Think GEM

Think GEM


The secret of happy staff

The secret of happy staff

Sally Whelan, Founding Director, explores how businesses can create a positive work culture.

In a fluid marketplace where employees are less inclined than ever to stay put, hospitality businesses have a commercial imperative to create a working environment that is a happy one. High turnover costs the hospitality industry £272 million a year according to skills and development organization People 1st. But even when the motivation is clear, it can be tricky to create a positive work-culture. In our research at HGEM, we have gained some unique insights into the policies, behaviours and techniques employed by businesses who meet this challenge well. Here’s what we’ve noticed they have in common:

Their staff have clearly defined roles

Clarity is crucial for the creation of a positive workplace culture. Well defined roles and responsibilities and a clear explanation of the way that individual staff fit with your business and its objectives offers a stable and nurturing base from which staff can flourish. Staff are happiest when they understand what it is they are meant to be doing and how their role fits with the bigger picture. A Gallup poll found that lack of clarity around employer expectations and a manager who failed to set clear objectives was one of the biggest negative predictors of employee engagement. This might be obvious, but it’s easy to forget.

They operate on trust

Autonomy and the flexibility to be allowed to do your job in a way that celebrates rather than circumscribes your personality ensures employees feel valued.  If they can bring something unique to the way they interact with customers and colleagues, staff are more likely to feel appreciated as individuals. HGEM research demonstrates that customers respond this too, rating warm and happy staff as one of the biggest factors in their overall guest experience. Properly trained staff should be trusted to do a good job in their own way. On the flipside, a workplace culture where blame is rife leads to staff who are on edge and anxious. Likewise, an over-emphasis on targets and timesheet policing creates a climate of mistrust and pressure.  

The staff buy into the brand

Increasing research shows that meaning rather than ‘success’ correlates most strongly with career satisfaction. This is particularly true for millennials. Helping staff to develop a strong identification with a brand, ideally one that chimes with their own values, is a great way to foster staff loyalty and underpin authentic behaviour. When your company ethos makes intrinsic sense to employees, they will be more likely to embody it. A lot of conversations we’re having with clients at the moment are focusing on culture – how to build it and how to communicate it. Most enlightened operators are aware that this can be a powerful tool for employee retention. It’s an approach reflected in the corporate world too. In a study by PWC, 88% of employees in their 20s and early 30s listed CSR values that fit with their own as being very important to them.

They build in fun

Whether it’s a fund for staff entertainment, away days, or even, where budget allows, field-trips to help immerse staff more deeply in the culture of a business (taking general managers abroad once a year), prioritising fun pays dividends. Within customer-facing teams, the overall dynamic will be obvious. We all know that you can sense the atmosphere of a restaurant, bar or hotel within moments of entering. Staff that plainly get on well and have each others’ backs create an authentic sense of warmth and harmony that will be obvious to guests. Well worth that large bar bill.

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