IN an industry that runs on casual labour and operates around the clock, striking the right balance between healthy staff turnover and retention of talented or promising employees is a significant challenge for managers in the hospitality sector.
Australia enjoys an excellent reputation for the training that workers and students in the hospitality space receive; and with generation Y representing a significant employment demographic for the industry, one Perth-based hospitality training provider told WA Business News it was vital to ensure these workers were prepared.
“What gen Y in particular are looking for is proof of where they’ve been or what they’ve done, so they’re always looking for a bit of paper. Some of the best ways to retain staff is to give them an identified career path through ongoing qualifications,” Hospitality Group Training general manager Iain McDougall said.
Bond University PhD student Laurina Yam, who is researching staff retention in the hospitality industry, said steady turnover in the hospitality industry wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Talent management is one of the buzzwords in the industry at the moment, and it refers to retaining the talent you want and letting go of the people who don’t fit with the business,” she said.
“One of the important things to consider is that not all turnover is unhealthy, because you don’t want everyone to stay.”
Mr McDougall said the high level of mobility in the industry was one of its most attractive features for a range of reasons.
“People measure the hospitality industry in the same way they measure the white-collar sector or the trades, but it’s completely different,” he said.
“The whole concept of hospitality is, in fact, people moving around. One of the biggest employers of backpackers and holiday makers in Australia is the hospitality industry, and we encourage that.”
Mr McDougall said employers that had the most success with maintaining talented staff were those able to help employees they wished to keep see a clear future for themselves in that business.
“The best-practice employers will always offer staff a longer term view - and once they’ve identified the talent they will position them in a career path and offer training over a period of time to help them achieve a higher qualification or level of skill,” he said.
At one of WA’s largest hospitality operations, Crown Perth, HR managers recognise these challenges.
A Crown Perth spokesperson said because it was also a Registered Training Organisation, staff could work towards attaining recognised certification in a range of hospitality roles.
“We have recently focused on developing new programs that are aligned to accredited qualifications and offer ing clear career development opportunities, moving the focus from training to learning and from ‘job’ to ‘career’,” the spokesperson said.
At the other end of the scale, Kelli Mainwaring, co-owner of the 40-seat Co-op Dining restaurant in East Perth, said the staff they hired had to be passionate about working for the restaurant, and that training new staff that fitted with the business was a challenge, because of the degustation-style of service offered.
With serving a degustation involving memorising every detail of the dishes being served, and the accompanying wines, Mrs Mainwaring said that, as customers became more knowledgeable about their food, having well-trained staff was even more important.
“We have four people in the kitchen, and four on the floor, so it’s a small, tight team. We keep the seating to 40 people only and we don’t go over capacity, we don’t turn over tables
r because once people are here they’re normally eating for three hours,” she said.
“One of the staff we hired came in as a customer and loved it, but he didn’t have any experience in the industry or the style of dining, but he was really passionate.”
Mrs Mainwaring said that particular staff member had remained with the business since its opening in early November 2012, and his interest and enthusiasm for learning about the food meant the business could justify the time taken to train him.
Both Mr McDougall and Ms Lam agree that Australia’s highly regarded hospitality training sector was both a blessing and a curse for the local industry.
“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword as far as hospitality is concerned; we promote the industry as one where you can get skills that you can take anywhere in the world - unfortunately then many people do take it somewhere else in the world,” Mr McDougall said.
Ms Lam agrees, having seen many colleagues head overseas in her 12 years of experience in the hotel and casino industry.
“I’ve known people who have done a lot of travelling with big hotel groups and others, and they enjoy working overseas so much that they don’t really want to come back, so there’s certainly a brain drain happening in our industry as well,” she said.