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Monday, April 15, 2024

Leadership coach shares 5* tips as hospitality industry braces for more uncertainty

Hospitality executive turned leadership coach Debbie Taylor is sharing insights from 25 years in a sector facing further staffing pressures.

As hospitality businesses brace for more uncertainty, the former senior manager of The Balmoral tells others in the industry how they can prepare.

Staffing shortages are set to be exasperated as work and visit visas are expected to increase by 15% on 4 October 2023, compounding a recruitment crisis. UK immigration costs are much higher than in many other countries including USA, Canada, Germany and France.

Turbulent times

Debbie said: “From general manager to director and board director and now as a coach, mentor and adviser to leaders in the sector, I’ve seen and experienced very turbulent times.

“First came the challenges of digitisation and internet bookings; the recession; the onslaught of rivalry from private rental providers; then, a staffing exodus following Brexit, the pandemic, plus the demands for better pay and work-life balance.

“This is the evolution of a sector that has at times served customers better than it has retained its staff.”

Debbie – who was general manager of the 5-star Rocco Forte Balmoral Hotel before becoming as managing director of the Old Course, St Andrews – says attracting and retaining talent goes hand-in-hand with providing customer service excellence, having seen leaders cause irreparable damage to their businesses by letting down staff and customers.

Now Debbie works with individual clients and organisations across UK and global hotel and restaurant groups in London and the North West to help leaders find their personal voice in bringing staff on board against the backdrop of ongoing change. 

She offers this advice to leaders in the sector:

Universal challenges

“When working with more traditional leaders I encourage them to accept the realities they are facing, and the individual role they want to play in helping meet the challenges faced,” she said.

“Staff shortages are widespread across the sector, but is not unique to hospitality.  I’m often asked for guidance and advice from senior leaders in the sector on how their restaurant or hotel can improve its staff retention.

“There’s no quick fix, but it is time to accept that the power balance has shifted and people in all divisions – finance, operations, HR, to service roles – want flexibility in some form, and for this to be acknowledged by their employer. They are also often seeking personal development and a career path that provides a roadmap for their future.

“Customers also understand the issues, and they care more about things like low sector pay and excellent service.

“Those with responsibilities to manage people should respond to every business decision with their current or prospective employees in mind. A happy, valued and engaged workforce paired with excellent service is the goal – profit will follow.

Personal-led financial resilience

“Consider the importance of fair pay in the cost of living crisis, including pay structures for those on the lowest pay in your business.”

“This could include looking at service charges or building up financial reserves to deliver bonuses for a successful month. The day-to-day roles of customer-facing jobs vary based on demand and adding incentives for busier periods is another way to invest in your staff more regularly. Providing promotional opportunities where earning potential will grow, alongside enhanced responsibilities is also key.”

Building back trust

“Staff and consumers have also had a rocky ride during the post-pandemic hospitality crisis. Inconsistencies in cost increases, staffing issues and services constantly being redesigned or cut back have impacted brand loyalty.”

“Staff and customers have seen first-hand that they must shoulder the impact of the macro picture and to attract new talent you must create a vision that is based on trust and appreciation. Loyalty goes both ways. Employees are also looking to join and stay in organisations with a positive culture, based on mutual respect and where their contribution is recognised and valued.”

Taking time with staff is priceless

“Making time for your staff, and showing humility and vulnerability can make a huge difference to management style and customer experience and it doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag. Be appreciative of your staff and get to know them personally. That’s the beauty of a person-led business; it acknowledges that there are lives attached to outputs and it’s easier to prevent a crisis than deal with one.

“Saying hello when you are in your business, knowing the names of your employees and treating teams with individual focus is key to creating a resilient and dedicated team.”

“For example, it costs nothing to check in with a staff member who is consistently late for work, or whose performance has deteriorated. Clients often come to me and question how to address this. However, consider that it may actually be a solvable problem. Listening, caring and finding out what’s going on at home, perhaps adjusting their work pattern or schedule will make them feel valued. Always treat staff like you would be keen to be treated yourself, and you will see mutually beneficial growth.”

Make time for your own personal development – it starts with you


“It can often feel lonely at the top or among a leadership team. Once you’re at a senior level you can lose sight of your goals and values and how they mesh with the business. The world is changing, and as leaders, we need to keep learning, sharpen our skills and keep our approach fresh and up to date.

“Working with a coach that has experience in your sector – being a trusted and confidential sounding board, and helping you to increase your self-awareness– can help forge a path forward.” It is key to work to your strengths but also to understand your weaknesses and development areas.

“There can be a tendency for the hospitality sector’s challenges to paint a backdrop of anxiety that can be overwhelming. However, getting your personal development plan down on paper, with actions and accountability, ensures you have an individual investment in rebuilding the sector to be the best it can be while bringing staff along with you.”

For more information on Debbie Taylor’s 1:1 coaching or team coaching for hospitality, travel and real estate sectors, visit www.debbietaylorleadership.co.uk

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