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Navigating the recruitment crisis (Part 1) – retaining current talent

The unrelenting staffing crisis has recently seen UKHospitality report vacancy figures as high as 400,000 across the sector and KAM Media finding that just 1 in 5 people might consider a career in hospitality. The pandemic has generated a fundamental shift in the labour market and recovery will be a long-term process as we continue to experience the residual impacts of both Brexit and COVID-19, but in this there is also opportunity. This may be rethinking how team members are recognised, rewarded, and developed so that they are engaged, feel valued, and see progression in their careers. It may be innovating recruitment campaigns and team member benefits to attract new talent. Over two blogs, our team share a few suggestions that hotel businesses might like to consider. In this first blog we focus on ways to retain and upskill current talent, we will share thoughts on new talent attraction in a future blog.

Addressing any of these is not going to change shortages overnight but looking at longer term goals, we believe that any one or all these solutions could be invaluable in ensuring the stability of staffing in hospitality.


  1. Igniting passion in teams and recognising their efforts costs nothing

How often have you attended team briefings that focus on making the guest experience the best it can possibly be? I am sure the answer is weekly, if not daily. As hospitality professionals we dedicate a huge amount of our time to making the guest experience perfect, to surprise and delight, and make it appear effortless.

How many managers could honestly claim that they put 10% of that effort into doing the same for their teams? From personal experience, in most hotels I worked at, praise and recognition were not given freely. You could work a 70+ hour week, pull off miracles of service recovery and yet be left feeling like more was expected.

No one day in hospitality is the same, making the sector an excellent career option for people who have a passion for new challenges every day. Investing time in team members to find out what sparks their passion can start those conversations around learning and developmental opportunities, creating a culture where knowledge and skill development is highly supported and encouraged.

Appreciating and recognising the efforts of team members connects them emotionally to their work and is a proven strategy for increasing motivation, satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Strategically embedding the principles of recognition is proven to attract and retain top talent and, most importantly, reduce turnover.

Recognising performance and effort reinforces desired behaviours creating a virtuous circle where a happy team = happy guests. It’s a win-win!

So, what steps can you take to create a culture of appreciation and recognition for your team?

  1. Take time to talk to team members, find out what their passions are and what they want to achieve both individually and as a team. Genuinely consider their passions and integrate these into daily/weekly/monthly goals. This can help individuals and teams to feel recognised and their ambitions valued.
  2. Create meaningful recognition schemes and be prompt when celebrating achievements. Co-develop schemes with team members so that what they see as an achievement or success is included and their drive to successfully achieve set goals is increased. Allow team members to nominate each other, not just manager to team member. Managers are not around to witness every magic moment.
  3. Be consistent and make time for appreciation. A concerted and consistent approach with deliberate intention will build a positive habit, and a culture that celebrates hard work and achievements, not one that just expects it.
  4. Make recognition and team success part of your HOD meeting agenda. Put your team at the top of your priorities.
  5. Ensure appraisals happen. Appraisals are fantastic way to formally recognise the efforts and successes of individual team members. Too often these are overlooked, or not conducted because managers are too busy.
  6. Make it sincere and personal. Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, rather than a generic response.

Strategically building recognition and appreciation into operations can be achieved through sustained practice. The results of which could save you time, and result in a more motivated, engaged, productive and stable team, and make you a more attractive employment option to potential recruits.

For more on the importance of team wellbeing, download our free wellbeing journey guide here.


  1. The power of nurturing and mentoring

Nurturing and mentoring can have a powerful effect on team development, productivity, effectiveness, and is a proven strategy for retaining star players. Team member Jo reflects on her formative years in Hospitality and the powerful impact that feeling part of something, and a sense of belonging had on her young self.

“My first full time role in the industry was with Thistle hotels. I joined as a Junior Receptionist and my first 4 weeks was job shadowing the Head Receptionist and Reception Manager. I was then sent to Luton for a 4-day training course on Reception Skills, Reservations and Enquiry Handling. I can still remember it today, the sense of belonging. Of being part of a great team, not just at my hotel, but also as part of the Thistle team. Needless to say, I stayed with them for over 6 years progressing through Reservations, Conference & Banqueting and then into Regional Sales.

My next experience was with Jarvis hotels when John Jarvis first created his own brand. I actually wrote to the HR Director, after an article I read in the Caterer about how they recruited for attitude over experience and how they could train any individual that had the right attitude and enjoyed interacting with people. Remember this would have been back in the nineties, so this was so forward thinking. I received a personal response from the HR Director and was then put in touch with one of their hotels looking to recruit a Conference & Events Sales Manager. Needless to say, I got the job and that was the start of a 7-year career with Jarvis.

The reason I stayed so long was again down to a sense of belonging … belonging to a team of like-minded, motivated people and inspirational leaders I was offered the platform and structure to perform. As a company, they questioned everything and turned it on its head, for example instead of Rooms Division Managers and F&B Managers we had Customer Sales and Spend Managers and Quality and Service Managers. This change of role really focused the mind and each HOD became a Business Centre Manager responsible for managing their own business. The key to this was the training, development and support that went alongside it.

There was also the recognition with a fast-track programme recognising up and coming future Managers, called the Jarvis Youth Squad. This involved quarters get-togethers with everyone on the Youth Squad and all the exec team, including John Jarvis. We were invited to give feedback and come up with ideas to present to the team and given ownership to put them into practice. Then there were the Quality Awards! Open to all hotels, peers recognising one another and what felt like no expense spared Gala dinner. We really felt nurtured and part of something really special.

Those were the days! If only we could look at putting some of these things back into practice rather than focus on cost all the time”.

Successful mentoring programmes that establish clear and workable goals can benefit both individual team members and businesses:


  • Mentoring team members can increase motivation to go the extra mile, satisfaction with work, confidence in the ability to excel in a role, and feeling appreciated.
  • Those who provide mentoring to team members benefit from developing their own leadership skills.
  • Nurturing and mentoring can improve communications and the relationships between team members and management. When trust and respect is created between all levels of operations, communications improve, and problems can be identified and resolved earlier before they might develop into major ones.

The business:

  • Focusing on mentoring team members can improve the speed and effectiveness of change, support for change and new procedures and behaviours.
  • Creating a positive feedback loop between team members and management through mentoring is core to retention. Lower turnover reduces the cost and burden of the constant need to replenish and train human capital.


  1. The importance of coaching

The key part of coaching is to learn and develop. Allowing your team member to learn something new is important to their overall development and they will feel valued in the investment you are making in them. Demonstrating you care will encourage a better working relationship and ultimately better performance. Findings taken from recent Learning Magazine research shows 80% of team members value recognition above any rewards or gifts.

To retain team members, engage, motivate, and support them throughout their learning journey with you. Start as you mean to go on from new starters to existing team members. Establishing trust and maintaining it is the most important part of the entire coaching process. This must be a genuine desire in you and requires an investment in time and emotion.

Use a coaching model (such as G.R.O.W.) to instil confidence in your team member from the off. This will demonstrate a methodical approach rather than being coached haphazardly which can lead to a disorganised and frustrating coaching session. Coaching should be natural and using a coaching model will develop a consistent, natural and rewarding process for your team member.

The G.R.O.W. coaching model is underpinned by four key strategic steps:

  1. Goal – Where does a team member want to be? Ask new and current team members about their future career ambitions and define those into clear and achievable goals that motivate, inspire and drive team members towards success.
  2. Reality – Where are team members now? Take stock of current knowledge and skills and identify any barriers that might be present. This can support identifying team members’ current strengths, qualities, and the resources available to support them.
  3. Options – How can a team member progress? Review what learning and development opportunities are available to support team members to advance towards their knowledge and skill development.
  4. Will – What are team members willing to invest? Agree on actions, set a timeframe, and report on progress to generate ownership and accountability.

People are more engaged if they can see there is potential for them to grow and develop their career in your organisation and that they are encouraged and supported as an individual through ongoing, regular and tailor-made coaching support. The likelihood is your team retention is higher having a positive impact on the difficulties currently surrounding recruitment. You are succession planning for motivated, knowledgeable team leaders and coaches for the future so that the culture is ongoing and future proofed and you will be gaining a reputation as a go to employer in the industry, attracting and retaining the best candidates.

In a team that provides outstanding hospitality, it has to come from the top, the manager who is interested in their team members and provides the resources, removes obstacles and takes delight in allowing team members to excel.

Happy team members leads to higher retention, resulting in improved service delivery.


1)      UK Hospitality

2)      KAM Media

3)      Guider – Mentoring

4)      Positive Psychology – G.R.O.W. Coaching Model

5)      Tavistock Times

6)      Big Hospitality

7)      Marsh Commercial