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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Hospitality's Engagement Challenge

In a recent poll, a staggering 42% of people working in the Hospitality industry said that they wanted to leave. But this number fell to 6% from a list of businesses that made it into the long list of the Best Places To Work in UK Hospitality, run by The Caterer magazine. So what are these guys doing that's so different?

In this episode, your host, Andy Goram, talks to experienced Hospitality-focused engagement and culture specialist and long time Hospitality campaigner, Jane Sunley, from Purple Cubed, as they exchange notes from their recent attendance at The Caterer's 2022 People Summit, and work through what the best places to work in UK Hospitality are actually doing to attract and retain their people.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, but you can listen to the episode here.

A blonde haired lady and a grey haired man discuss the people challenges the UK Hospitality is facing
Jane Sunley (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss the people challenges the UK Hospitality Industry is facing

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

They say you never forget your first love. When it comes to the world of work, my first love is Hospitality. My first job was working for two incredible women, in a little independent Swiss bakery, Patisserie or Tea Room, or whatever in the back streets of Epsom. I was regularly getting my backside kicked around the tiny little kitchen that turned out frankly, wonderful delights, learning loads, feeling shattered but absolutely loving it. Betty and Rosemary were, and still are, a huge inspiration to me. They influenced my pursuit of a career in hospitality originally, and played a massive part in instilling my work ethic that I hope, still drives me on today.

But how does that experience match up to life working in Hospitality today? On the back of huge disruption and marketplace evolution, how is the Hospitality industry faring? What are the challenges it's facing and what does it feel like for the people working in that industry, which for many people like me back in the day, it's their first foray into the world of work.

But when a recent poll carried out by UK hospitality is saying that 42% want to leave the industry, how many will look back in 30 years' time and refer to it as their first work love?

Well, with me, today is Jane Sunley, founder of the Hospitality, focused culture and engagement company, Purple Cubed. Jane’s been a campaigner and advocate for Hospitality for many, many years and has her finger on the pulse of what's happening in the industry. We both attended the recent Caterer People Summit, where Purple Cubed were announcing the finalists for the annual Best Places To Work in Hospitality survey, so Jane can shine a real light on what the very best places are doing to attract, retain and grow their talent in such a brilliant and competitive industry.

Welcome to the show Jane!

00:03:08 Jane Sunley

Thank you very much and it's great to be here.

00:03:11 Andy Goram

Lovely to have you here, Jane. I know quite a bit about you, but some of my listeners may not be as familiar as I am. Would you mind just telling everybody, you know, who you are, what you do, what you're up to right now?

00:03:24 Jane Sunley

Yeah, I've a Hospitality Operator background, so I'm not an HR person in my background, and I used to work in hotels and then I fell in love and got married and decided that wasn't going to work, not marriage, the hotels, so I joined the contact catering industry and had my corporate career, if you like. Then I got conned into running a recruitment business for a number of years, which was immensely enjoyable because it was a start-up. And that is what taught me all about workplace culture. And at some point, I thought,

I'm going to do this for myself

and rather than have a recruitment company, which I didn't want to do, I started the world’s, I think the world, certainly the UK's first people retention business. Which was all about helping companies retain their people. Because just like today, everybody puts loads of effort into recruitment and then they get all these good people leave and go back to square one and on it goes. So, I suppose in essence I've been doing this for 20 years. I must have failed along the line 'cause people are still doing it, although I would like to think there are more people getting it right now than used to be.

So I'm CEO of Purple Cubed and I founded it 21 years ago. I am also a business writer. I've had a few books published you could check out “The People Formula” on Amazon. That's the last one I did, and I do a bit media commentating etc. and whole load of the things that, you know, people like me do.

00:04:50 Andy Goram

Just a couple of bits and pieces and keep it all ticking over. Well, I mean, Retention, I mean, that's the nub of, I guess, of what we're going to talk about today, really. And I think you're right, I think it is becoming more of a focus and more of a conversation. But particularly in hospitality, that recruitment thing is just the thing that is always number one on the agenda. That churn cycle of getting more people into the business. But, I am guessing that the kind of businesses that have made it through to the shortlist for the best places to work, you know, they're doing some different stuff. But just in terms of that whole award piece, can you just give us a bit of an overview as to where that came from and what it looks for?

00:05:36 Jane Sunley

So, nine years ago, we were a bit bemused, really. But the catering industry didn't have any sort of people award. So there is no Caty (The Caterer Magazine Award) for anything to do with people apart from Chef of the Year. But that's more about cheffing and less about the people. So, we decided, my business partner Jo and I, that’s Jo Harley, my fabulous business partner though she is, and we decided that we would approach The Caterer to say,

Look, how about doing a sort of Sunday Times Top 100 type survey, which we could then get the top six and put those through as a Caty short list and there would be a People Caty.”

Well, they thought this is a very good idea and that's what happened. So yeah, we've just done the eighth year, I think, of that now. So that's where it came from, but it's really about, I hate the word “best practise” 'cause I think or words, because what's best for one is not best for another, is it? Because we’re all different.

00:06:32 Andy Goram

So true.

00:06:32 Jane Sunley

So I like good practise and I like fit for purpose, and what this was about was just getting organisations to share the things that they come up with that made them great employers, but might not necessarily translate like for like into another business. And by the way, I do think this is where businesses go wrong. They just try and do what everybody else is doing instead of looking inwards. So that's an important point, I think, today. But that we could at least share the sort of sentiment of the sort of things, 'cause there are themes that people do, and I'm sure we'll talk about that in a minute, that are just getting it right. And it's clear that the people who make that list get way better results than, you know, the people who don't. I'm sure we're great employers out there that don't go on that list, but I always feel when we do the People Summit, which I know we’re also going to talk about, we’re slightly preaching to the converted. Because the people in the room get it. They want to do it, right? But there are a whole load of people in our beloved hospitality industry who still don't get it and suddenly aren't still getting it right. Even this many years on really. So this fight is real.

00:07:33 Andy Goram

Well, it is real. And it's not limited to Hospitality, is it? I mean, we're talking about Hospitality today, 'cause I love it. You love it. I think it's an area of industry that is up against it right now, I think, after the last couple of years.

00:07:50 Jane Sunley


00:07:51 Andy Goram

But it is right to hold up the people who are out there doing amazing stuff. And actually, some of that stuff isn't so amazing. It just sounds like common sense, doesn't it?

00:08:00 Jane Sunley

Well, that's the thing and this is why I get so frustrated. Because actually, it's just like, stop, take a breath, do sensible stuff. It's not about anything that's going to cost millions, or, you know, compared with, I don't know, refurbishing a hotel room, or, you know, resurfacing a Bar, you know. The amount of money you would actually have to spend to become a better employer is, you know, no more than that really. But they don’t seem able to sign that cheque.

00:08:31 Andy Goram

Yeah, I agree, I mean... Well, let's have a little think about what came out of the summit, because I'm in agreement with you. I think I sat there. I enjoyed the day. There were some really good speakers, great networking opportunities to meet some people, but I sort of found myself sat there going,

Yep. Yep, that's Yep, that's sensible. That's good.”

There was nothing to me, like earth-shattering about what was really being said, with what people were doing. And I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I'm kind of hopeful it's a good thing, because therefore it's not a barrier for other people coming in and doing something similar. But I don't know. What did you... as an overall what did you take from the event?

00:09:15 Jane Sunley

Yeah, overall well, Ditto. I mean, I thought it was great to get everybody in the room. That was good for a start and the energy was great. And you know people were genuinely pleased to learn. And a lot of people came up to me afterwards and went, “Oh! that was amazing.” And I thought, “I wish everybody would stop saying that.” Not saying things about me, I mean just in general about the Summit. But I thought, “It's not amazing,” as you say, “it's sort of normal stuff that people should be doing anyway.”

00:09:39 Andy Goram


00:09:40 Jane Sunley

There was a great session at the beginning with Selin (Kaizim) and Laura (Christie) from a restaurant called Oklava, and they were talking about making sure people get home safe at night, so they leave on time to get their last bus, or they get them a taxi or whatever. And stopping doing horrendous shifts. And do you know what, we don't have to do that now, But I mean listening to those two women talk, I just thought, “Yeah, that's a really great place to work if you're in a restaurant.” But I do think, you know, there's a real difference between the way, Oklava, obviously, treat their people. Whoever, whatever sex they are, they just make sure they're safe. And it's interesting because the top thing that came out of the best places to work survey this year, was that people wanted a safe and positive environment.

00:10:30 Andy Goram

So there you go. So directly in line with the sentiment that's out there. One of the interesting, most interesting parts from the other day, I think, was when Kate Nicholls got up. Kate Nicholls is the CEO of UK Hospitality, and she gave some quite startling statistics, I thought, on the back of the state, I guess, at the landscape facing Hospitality right now. I think she said something like there were 4000 active vacancies that we were looking at. I thought a really tough stat, that we mentioned before in the intro, that 42% of people wanted to leave the industry. I think that's quite a shocking number. And then I didn't quite know this was going to be the number, but 20% of people who went through furlough, didn't come back when restrictions were lifted again, and the scheme stopped. Which... I mean... one in five not coming back, right?

00:11:26 Jane Sunley

No, it's horrendous. But actually, not surprising. Because it was horrendous and they had to suddenly go, “Well, I'm going to find something else to do”, and unfortunately a lot of them found something that they quite liked doing, or they went for money. You know, there are people out there doing delivery driving at twice what they were getting paid in the Hospitality industry, really. So that's not good, is it?

00:11:47 Andy Goram

No. Well, I think that whole thing about pay and working conditions in Hospitality is... well it’s a key area to look at, isn't it? For that, for that very reason. I mean look case in point, my 16-year-old son Max, right? He is doing his GCSE's right now. He's starting to look for a part-time job. And you know, back in my day, it would have been the local pub or restaurant or whatever. Go and get that kind of job. Nowadays, you know, he's looking at Tescos. So, fulfilling shelves, or doing online shopping, or working for Decathlon in a warehouse, or Clipper, or whatever it might be, with £4-£5 different pay per hour than a Hospitality equivalent. I mean that... and I know this is going to sound daft, but for his generation, he could wander around the warehouse with his music on, he could work the hours that he wants to work, you know...

00:12:46 Jane Sunley

Wearing his shorts and his flip-flops, or whatever he wants.

00:12:50 Andy Goram

Yeah, it's a different competitive landscape for pay and working conditions. So what do you take out of that? What do you see?

00:13:00 Jane Sunley

I think there's, well, two things. One is, we're probably never going to compete with every other industry on pay. I mean, you're never gonna compete with Amazon, for instance, at Christmas. You just aren't going to. However, I do think the Hospitality industry needs to take a big, brave breath and think about money. And I mean, I'm showing my age now, but I remember when the national minimum wage was going to come in. And I was the only person who would give The Caterer an interview in favour of it. Because everybody in Hospitality, I mean, there must have been some that weren’t, but they didn't find any, they were all up in arms saying,

This is the death of the industry. It's going to be horrendous. You never going to pay these people these things. We won't be able to afford to operate.”

You know the pub industry was absolutely up in arms about it. I mean, you know I'm very practical. Maybe it's a northern thing, I don't know to generalise, but I just said, “Look, you know what? People still want to go to the pub. Put your prices up. They're still going to come and have a drink. They’re not going to stay at home.” I mean, maybe that wasn't quite right in the end, but you know, overall people still want to go out and do Hospitality-type things, and you know take this for the positive that it is. That you're going to be paying people more, and if that's enforced, it's a shame that this industry, you know, wasn't doing it already.

And you know what happened? I got in terrible trouble from my boss, by the way, at the time, from this massive spread in The Caterer - This woman thinks it's good idea. Hey! It got my profile up what the hell. Anyway, got in trouble, and then do you know what, it came in and it was like nothing. It just happened. People put the prices up. People got paid better. All went away. I mean, really? You know, maybe there's a little bit of pain for a few weeks, but it just sort of didn't happen. So in a way, it proves that if you all take a collective breath and go, “Right. We're going to put our money up here.” Just a little bit. Just to show willing. Because it, you know, as I say, you're never going to be able to double it. But I think just gradual increases would really help.

And the other thing is... So another thing that came out of Best Places To Work Survey, and this is nothing unusual. Is that in priority order, so this survey is unique because people rank the things that are important to them.

00:15:09 Andy Goram


00:15:10 Jane Sunley

So rather than just answering a list of questions that some psychologists made up once, which there’s nothing wrong with that. But this is about, you know, we're in a practical industry let's get people to choose what's important. Pay came fifth on the list.

00:15:23 Andy Goram


00:15:24 Jane Sunley

And ahead of that was, as I mentioned before, a safe and positive environment. Well, we can all do that. Work/Life balance; we should all be doing that. Teams. Team dynamics and teams where you could achieve. So we can all do that. And good leadership. So, we should be all able to do that. And if you got those things right, then the pay doesn't become as important. OK, if you're 16 and you don't really care you just... I mean, like my kids worked in Hospitality, they didn't really mind what they did, they just wanted the money. It's fine. But I think if you're looking for a career, you know, if you get those things right, then pay does become a lot less important.

00:15:58 Andy Goram

Yeah look. I mean, I think like in any business, in any place of work, the pay is largely a hygiene factor. If you pay a fair wage, fine, great. The other things are the things that make you turn a part-time job into a career, or a long-term relationship with a business right? I mean, it's not always the case, but often it's not the money that makes you leave, it's the relationships at work. It's the leadership that you don't get. It's the development that you don't get. It's feeling unvalued in whatever shape that maybe, that will be the real reasons for driving you away, ultimately.

00:16:40 Jane Sunley

Oh, I know this for a fact 'cause we talk to people about this all the time. And yeah, they leave 'cause their Boss didn't treat them very well, and was a bit of an idiot to them. Or yeah, they you know, they’re working stupid shifts, or they've got no control over their lives because they don't get their rota until a week before the month. Or they can't change a shift themselves, they’ve got to go and ask permission, and you know, some arsey manager goes, “No, sorry you can't.” And it's just pathetic, really. You know, we’ve just got to get our act together with that.

00:17:08 Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean, there's never been more focus on people’s bank balances, than right now. It's a tough world. You can't take the mickey with people’s pay. You've got to pay them a fair wage. It's then all the other things on top of it that really make it count. And I think to me, that's one of the core messages I took out from many of the guys speaking on the day. Was trying to do two things. One get to grips with change. And Hospitality I think, has been pretty slow on some of those things, in adopting change and reacting. And the other stuff is, and we're going to talk, I think, probably about Selin and Laura in a bit more detail and some of the things that they were saying, but I seemed to feel that they were advocating a more human style of leadership. You know, genuinely caring for people. Which, you know, on this podcast, that's our bread and butter, right? That's what we like to like to talk about, but it was a really strong message, I thought, coming through. You've got guys who've been doing it for a long time, and it's part and parcel. And other guys seemed to talk about it like a new thing. So I think that's the problem with Hospitality. You've got major ends of the scale here.

00:18:20 Jane Sunley

Yeah, and it's a really weird dichotomy because a lot of people go into Hospitality, OK, 'cause they like food, which is why I did it, but also because they like people. And they say they love people and being with people, but then they don't care about their people. It's just an odd thing. And I don't understand it. Yeah, I mean those girls are just doing it because it makes sense to them.

00:18:43 Andy Goram

Well, let's talk about them. So, we heard from Selin Kaisim and Laura Christie from Oklava. Now I don’t know about you, I sat there listening to Selin going, “I know Selim. Where do I know her from?” And I genuinely thought I'd kind of like worked with her, or something. But no, she's on Saturday Kitchen and that’s how I know her!

00:19:02 Jane Sunley

I know I did that.

00:19:05 Andy Goram

I felt such a Wally when I made that twig. But I thought it was really refreshing listening to what they were doing with their people. And the simple sentence of

Look, for our employees we want them to know that they matter, and that we care about them.”

I mean, it was a pretty simple statement, but powerful.

00:19:26 Jane Sunley

Well, they're saying that for a lot of these people they’re their first employer. So their first entry into the industry, and we want to give them a really good experience. Not because they want them to stay there forever, 'cause they know they're not going to stay with them forever, but they want them to stay in the industry. And I think if more people have that attitude... There's a bit of an, oh this is a terrible phrase, but pile it high, sell it cheap. You know when I started the business and people go what are you doing? And I say, “I'm going to help people to, you know, attract engage and retain people.” And they’re like, “That's a waste of time. It's the nature of the industry. They come, they go.” But it doesn't have to be. And I spent my whole time saying it does not have to be like that. If you do the right things, you will keep those people, because we can offer the best careers ever, you know? You can go anywhere with Hospitality, and do any job, really, it's incredibly diverse. But people forget. So I like that they said they were sort of setting the standard for good employment.

They said, they wanted to get to know their people. That's not weird, is it? You know, get to know your people, how brilliant!

00:20:28 Andy Goram

How strange it is.

00:20:29 Jane Sunley

I don't, I mean just very sensible and I'm glad they take the time to do that. And they were talking about, you know, putting faith in their people and trusting them and building mutual trust. Trust is a massive thing, particularly post pandemic, you know, but you know people... there's a great statistic that says something like, eight out of 10 people, this from Harvard, I didn't make it up, would trust a stranger more than they trust their boss. Which is pretty...

00:20:52 Andy Goram

That's telling, isn't it? I mean.

00:20:56 Jane Sunley

You know, that is absolutely shocking, you know. And because people just think, you know, there’s that parent child relationship that people have, which is totally wrong by the way, where they think they can sort of feed people the information they want them to hear, instead of just being really transparent and going, “Look, this is the way it is.” And you saw it all through the pandemic. The employers who went, “OK, this is tough. It's horrible. Let's all talk about it together and work it out...” and did the best they could. Those people who got put on furlough and got made redundant understood why and could empathise with that, even though it was horrible for them. Which is way better than getting a letter out the blue to say,

Off you go, and by the way, leave your accommodation by the end of the week.”

So, it's just how you deal with those things and how you talk to people.

00:21:36 Andy Goram

Absolutely, and I I think the way that the two of them were speaking, it came across and we overuse the word “authentic” a lot, I think, at the moment, but I think it it really did come across as authentic. So, when they talk about getting to know their team, it's not, I know their name. I know the name of their dog and I know what their favourite colour is. It was on a much more deeper, practical level. “What do they need from us? What are they looking for? Actually, how can we help them do that? What development are they going to going to need?” And I really liked... it seemingly could have gone over peoples’ heads, talking about situations where, you talked earlier, about allowing people to get home safely and letting people leave 25 minutes earlier than others because of a bus route, or something else. And dealing with potential conflict of others going, “Well, that's not fair. Why do they get to leave early?” The way they dealt with that, and just having a conversation and actually somebody else will want to bailout somebody else another time, and they all swap around and trust each other. I mean, that's just normal relationship work, right?

00:22:42 Jane Sunley

Yes. I mean, that's teamwork. If you all like each other as a team, you don't have to be best friends, you all like each other, respect each other, you all trust each other, nobody says, “Oh, that's not fair. That person’s got to leave” because they want them to get home safe.

00:22:54 Andy Goram


00:22:55 Jane Sunley

You know, there’s swings and roundabouts with everything. And it's all about give and take, you know, and they were saying they look really carefully for signs of burnout.

00:23:04 Andy Goram

I thought that was really, really interesting.

00:23:06 Jane Sunley

It was really good, because, you know, usually people just wait till someone’s like literally on the edge. And then Oh dear, they leave and then everybody goes, “We should have done something about that, shouldn't we?” So they're looking for these signs, and then they do something about it and say, “No. Back off and take your holiday.”

00:23:22 Andy Goram

Even their conversation they were having about about rotaring. You know,

We won't do that ridiculous split shift thing and we won't have people working nine days on two days off.”

I thought... you sit there and go, “Yeah?” But it it almost came across like, well, that's new news in the room.

00:23:42 Jane Sunley

Don't you think for some though, it’s like a badge of honour, because they had to do it, everybody else has got to do it. And what people in this industry fail to realise is this is a different world. Even pre pandemic, this is a different world. The nature of the employee is different. Everything is different, but they're still expecting it to be the way it was for them. And it just isn’t. They've got to suck that up and go, “OK, I'm just going to, you know, go with it and make things different.” And you know you don't want to see people suffer, but there is still some really strange people out there that think 'cause they suffered, everybody else needs to too. And it's just crazy.

00:24:15 Andy Goram

Absolutely. I think it was good that they also recognised that people who are looking for as many shifts as possible, because they need the finances, you know, that's just as much as a worry for them, in that they end up pushing themselves. But the simple fact of the matter was look, seven days straight, you're never going to be your best. You’re never going to operate at your best. Things are going to get tougher at home as they are at work, the more you go on. But they weren't shying away from the fact that look, it's a busy restaurant, right? And we have to work hard. It's not a happy-clappy thing. We work hard, yeah?

00:24:43 Jane Sunley

No it wasn’t. That's what I liked about it. Because there's someone who's very successful. You know, they're not new. They've been around and are super successful, because of all of those things and it is really, really hard work. But, you know you can do that and enjoy it, if you do it in a kind, trusting, fair way. And now we need more of that, don't we really?

00:25:04 Andy Goram

100%. Look, everything always comes back to trust as far as I'm concerned. People on the podcast are sick of me talking about Lencioni's five dysfunctions of a team, you know. If you don't get past trust, you're not going anywhere, right? Not in the long term. You can fluke a result here and there... yeah, exactly.

00:25:20 Jane Sunley

If you don't get past that then it's really sad.

00:25:23 Andy Goram

Well, that's what takes the effort, though, isn't it? That's not the quick fix. You talked earlier about people trying to copy somebody else. No, look internally, take your time. Get to know people and build that trust. It's a long-term thing.

So look, if we look at the guys who've made it through to the shortlist.

00:25:38 Jane Sunley


00:25:39 Andy Goram

In The Best Places to Work in Hospitality, well firstly, who are they are they? Are they the usual suspects? Are these new guys coming through? What is it they're doing?

00:25:48 Jane Sunley

It’s a mix, actually. So the way it works, is we take the top two large, the top two medium, the top two small employers and they make the six. And I've got to say that, you know, if it was down to the very top of the list, they'll all be small employers. Because it's way easier to be a best place to work if you've got 7 people or 10 people, than if you've got 2000 people. So, the way we do it is to make sure that the larger employers get recognised as well.

So in there this year we had Valor who run franchises for people like Holiday Inn, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and they're actually previous Caty winner. So, I think it's great that people like that do not rest on their laurels, that they keep going. And I mean, you know we work with them quite closely, and every year they go, “What can we do. What can we do? What's the next thing? And the next thing?” and they're always pushing it, in quite a difficult business. Because these are not, you know, really sexy 5-star hotels or, you know they're kind of mid-range big hotels in some cases where like you know areas where it’s difficult to get people. You know, I stayed in one a few weeks ago... a couple of weeks ago, and I was absolutely bowled over by the service. And I'm not just saying that. I mean, we have nothing to do with the service, but I was bowled over by it. It was like...

00:27:07 Andy Goram

Just because it was what good? Personal or friendly or...?

00:27:10 Jane Sunley

It was attentive, smiley. (They) couldn't do enough for you. Very sensible, you know, didn't hassle you when we didn't want it. But the guy that welcomed us in, I mean, I felt like the Queen had arrived. It was just so nice. The way you expect service to be in a very high-end, five-star hotel, except they're not. And just all the little touches and it was, you know, the breakfast’s, you know, it's a big buffet breakfast, but they can't do enough for you. Whereas you know, you're expecting in a place like that, and I'm not doing them down, but in a mid-range hotel you don't really expect anybody to be particularly nice. You expect to be processed. And I didn't feel processed and we both, Jo was there, and we both remarked on the fact that they just make it made us feel like, a really special pair of guests, which was so nice. And if they can do that in Birmingham, nothing wrong with Birmingham. If they can do it in the middle of Birmingham in a big, busy hotel, where it's hard to get people and all the rest of it. Then I'm pretty sure we could do it in London.

00:28:14 Andy Goram

Well, you would hope.

00:28:16 Jane Sunley

It’s not often the case though, is it?

00:28:17 Andy Goram

Not really. I think it is interesting though, 'cause I think, I got accused of scaring some waiters in a hotel restaurant the other day, because I tried to engage in conversation with them. Because I'm one of those guests... I like to get to know the guys who are serving me. And I mean, I'm not trying to find their life story, but I like a bit of... to engage. I like a bit of banter, right? Because I think from being on the other side of it, those were always the customers that I enjoyed serving more. I felt more relaxed. I felt a bit of a connection. Yeah, it was. It was good. But yeah, I think I scared a guy the other day, just by literally wanting to have a conversation with him. And he looked like a Deer caught in the headlights, wasn't quite sure what to do.

00:28:57 Jane Sunley

Well, sometimes there's two aspects. I mean, one. They're just not trained. Or two, they're over trained. So, they're not allowed to... you know, there's that whole thing, I think, and you mentioned authenticity. But authenticity is really important to people and being yourself today of all days. It's like you said about your son wants to walk around with these headphones in. People want to be themselves and do the things that they want to do. And you know there are still organisations that try and put people through 200 standard operating procedures and make them learn all this stuff, and actually it's more about teaching them the framework. And then saying within that framework, be yourself. Do what it takes. And clearly when we stayed in that Hilton in Birmingham the other week, those people had just been told, you know, use your personalities to be as nice as possible to the guests and just make them feel great. And that's what they were doing. And everybody was doing it. It was amazing.

00:29:51 Andy Goram

You've got to get that combo of a bit of process to help you, and then your personality. And you can tell when it's either-or. You just want that happy blend.

So we've got Valor. Who else have we in there?

00:30:01 Jane Sunley

We’ve got Valor. I've got The Old Stocks Inn in Stow-on-the-world. Thomas Franks, who are a contract catering business. Genuine Dining Company. Dakota Hotel in Manchester. I think it's a first entry for them. So they're pretty excited. And a company called Aviator. So those are the six shortlist and then they write a submission and that goes through to judging. Which actually, I don't do. Jo does, but I do have a few little ideas of the things that they're doing.

00:30:28 Andy Goram

I was going to say, so what is it that these guys are doing above and beyond others?

00:30:31 Jane Sunley

Well, they've all got very clearly defined culture. So they’ve all got, and you know 'cause you do this, we do this, but they know what their purpose is. They know what values are. They know what the behaviour is supposed to be. And that all resonates again with things that come out of the the survey.

So, you know, for instance, one of the things that... one of the criteria that people said hospitality industry could improve was measuring performance against the right behaviours. Which is really interesting, where people have come up with that, because they're sick of being judged on gut feel. Or hearsay, or you know... I mean, I know there are nightmare leaders that go round hotels and talk to two people and come back and go,

Right! We’ve got to change the policy!” and “Everybody thinks this...” And it's like, “Hang on a minute. How many people did you talk to and what did they actually say?”

They just do fly off the handle, and sometimes that happens. Whereas, if you're actually saying like this what’s expected, and be very clear about that, and then measuring that, people want to be measured in that way. They don't want someone making a snap judgement about their performance when they don't know, 'cause they're not there watching them.

00:31:39 Andy Goram

It's one of the things I enjoy doing the most with clients. Last week, with a couple of venues, on a bit of a test, taking the kind of values and service principles out to them. Unpacking the reasons why they are what they are, right? Explaining why and where it's come from, and then allowing them to say, “OK. In my day-to-day, that's going to look like this."

00:32:01 Jane Sunley

Yes, exactly.

00:32:02 Andy Goram

Right, that is the way to transfer ownership for this stuff. And their engagement in that process was far, far greater than trying to get given a list of things to regurgitate, right? It just doesn't permeate. It doesn't sink in. And so I'm a massive advocate for that.

00:32:19 Jane Sunley

I think so. So just giving people the why, I guess. And enabling them to work it out. A lot of those companies. In fact, I think most of those companies are sort of tackling the recruitment crisis from within. So what I mean about that is, putting a massive priority on employee advocacy. Because I think that's the only way to fix this. And I think it's great that we're having an industry PR campaign and you know, with lots of money being raised for that, but it sort of worries me... I’ve been saying for years we need a PR campaign, but we also need to get our act together internally. Because if we attract all these people and then we still treat them like, whatever...

00:32:54 Andy Goram

The promise has got to match up to the reality, Jane, you know.

00:32:55 Jane Sunley

Yeah, it's just not going to work. So, I think they're tackling it from the inside. In that they are just looking and thinking, “What do our people need right now?” You know, and going and talking to them and find out. Because if you can give people what they need and that came through over and over on the people Summit day, if you find out what it is, and you don't know if you don't ask them, and then you give it to them within reason, and if you can't, you explain why you can't. Then you’re sort of more than halfway there really.

00:33:21 Andy Goram

Even asking the question is a start.

00:33:24 Jane Sunley

You know, I mean, every time I say to people you know, clients go, “What can I do about recruitment?” You've got to have really strong advocates. And you know, a lot of these companies in the shortlist are paying them more to introduce people, or do more creative incentives to get them to bring people. And, you know, we're finding at the moment that people might be happy in their own jobs, but they wouldn't necessarily recommend it to somebody else because it's so tough. So, happiness and engagement doesn't necessarily equal advocacy. You know, the only way to ask is to ask that Employee Net Promoter score question, which is, “Would you recommend this place to a loved one, or family or friend as a place to work?” And to work out whether they would, or whether they wouldn't. And if not, you've got to address those things.

00:34:06 Andy Goram

But I think it's also interesting though, when you say that, and then you look at the results of your survey to that sort of question, compared to the 42% that we heard that we're going to leave, or wanted to leave Hospitality, isn’t it something like 6% or something?

00:34:22 Jane Sunley

Six percent, yeah.

00:34:23 Andy Goram

I mean there is a stat in itself.

00:34:26 Jane Sunley

Absolutely. And that means you’re sort of preaching to the converted, aren't you? And I'd like to get all the other people in the industry in that room, at that People Summit, 'cause the people who come or are the people who want to make it better and better. And it just goes to show you know 6% vs. 42%. I mean that's huge, isn't it?

00:34:43 Andy Goram

That's stark, my friend. That is absolutely stark. So let's project forward. You have got all these people in the room. You have got the right people in the room. What are you going to say to them is the way forward, Jane?

00:34:55 Jane Sunley

Well, I think absolutely the fact find. So go and find out what's going on. Go and talk to people. If you've got loads of people we can survey them, maybe do focus groups, whatever. You can get people like you and I in Andy, to come in and help them do that.

00:35:07 Andy Goram

Oh, that’d be marvellous!

00:35:08 Jane Sunley

And well, I do think you know a lot of the people, and you know this, a lot of the people who stand up and go,

I don't really know how to crack this. I know I want to do it, but I don't know how.”

And they come and speak to people like you and I and get specialist advice, they're the people who actually, you know, do better out of this than just trying to do it all yourself. Because if you're a business owner or an HR generalist, you know, you’re trying to do everything else. You can't... and this is a very specific area, I mean it is quite specialist, isn't it?

00:35:40 Andy Goram

I think so. I think it's one of those things that you said right at the start of here, it's always going to be specific to you in your business. There is a pathway, right? But the steps within each of those paths are sometimes quite different and sometimes very personal. But it is about going out there asking the questions, sitting down and looking at what is being said, and trying to line up the business truth, the employee truth, and the customer truth. And if you can line those three things up, you're in a good place, I think.

00:36:19 Jane Sunley

Exactly, yeah! And then you need a plan that is practical. I do see people do work with, you know, whoever, third parties and they do come up with this massively complicated plan. And you know, life is mad at the moment. You've no time to do that. So it is about pulling it out and getting really quick wins. Or you know, I always think it's better to get 3 things out of a session that people are actually going to do, than 103 things, that are just going to sit on a page, and everybody regrets that they never actually managed to do it in the end, so...

00:36:51 Andy Goram

Well, my biggest learning in corporate life, I think, was the period of time where we really did roll back on the number of things we were trying to achieve. And we really did focus on the... it was three things we wanted to move an absolute mile, and that's exactly what we did. Whereas in previous years it had been look at this big list of things we've got for the finance guys. This is all the things we're going to do. And best will in the world we didn't achieve many of them at all. Certainly not to the degree we wanted to achieve that, because you just can't do it.

And I am a massive advocate, especially when it comes to this sort of stuff. This is a long-term game and it's about knocking off the things that are really important, but really, focusing in on the the handful of things as you go through that plan.

00:37:41 Jane Sunley

It's a marathon, not a sprint, isn't it?

00:37:43 Andy Goram

Yeah, but people need to see... they need to see results. They need to get belief, yeah? You do need the results.

00:37:47 Jane Sunley

So get the quick wins. Because you will get some quick wins. One quick win will get you some sort of result. I think be prepared to invest in it. You know, we're not talking Mega Millions, but just compare your marketing budget with people engagement budget, and compare your, you know, cost of refurbishing your hotel with refurbing your people, if you like. Because I'm always astounded that people spend millions on that and won't spend 1/10th of that or a 5th of that or whatever, on, you know, the people. It's crazy.

00:38:19 Andy Goram

Yeah, like 100%. 100%.

00:38:21 Jane Sunley

You can have a beautiful hotel but without engaged, excited people that experience isn't there for customer, is it? So I guess that is a bit of advice. I think definitely create advocacy and what that actually means. And you know, I think treat HR as marketing. These days it is like a campaign. But the reality has to underpin the campaign, you know. So, for instance, you wouldn't have a lovely website for your property, or hotel, or whatever and say the rooms look like this, and then they look completely different. So, you can't go out there saying we're a great employer and then when people get there. The reality is that you're not. So, I think if you could just authentically be a great employer, and then go and make sure that the word is out there. You know people have to put a bit of marketing effort behind this. I can't tell you how many people haven't really mastered the whole social media thing, which is unbelievable really.

00:39:14 Andy Goram

Well, especially when you think of the workforce that's coming through. I mean this is how they communicate.

00:39:20 Jane Sunley

Yeah, exactly you know there’s a few clients doing stuff on Tik Tok and things. And I said this to someone the other day and they said,

“Oh! We never thought of that!” and it's like, “How did you not think of that?”

Because those are the sort of people you want. “Oh! But we don't really want that age group”, but everybody's on there. You know they're not all 16. So I'm not saying you have to do Tik Tok but whatever is right for you. Just look at the possibilities and move with the times really.

00:39:43 Andy Goram

100% agree with that. Jane, look, we've come to the part of the show where I'm asking you now to kind of summarise all of your advice. All of your thoughts, your take-outs, on what I like to call sticky notes. Because my attention span is tiny, this is advice that you could fit on 3 little post it notes, mate. So if you're thinking about the world of Hospitality and you’re thinking about engagement, what three pieces of advice would you leave us with?

00:40:08 Jane Sunley

Right, so my first one is, ask the right questions. Listen to the answers and do something with it.

But the second one is, be prepared to invest and consult specialists, because with the best will in the world most people don't know what they're doing.

And the third one is be kind to your people and be a reasonable employer. You know, treat them as if that was your son, or your daughter working there. And you know, you shouldn't do the treat them as yourself thing, but you should certainly just think, “Would I want anybody with my beloved child, or do I want them to be kind and reasonable and make them safe and secure? And all of those things.” So just be a kind and reasonable employer. It's not that hard.

00:40:46 Andy Goram

Lovely, what a nice, lovely way to finish with a very positive sticky note at the end there.

Now looking ahead, how can people register for Best Places to Work in Hospitality, going forwards?

00:41:00 Jane Sunley

Well, if they look at Press, certainly The Caterer and catering press in October time, it'll be getting live. It stays live right until February, so there's no excuse that it's busy 'cause it's Christmas. So you know, you've got plenty of time to do it. Lots of people just leave it till January. Some people get it out the way in October before the Christmas rush has made everybody feel a bit meh! So look out for it. Get in there. It's super cheap.

It's the value of the information that comes out of the survey that is invaluable. So even if you don't make the list, no one will ever know that you've entered, if you don't make the list. So there's no shame in not making it. But I hope people will have a go. But you just get a whole load of information out the back that says, look this is where you're not performing so well. This is where you’re performing quite well. These are some of things you could do. We're very happy to go and talk to people at no charge and all that, just a bit of advice, if that's what they want.

Interestingly, not many of the Hospitality people take us up on that. But we've just done the same thing to the travel industry and I have been inundated with calls with people going, “But what does this mean? What can we do with it? Tell us, tell us!” So, it's interesting that they're really, you know in the fight. So yeah, you know. And so what have you got to lose really?

00:42:13 Andy Goram

What have you got to lose? Well, you’re going to gain a whole bunch of retained, engaged employees who are doing a great job for you. Jane, thanks so much for your time, mate. You take care and I will see you again soon.

00:42:24 Jane Sunley

Yeah, absolutely thanks Andy, been a pleasure.

00:42:27 Andy Goram

OK, everyone that was Jane Sunley, and if you'd like to find out a bit more about her and some of the things that we've talked about today, please check out the show notes.

00:42:38 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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