The old mantra is that the customer comes first. However, if hospitality staff feel undervalued – or the culture or conditions are a poor fit for them – they might choose to work elsewhere. Further, if word spreads that the venue is not a good place to work, it might become harder to attract new staff members. Creating a positive work environment that appeals to staff can also be crucial to providing a better customer experience. According to Ashley Taylor, Head of Field, Partnerships & Training AUS & NZ at Barcats (a community & recruitment platform for the hospitality industry) there are a few things to keep in mind that can be helpful in creating a great working culture.
Getting to know each other
According to Taylor, it is important that staff are encouraged to form working relationships. If staff and management are effectively strangers to one another, honest and open conversations are less likely to take place, and important feedback might not be passed on. Poor communication may also lead to conflict, which can negatively affect staff satisfaction and performance.
Taylor says if the staff care about one another and are happy with the workplace culture, it will shine through in the service they provide.
“Having inductions and events where staff get to know each other is critical. It’s much harder to create feedback loops if staff don’t know each other, and [don’t care about the] business. At Barcats, we do an induction that takes a few days, and is really focused [on that],” he says.
“If I know about someone’s dog or cat, for example, it helps to personalise things, and can make it easier to call something out [in an empathetic way]. Most successful businesses [are the ones] that can overcome conflict on the basis of a strong working culture.”
He adds that there are different strategies that can be employed to improve workplace culture if it takes a turn for the worse. That might include asking staff what their concerns are, or taking anonymous surveys to see what can be improved. Once management has access to this information, they can come up with a plan of action to resolve issues.
“Signs of a bad culture include rumours buzzing back and forth between groups [or the customer experience worsening over time]. It’s important that management come up with initiatives to overcome these challenges [but] it can’t just be left to management – the whole team has to be involved,” he says.
“At Barcats, we’ve implemented a buddy system and have business sessions that aren’t directly related to work. [The former] might seem a bit old school and naff, but creating an environment where staff can regularly chat and track goals can be really effective [in creating a strong culture.]
Wellness, wages & training
Hospitality can be a gruelling environment to work in, particularly over the last few years with COVID-19 restrictions and staff shortages. Consequently, staff burnout is always a concern. Therefore, Taylor says that preserving the mental health of staff is paramount, and management should consider initiatives to ensure that staff are satisfied in their role.
“In an insecure environment [with] late nights and a culture of drinking, there should be a really strict focus on wellbeing and support networks for staff. A part of that is being conscious of people’s workloads,” he says.
“Venues also have to pay award wages, as well as other benefits – such as meals being included, [sufficient] days off and so on – in order to retain [staff],” he says.
He adds that staff are more likely to stick around if there are opportunities to progress within the organisation.
“Training is incredibly important. It also helps to have [levels to progress] in order to keep staff motivated. Staff members are more likely to stick around if they can progress within the organisation,” he says.
“For single venues with no ‘levels-up’, managers might consider creating other roles and opportunities, and provide upskilling in [different areas of the business].”
Set core values that everyone is expected to uphold
A hospitality workforce might combine long term staff, and ‘rock-stars’ who are in for a one-off shift. In that environment, creating common goals and forging strong relationships can be challenging. However, Taylor says that it’s important that everyone is treated with the same level of respect.
“Everyone should be expected to uphold the same core-values, and feel comfortable calling it out if staff aren’t following them,” he says.
“Establishing what’s important to the brand and what the business believes in – from that stems the opportunity to reward staff for their hard work.
“Staff have to be aligned to the values of the business – and [the venue-at-hand] should be hiring based on that.”
A better staff experience will likely lead to a better customer experience. Competitive wages, perks and training – as well as a good reputation – might bring staff through the door, and a strong workplace culture might help to keep them. If the environment is known to be a good one for staff, it will hopefully be reflected in the service they provide.
Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.