Historically, the hospitality space has faced hurdles when it comes to hiring and retaining employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an annualized employee turnover rate in the restaurants-and-accommodations sector was nearly 75% in 2018. A healthy turnover rate, for reference, should be somewhere between 10-15%.
The reasons behind the extreme turnover rates are varied, however there is some agreement as to its causes. Foodservice must acknowledge the many shortcomings that can, and do, plague the industry -- low wages, inexperienced/ineffectual management, little to no training, misogyny, racism, and the expectation of long and hard work hours. Not to mention issues around stability and how organizations handle the health of their employees. This has been especially apparent with the onset of the recent global pandemic. In the spring of 2020, over 7.5 million jobs were lost in the hospitality industry. Many found jobs in other sectors as a result and have no interest in returning.
In a post-COVID job market, the issues afflicting the industry haven’t gone away. While false portrayals of restaurant workers as being unreliable, lacking work ethic, and preferring a reliance on unemployment run rampant, the truth of the matter is that many restaurant jobs are less-than-ideal in this day and age.
To help counter this, many big chains are offering incentives, from signing bonuses to free appetizers, to attract new hires. At the same time, big corporations like Amazon and Costco have raised pay to at least $15 an hour, making it harder for other employers to compete with them.
Many restaurants, though, cannot afford to simply raise wages to attract workers, making the issue of hiring even more difficult. Wages also don’t address any of the larger issues at play, including employees feeling unappreciated, burned-out and with limited loyalty, consistently on the lookout for the next best thing.
Salary is only one part of the equation when it comes to employee attraction and retention. For the most part, employees at all levels, and across all industries, want to feel as though their employers are investing in them, and that they can see themselves growing within the organization. These are concepts that can be hard to find in many hospitality roles, where turnover feels inevitable.
Investing in the careers of employees can not only help establishments hire the best people but keep them around as well. By offering training and professional development as perks, restaurants can entice entry-level employees as well as increase retention rates. And with the use of technology on the rise, it’s easier than ever to implement training digitally.
Short-term training during onboarding, especially online and self-paced, can be a useful option for new employees. These can lead to resume-worthy digital credentials, or even college credit on a pathway to a higher credential in culinary or hospitality. Employees see the immediate reward of knowledge and skills. Employers reap the benefits of offsite training convenient for scheduling. Some online training platforms can also offer training tracking and training logs to ensure employers have visibility into every trainee’s progress.
This type of online training can also lead to career growth. Career progression is important to prospective candidates, new hires and long-term employees alike. Explaining potential pathways for promotion in the business need to be spelled out for each role and clearly communicated to your workers. What we take for granted about job opportunities are not always evident to those new to the industry.
Throughout the pandemic, many restaurants were forced to adapt and transform their businesses quickly in order to stay afloat. Many turned to technology, diversifying their offerings to include ecommerce, delivery and online ordering. Embracing technology can also help increase and enhance other efficiencies as chefs and owners are becoming more open to using online learning platforms when it comes to training their staff.
For all employees, but particularly new hires who have never worked in the restaurant industry before, onboarding, orientation, training and focusing on the first six months can make or break their experience. Restaurants have a team culture like no other, and new employees need to feel welcomed and essential to the success of operation. Daily check-ins at the end of a shift, self-paced onboarding or skills training, opportunities for professional development go a long way to setting a welcoming environment, motivating employees, and retaining loyalty in our fast-paced industry.