23rd October 2009 www.barmagazine.co.uk
Mark Ludmon looks at the challenges of recruiting, retaining and motivating staff in the bar sector
A high rate of staff turnover is one of the biggest challenges in the bar trade. The British Hospitality Association has reported that churn levels across the hospitality industry are at nearly 50 per cent – higher than nearly any other sector. The hospitality skills council, People 1st, has been investigating ways to tackle this after predicting that staff turnover will have cost the industry £6.2billion in the five years to 2012, meaning employers will have lost a total of 4.1million people.
Retaining good staff and improving their performance depends on how “engaged” they feel with their employer, explains Derrick Hardman, managing director of another specialist company, Capital Incentives & Motivation. “Bars whose staff are not fully engaged are not only failing to maximise their daily performance, but are also likely to suffer from poor morale, disruption and an extra lay-out of funds by the organisation as a result of absenteeism and staff turnover,” he says. “In turn, there is an impact on sales and customer service as well as teamwork within the outlet. Bar operators clearly need to take action to improve morale and motivation levels among their staff to address these issues, but simply offering a higher hourly rate is not the solution.”
Motivation programmes are now common at larger organisations, points out Andrew Johnson, chief executive of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association whose members supply products for incentives. “Where staff retention and motivation programmes are probably in place are just the big chains as opposed to the thousands of independent bar and pub operators.”
Incentive schemes need to be kept simple, says Kuljit Kaur, head of business development at The Voucher Shop, which supplies vouchers for incentives. “Bar staff generally have to manage a number of responsibilities during their daily role so any incentive needs to stand out and create the desired buzz and reaction,” she explains. “It’s important that the incentive is simple to understand and that the objectives set are within reach of the staff being included within the scheme.”
While a large operator like Punch may have corporate values to measure against, the simplest objectives are those linked to sales. “A lot of establishments have log-ins for every member of staff so you can record what business they are putting through the tills,” says Baker at Projectlink. “This can be analysed at the end of a particular period against historical data of what someone normally sells. You could reward staff who encourage customers to take more expensive options.”
While short-term tactical incentives can improve performance, longer-term schemes can support retention, he adds. “If people are being recognised for doing a good job, they feel more valued. If you have something at the end of the year, staff will stay on if they think they have a good chance of being rewarded. Some may subsequently leave in January but that is of course a quieter period for bars than the run-up to Christmas.”
A programme was created by incentive company Michael C Fina for Compass Group, whose contract businesses include bar and café operator Restaurant Associates. Staff receive service awards after just one year and rewards for going “above and beyond” within the company’s core values. “They are making people feel valued from day one, and it has done tremendously well, and staff turnover has dropped considerably,” says Michael C Fina director Sheila Sheldon. “It is the fact that they are making them feel wanted and part of an organisation rather than feeling that nobody gives a damn what they are doing.”
According to data from the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, nearly 50 per cent of the £3billion spent each year on gift cards and vouchers is for incentives. These may be single-store cards and vouchers, such as New Look, House of Fraser, Sainsbury’s and Debenhams, or vouchers with a choice of retailers such as Love2reward, Bonusbond and SayShopping. Employers are also increasingly using prepaid cards which can be uploaded with money for ongoing rewards, useable at shops on the Visa or MasterCard networks. Cards include Spree from motivation company P&MM, Compliments from Capital Incentives & Motivation and Pure from Grass Roots.
Online schemes, such as those from Corporate Rewards, offer employers a chance to reward staff regularly with points that can be redeemed online. Goss at Grass Roots, where all incentive schemes now have an element of online, adds that, while bar staff may have access to a PC at work or home, schemes need to be supported with information on flyers, posters or payslips. “There is also SMS technology so they can receive communications by text wherever they are.”
Kaur at The Voucher Shop adds that communications should be frequent to maintain awareness and keep the incentive fresh. “It is vital to use communication mechanisms that are relevant to the audience, for example, reminders placed near the till or on the back of the bar near promoted products, rather than email which won’t be read while service is busy. And ensure messages are concise and can be digested quickly and easily as it would be unrealistic to expect bar staff to wade through masses of information during a hectic shift.”
23rd October 2009