We were delighted to be shortlisted for the VIBE Sustainability Awards 2017 with the winners to be announced later this month.
Part of the interview and review was discussing our business choices around utilities, seasonality on menus, suppliers, consultants, our green vehicle choices, our kitchen garden and many other sustainable practices.
Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot more about our team in the context of sustainability.
Staff retention is one of hospitality’s biggest industry challenge. Sometimes holding onto team can be as much of a burden as it is a benefit. If you don’t have a strong HR support and your team aren’t developed and challenged in a positive nurturing environment baggage can be a problem.
But the good team that are committed, loyal and enthusiastic for their own development and the development of their own teams are worth their weight in gold.
But these members of the team can be too committed. Great team members by default can often carry the average to good members and while finding and growing an excellent team is a challenge for all business especially hospitality, not allowing your best team to get burnt out in doing so it’s as big a challenge of our industry.
We are not a 9-5 or even an 8 – 8 business. We are open to the public for at least 16 hours a day. It’s hard to switch off. When should you stop working when you know your team are still at the coal face? Chefs talk about guilt. Guilt that they aren’t supporting their team. But trusting their team and allowing them to grow and shine is scary when you know guests are paying the same price for their experience regardless of who is in the kitchen or front of house. So training, holding a vision and monitoring is vital.
All of our team sign a 48 hour opt out. We all expect our senior team to work about 50 hours a week on average but when they start working 60 or 70 we know it’s a huge problem down the line. You hear horror stories of 14 hour days 6 or 7 days a week in many top Michelin Starred restaurants. Long hours in a high pressure environment. Yes I work long hours but I’m not standing at a hot stove or bent over a pass plating up dishes for 14 hours a day and if my team do I get cross. I don’t want to be known as a boss who runs her team into the ground. I want to be a boss that provides the support to allow our team to shine, love coming to work as much as love heading home after a great day of looking after lovely people who love good food.
With more and more competition with more and more restaurants opening, higher overheads and added wage pressures such as pension contribution increases next year and further increases to living wage means we need more than ever to look after the good team and keep them motivated, happy and healthy.
The hospitality industry needs a sustainable staffing model. Personal development and external experiences are important and I’m thrilled that so many of our team have applied for this years HIT Scotland Scholarships which provide a vital community led learning programme for all hospitality professionals and budding bodies in the making. But this is just a tiny part of the day to day work we need to do to keep our teams well.
As of this week we’ve reset all our teams rotas. We seem to have done this a lot of the years but now with a stronger HR department we’ll be able to monitor to make sure it doesn’t slip.
Weekly monitoring of staff hours and rest periods has been common practice for us but the stricter monitors around rota will we hope create a much healthier working environment. This I must say will be supported by a pool of trained senior team who can float between our three venues to ensure all skill levels are in place regardless of holidays or sick days. A necessary but healthy added cost. And as of this week – we’ve banned any of the team sending emails after 7pm unless there is an emergency.
By stopping emails after 7pm it’s encouraging all of us to be more efficient and more productive with our time during the day and stopped the ping pong culture of chit chat emails that are often best resolved with a face to face brief meeting where the real route and best solution can be found.
So rather than creating a crisis, let’s look after and nurture our team, keep their health and wellbeing at the heart of our sustainable choices and we’ll self cure our staffing problems.