews are seen as a negative by staff rather than a positive; a perspective which managers need to work on changing.

Support and Assistance

When we complain about the unemployment scenario, we really need to take a look at ourselves sometimes; what has our industry contributed to the promotion of the benefits of our industry and the education of our staff and school students?  At board and committee meetings we become somewhat obsessed with the percentage of our turnover that we spend on promotions, entertainment, advertising, et cetera. Rarely do I hear boards, committees and managers talking about their education and training budget. We complain most loudly about the shortages of chefs, but how many apprentice chefs does your organisation employ?  If you don’t who else will?  We can’t complain too loudly about a problem we have contributed to.  The same goes for school-based trainees; an example set by Arana Leagues and many others was up to 50% of their staff have come through their own school-based traineeship program, where they have cultivated loyalty and good culture to the venues.

Constantly Moving on the Poor Performers

I learned very early when managing my first large hotel with 120 staff and the owner asked me to send him a list of all the staff I employed in order of how valuable or good I thought they were for the pub. I was curious at the time, but then I got a communication back from him some weeks later suggesting that I should let the bottom 10 staff find more suitable employment, as I was potentially stifling their opportunities by keeping them employed when they were not suited to the role.  He also pointed out that poor performers can be vexatious to the spirit of high achievers and went on to point out I need to be constantly looking for new staff to employ as that is the only way I will find the new gems and provide exciting opportunities for the right employees.

We also need to remember we are dealing with a percentage of the population that has sadly been spoon-fed by the government and they are at a disadvantage when it comes to education about work. Whilst I have been criticised for it in some circles, I am a great supporter of McDonald’s and KFC in teaching the basics of work.

Let me know your challenges and ideas for improving recruitment in the hospitality industry.

John Dickson | john@dws.net.au | 0417 721 942

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