How Do You Make A Whole Industry Better At Talent Retention
How do you make a whole industry better at talent retention and attraction, or as I would say, stickier?
This is a tough enough challenge for many industries today as we face into the winds of considerable societal and workforce change and expectations, but it's even harder when that industry has had a tough run of it. One such industry is UK Hospitality.
The Pandemic really gave it a kicking, effectively turning off its revenue stream, and opening the door to nearly 20% of its workforce who never returned after finding alternative work during that period. Brexit has also taken away a large source of its employee pool, and the current financial crisis has customers even more value-conscious at a time when cost prices are skyrocketing for many business owners. It's a tough landscape.
But what many believe is that these issues have just accelerated the effects and exposed many underlying issues that were already there. Poor working conditions and pay, long hours, poor scheduling, little or no focus on employee wellbeing, no career progression and a workforce that had been taken advantage of by too many poor operators.
It's a big challenge, no doubt. But it's not all doom and gloom.
In episode 80 of my podcast, Sticky From The Inside, I spoke with Karen Bosher, who's been an advocate for change within the Hospitality sector for a good many years, and has a considerable amount of experience across many other sectors, about what needs to happen to make the industry more attractive to talent, and give it the ability to hold on to that talent. And the challenges that UK Hospitality faces are not all unique to them.
Below is a full transcript of the whole conversation where Karen offers up her views and opinions on what needs to be done. But you can also listen to the whole episode here:
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 the 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.
The Industry's Talent Retention Challenge
Okay, so on this show, we have talked about how to make leaders and businesses stickier, as well as all the many other interesting related topics and self-development stuff. But today, my friends, we tackle a big'un. Because I've titled today's episode, "How does a whole industry become stickier?" I mean, I think that sounds like a pretty big question. How does an entire industry hold on to and attract talent and create passionate advocates for its customers? I think this question will be relevant to many industries that are having to move with the times. But rather than have a generic theoretical discussion about it, I want to use the UK Hospitality industry, which, as you know, is very close to my heart, as our example case today, so we can look at practical ways in which this industry can and needs to evolve today to get stickier.
I think the challenges it faces and the strategies it needs to adopt to thrive in this ever evolving landscape, however, are not unique to them. The world of hospitality has always been a dynamic one, a place where when we get it right, unforgettable experiences are crafted and cherished. But it can also wear a badge of work that smacks of long, bruising hours and is not particularly well paid. But we dress it up because it's great fun. I mean, is that still right? And as we step into a new post COVID era marked by a serious generational shift, the demand for more inclusivity and the changes and pressures that puts on leadership raises quite a few questions. How does the UK hospitality industry stay relevant as an employer of choice? How does it attract new talent, retain its shining stars, stay relevant as a career choice, and move forward and keep with the times as an industry?
Well, today I think I've got the ideal person with me to explore this topic, someone who is intimately acquainted with the industry's, challenges, its potential and need for transformation. So I'm delighted to say that I have with me on the show today, Karen Bosher. Karen's a seasoned professional with years of senior leadership experience in the UK hospitality sector. She's a passionate advocate for change and equality and also a staunch believer in the power of human leadership. With Karen's help, I think we'll be shining a light on the critical issues facing the industry and I suspect other industries from the need for greater numbers of senior female leadership. How we need to embrace the arrival and growth of this Gen Z generational cohort, and how things like gender and AI will continue to reshape the employee landscape.
So, whoever you are, if you're going to be working within the next 30 years or so, this episode is a must listen. So get ready to be inspired, informed and engaged as we explore how an entire industry can become stickier. Welcome to the show, Karen.
00:04:17 - Karen Bosher
Hello. What a great introduction.
Introduction To Karen Bosher
00:04:20 - Andy Goram
Well, that's very kind of you. It's lovely to have you here. I have watched you from afar for many, many years. Our paths may well have crossed, but I don't know, I think I was probably in short trousers and left hospitality by the time, so I know lots about you, maybe some of our listeners don't, Karen. So before we get stuck into this enormous topic today, just do me a favour, will you? Can you just give us a bit of your background, what you're up to now, where your real focus is today.
00:04:49 - Karen Bosher
So thank you very much and it's great to be on your program. I've listened to you avidly, so I think you've got some really good themes and obviously this idea of stickiness has brought us together, which is something I've been a passionate advocate for many years, actually, before even knowing sticky was a real thing. So I've worked in the retail and hospitality sector for, as you've already said, quite a number of years, and had a really varied career, everything from Marks and Spencers, big corporates through to Mother Care, Woolworths, JJB. And then lately the last ten I've been known for working at Greene King, where I was Managing Director for the last three and a half years and had a fantastic time working in the hospitality sector, but obviously my career is much broader than that. So I ran urban spaces for Greene King and particularly in the London area, which know, this is a massive issue for that type of marketplace. So went through lots of learning, I think, running pubs in that particular ecosystem, but yeah, also in the premium sectors and in some really interesting businesses that I think have got now you're seeing broader context of challenges about how you attract particularly gen Z into that space, really. And then keep them in there, give them compelling careers. So I think that's what's kind of brought us together.
The State of the UK Hospitality Industry
00:06:16 - Andy Goram
Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a sticky connection that doesn't sound too weird, which is I'm sure we'll get into and explore. I think it's also, for me, the broad background of retail and customer experience, coupled with your latest stint in hospitality. And if there has been an industry that has been bashed over the last few years, it's hospitality. Looking at your deep experience in other areas and what you saw in hospitality and where we find ourselves today, Karen, what do you see as that landscape? Right. What do you see as the challenges that set up this conversation that we're going to have about how an industry needs to change in order to kind of really hang on to its talent and attract new talent?
00:07:10 - Karen Bosher
Yeah, it's really interesting, the context, because everybody arrives at this conversation talking about the pandemic and that for me, it's shone a light on a situation that's been going on for a long time. And then I think the pandemic sort of shuffled down the issue because I definitely know that in the pubs, what I witnessed was a lot of people had just kind of been continuing in their little nucleus in their pub space, never really questioning their life purpose, or why they did things or how they did things. And then suddenly their whole world was turned on a bit of an axis. And then some much more critical questions came out. And even though I think Greene King did really well from that whole situation, in terms of their advocacy for their team and retention, I think the industry generally just suffered this massive hemorrhage. I think that the quoted number is 2 million people left the industry at that point, never to be seen again. And I don't think it was as a result of the Pandemic, but I think the Pandemic kind of brought a lot of things to the surface that were otherwise going to happen anyway. I think this crisis, as we see it now and the various initiatives that go into place with things like Hospitality Rising and all the call outs from the industry bodies, it would have happened anyway. I think we would have reached a level of criticality either through Brexit, or through just the way that the workforce is changing, that there would have been this seizure in the market for good talent anyway. So it's just brought the future forward faster than it might have done. And that's a good thing, really, from my point of view.
The Employers' Role
And obviously I'm sitting on the periphery of it now, but I think it's a good thing because it's brought particularly some of the bigger providers to the table. Much more quickly because there's an air of crisis about it. To say we have to do things faster, we have to be better, we have to look at the core route as to why the workplace isn't seen as good enough in the hospitality sector. And I think that springs up in retail. I think it springs up in other sort of minimum and entry level career type opportunities. How do we get better so that we have our fair share of the best talent that's available out there. And certainly I think the way that and I don't want to get political about it, but the way that sort of the ecosystem has been set up, the emphasis is on the employers to do more. I think the government sort of say they're doing more, but at the end of the day, I think a lot of this has been left in the hands of the employer to sort out, really, so that businesses at a time when they're already under a lot of financial stress, have then got the added sort of challenge of having to then invest in infrastructure to make sure that they become more compelling as an employer of choice.
00:09:58 - Andy Goram
Yeah, I mean, it's so much deeper than a wage issue or something like that. There's so many layers to kind of peel back. I was with a bunch of, I guess, young, I would call them young compared to me, but young, thrusting managers and heads of department from a pretty good, I would say, pub/bar company. Great energy, fantastic people, and sitting down and talking with these guys about the leadership challenges that they've got and trying to help them sort of move forward. I mean, there's a lot of desire and energy, but they are knackered, they are shot to pieces and this is something we've really got to get over.
00:10:42 - Karen Bosher
Yeah, no, I agree with you and I think that's the maybe that's the key to the door. I do think that leadership creates a huge amount of stickiness in organizations and it's easy to think that it's about the board or the strategic direction. I've been involved in that whole thing where you think that's what's going to be the rally call, actually, it's on the ground sometimes just care and showing up in places that people feel connected to that, particularly if you're a very large organisation. And I think some of the most inspiring work and where you see Gen Z as really connecting fastest is in those sort of mid small and mid cap companies where they're following an ideology or more of a tribal philosophy, around a bunch of entrepreneurs, maybe young men, or women, who've got a bit of a philosophy and they go, yeah, as I get older, I just want to be one of them. And I think then they are creating the most compelling spaces. And I think...
Being Truly Values-Led As An Organisation
I love Seth Godin, who wrote "Tribes" and I must have read that book about 30 years ago and thought, "Yeah, this is going to be the future of everything. That people are going to start to become very specific about their followerships." And I think we're starting to see that get carved out in hospitality quite overtly that people are saying I'm going to be quite values-led about type of spaces that I socialize in. I'm going to be very values-led about who I'm prepared to work for, and I want to be in a cohort of people who represent the values that I have as an individual. So sometimes organizations go, these are our values, you must fit those values. I think that's probably going to be an outdated modus operandi. I think people will choose who they are and then they'll find organizations that fit those, and as they mature, those values are likely to change. I'm sure your values now you're not an older person, but as a more mature person are very different when you're 18. Yeah, that's good. Kind of me, isn't it? But I know mine are. But I take most interest out of pursuing those specific interests, which is why I think things like the alcohol free debate is really exciting. I think people's dietary choices are really exciting. And the large corporates' got quite a big challenge because they'll try and cover all of those bases or create individual brands to target it. But if it's not really authentic, I think you get found out really fast because the leadership in the organization has got to exemplify those values. Otherwise it doesn't kind of live in the ecosystem. And I think Gen Z'ers are really savvy about sniffing that out. So they're not prepared when corporates and just go, yeah, let's wave the flag. We're all about veganism, if actually the leadership doesn't exemplify it.
00:13:23 - Andy Goram
100%. I think this is a wonderful segue into the sort of the Gen Z piece, because I've always been a fan of values and people on this podcast are bored of me saying, that if you can find the connection between what drives the business and what drives the people within it, you're in a happy space. Right? But I think this is becoming more pertinent with this shift in the generational cohort that we are seeing. I guess through age, we're seeing the Boomers go. The greatest generation, us Generation X's - we're not as big in numbers. Millennials and Gen Zs in the next six, seven years are going to make up the vast majority of the employee landscape. Right? Some of them are leaders today, but they're going to be the leaders of tomorrow and they're going to bring, I think, a different philosophy. Now, whether you buy into the social science of generational cohort theory or not. I'm not saying it applies to every single individual in that cohort, but there are some themes, and you talking about the importance of a cause, the importance of having a values set that is exemplified and mirrored, if you like, by an organization, I think is coming to the forefront. Right. But I'm just sitting on a podcast going on about these things. You're in there working with people, making these things happen. What do you see coming through with this generational shift, Karen?
The Challenge of Appealing To Younger Workers
00:14:47 - Karen Bosher
Well, I think there's simply just not enough people in the market to cover the amount of employment opportunity there is. So I think that's the first base. And you want people to arrive into their first stage of their work life match-fit. I think this linkage between how they exit college, university, school, whatever it is, to their first job, is really important. And I do think there's a massive opportunity to strengthen the relationships between educators and employers. And I think they think apprenticeships is doing that for them. But my observation, having run and been observing large apprenticeship schemes for a long time, is that it's not fit for purpose yet. There's lots of good work in there and I've seen some great examples of people coming out with sort of level six and beyond qualifications and doing well as a result of it, but it's not enough. And I think particularly when people have no workplace experience, the connectivity and the skills in the workplace to develop those people through, I think that's a really big challenge. So I think that's kind of base one.
I think then employers being seen as relevant to younger workers, so why am I attracted? And I think that's a massive challenge because you see quite a lot of recruitment materials and I sometimes think, oh, are they a little bit... if I was 18 and I was looking at I could travel the world as a TikTok influencer, or I could go and work in that restaurant, what am I going to do? And I just think sometimes our ability to come across as relevant and talk in a language that younger people understand and are inspired by, I think is sometimes a bit of a bit of a gap. And not all companies can afford big, corporate, fancy marketing businesses that can come in and really reach into those things. So how relevant people sort of assume that young people know who we are. And I think the reality is I've got a 21 year old and an 18 year old and I would say, oh, well, of course you know about such and such a brand, and they don't, that's not part of their world. They are operating in a very different sphere. So I think how relevant are you?
And then I think how do you reach them? So how do you start to talk to people and talk to them about the industry? Because unfortunately, because there is so much crisis in the hospitality industry and if you watch the news and some of the fantastic work that the industry is doing to sort of put call outs to the government for relief and support and all the things that need to happen to make it a viable ecosystem and change the business model, well, that's not very encouraging, because if you were a young person looking at that, you think, this is an environment driven by crisis, and am I going to have a good career there, or am I going to be lent on? We talk a lot about minimum wage. Actually, in hospitality there are some really brilliant career path opportunities. Yet there seems to be this disconnect between what people say it's going to be like, and then what appears in the market as the reality of people's experiences. And I think reputation then is very important. We use Glassdoor a lot. I'm not sure how much people, or even young people would look at Glassdoor, but I think word of mouth is very important and social media is very important in terms of containing your reputation as an employer.
So I think it's a little bit of an opportunity that people can start to, without being too corporate about it, spread the word about what a great employer they are to work for, because I think the companies that are doing it very well tend to be smaller. There's a followership around the leadership of those organizations. Maybe those people are showing more entrepreneurial spirit and there is a tendency in younger people, and we saw this through even like Duke of Edinburgh Awards. People who had been really compromised but trying to turn their lives into productive space would then reach for really inspiring role models to say, actually, I don't want to go and work in a Baker's, but I do want to be an Artisanal Baker. Right, you're going, "Oh my God, you've gone from like a-z in terms of expectations, actually, go and get a great apprenticeship with a good bakery company and you can do really well from it." But it's that expectation in modern times about if I'm going to work in a kitchen, I'm going to go and work for Gordon Ramsay. But the notion of working in a corporate, average kitchen, "No, that doesn't appeal to me. That's not sexy enough."
So how do you really make that compelling? I think that's what Hospitality Rising is attempting to address, is to say it's more compelling. But there are those outliers out there that aren't treating people well and it is a minimum wage job and people don't have great experiences. And unfortunately, it's that tale of people in the industry then that is carrying the message, rather than all the people who have great experiences and have earned good livings and had very good lives and fun times working in the hospitality industry. So I think that whole piece about being relevant to that cohort, but then having a great reputation on employment is really important.
Relevance, Opportunity & Reputational Management
00:20:13 - Andy Goram
I just want to pick up on those because I think those three things relevance, career opportunities and reputational management. I think they're really important. That relevance? I think we're seeing some polarity. Because I think we are seeing, like you said, smaller, maybe even medium sized, entrepreneurial-led operators who really do have a belief and a mission and a personality behind what they're doing. And they are being attractive. I don't know, maybe someone like a Pizza Pilgrims kind of offer, right? And that is a bit more attractive because there is a brand associated with that, that someone can kind of get behind. And I think if you try and falsify that, you try and fake that, this generation, more than any other, just sees, peels it back and goes, "Well, that's not real." And there's so little stigma to quitting nowadays. If you don't match up to what you say you are, you're not in the game, are you? Because you'll recruit, spend all that money, take someone in and they'll go, "Hold on a second, I've peeked behind the curtain. That is not what this is about. And I'm off." And you lose that, right?
00:21:20 - Karen Bosher
The danger is, though, that people think that that is just the cohort of the entrepreneur, whereas large organizations have never had it so easy for leadership to stand in front of large cohorts of people because of things like this, broadcast and social media. People have said to me, Why do you do so much social media? It's because I always saw it as a way of my team seeing me as a leader every day.
00:21:44 - Andy Goram
Yeah. I mean, I think you've got to use the channels that people use. I mean, that does sound incredibly simplistic, but if people listen or watch or read a certain channel, then go and reach out to them there. You mentioned about how you reach out. I think this is another bit of the change. And I know we're seeing it in recruitment and people using WhatsApp and all the stuff to do interviews and try and keep with it, but it's not a kind of nice to have just an add on. You've really got to understand the channels, where your market is. I mean, it's basic marketing, right? That's what we need. So I think that's incredibly clear.
I wanted to ask you a question and this is, I think, linked to what you said and probably huge amount of... I may use conscious or unconscious bias in my own experience, right. I did my service training in the States as part of my degree, right. I came back and everybody took the Mick saying, "Oh, you're just a robot. Have a nice day. Missing you already", all that rubbish. And to me, they failed to understand the training that I got over there. Because the training I got over there was really just about putting your customer shoes on and really having empathy for what it's like, the other side of the bar, or the table, or whatever. But the customer over there was so evolved, if they didn't like something, they absolutely tore you apart, right? "No, this isn't good enough, go and do me something else." And as a result, the industry had to kind of like, make effort to make things better in the main. But when you talk to guests, they really respected the really great waiters and waitresses and concierge and all those sorts of bits and pieces. That was seen as a proper career, right?
00:23:22 - Karen Bosher
The Perception of Hospitality As A Career
00:23:23 - Andy Goram
And do you really think that people perceive a job in UK hospitality or an opportunity as a proper career now or is it still seen as it's just a bit of service industry. It's what you do if you can't get a job somewhere else.
00:23:38 - Karen Bosher
Well, I do think UK Hospitality treats the front end of the engine like a service engine, as opposed to the States where I think it's really valued. I was very lucky to be able to go across to Austin last year and witness some really great operators over there. And it's very deep in their DNA and they don't compromise on their service. And it can be really different from like a high end sort of restaurant environment or a deep dish pizza offer, but they do everything. They go in 100% and anybody that's working in that environment is involved. They've got to represent their brand to the highest level. But also they are participating in quite a rich payback system. The tipping system over there is notorious, they earn a lot of money through tips.
And I think that's coming next year. It will be really interesting to see how the regulation around tipping and passing the tips back to the servers will change the ecosystem about reward and recognition. I think it's a really interesting. It's going to cause absolute mayhem in sector initially and be a bit of a pain. People are going to be worried about it. But it has got the potential ultimately to change the value creation for the customer and for the server to get into more of an intimate relationship, faster. And I think there are some really clever widgets out there which then can allocate and recognize effort from the point of view of the really sharp end of the business for the server and allow the customer to reward that electronically or by whatever means. So I'm really looking forward to that.
I was in a pub in London this week and they brought the wine over. We drunk the wine and I had a tab on, so I went back to pay the tab at the bar and they had charged me a service charge on the bottle of wine. Which I gave, but when I came out I thought, "Was that really service? The fact that they walked from the bar?" If I'd known they'd put service charge on, I think I might have just taken the bottle myself. And I was delighted that they had offered to bring the bottle over, because they put it in a cooler and they brought glasses over. That's nice. And I was kind of really sort of questioning myself as to whether I was being really mean about the tip thing. Does our culture need to change around that? I paid the tip but I came away thinking, "I don't know if that was service or not." So it'll be interesting because I think if that starts to happen, particularly in liquor led environments, customers expectations then rightly go up and servers and investment in servers and bar staff and waitresses and all those things that come with it. Knowledge, I think, is going to have to go up exponentially to compensate for the expectation that a service charge will be applied in a liquor environment, for example.
The Need For Greater Inclusivity In The Hospitality Industry
00:26:25 - Andy Goram
I think that's really true because it could go completely other way, couldn't it? Because customers could see it as a real kind of like, "Oh, well, I'm just not going to bother if I'm going to get hit with those sorts of charges every time for nothing." So I think you're right. I think it'd be interesting. So from a stickiness perspective so far, we've looked at the generational stuff and the issues of relevancy, communication, the career opportunities and the reputation that you carry. But I guess, and I know this is a topic that you're very, very passionate about, there's the setup from a gender perspective in how the industry is run and managed and led. From that perspective, from that structure behind Hospitality, with this thing about actually trying to make it a more up to date, relevant industry to work for. What do you see as the issues and solutions in that regard, Karen?
00:27:19 - Karen Bosher
Well, I've obviously come out of the pub industry, which is particularly male-dominated, so I'm probably more sensitized than other parts of hospitality. So I think it's better when you go towards bar and restaurant economies. And it's a shame that sort of over 50% of the sort of hospitality spaces are run by women. But yet, as you go further and further up the food chain, representation in most organizations starts to diminish quite quickly. So I think there is a growing sort of responsibility on the industry to wake up and smell the coffee on that. We haven't got any large pub companies led, yet, by a woman. And I think people are noticing that, because my big sort of conversation over the last few years about this has been about the pub space becoming a social democracy.
I believe they are socially democratic and have been through history, but I sense that they're kind of pulling apart from that a little bit at the moment. There are a couple of pub companies trying to address that through better socialization around race and women and social inclusion for people in the LGBTQ community - more welcoming. But they have got a million miles to travel yet and it bothers me a little bit when people say the pub industry has changed. I don't think it's changed even halfway enough yet. Zoning in the pubs hasn't changed. I think the messages are largely the same. And I think there's still a lot of pub spaces, particularly in certain community spaces, where if you were to ask certain cohorts of that community whether they would go into that pub, they wouldn't go there. And I think that's a massive challenge for the industry. Because until they can get their heads around that and become more socially democratic and safer for people to go in, then I think they will seek to lose relevance in certain areas. So it's really important.
And ten years ago, when I picked up this idea, because I was running certain types of venues in London and things like that, it just really shocked me how tribal certain pubs were. And I thought, gosh, there's a massive opportunity here because if only everybody that walked past the door felt they could come in and they felt welcome there and they felt it was a space for them, wouldn't it be better? And I feel like that from an employment perspective as well. Because certainly mountains in the last ten years have been sort of moved to try and change that perception. But it's very deep-rooted in certain parts of the country and certain parts of our community. So I think that's a bit of a gate opener for pubs being relevant for the future and I think some companies are doing really well to advance perception on that, but it's not enough. The industry as a whole has kind of got to take that on. And I honestly believe that you'd need to see much more overt mix in boardrooms and at the top of organizations that show that this is truly an industry that recognizes social and demographic inclusion. I don't think it's anywhere near that yet.
The Growth of Women's Sport In Pubs
00:30:42 - Andy Goram
Yeah, because it sounds to me like you're an advocate for and why wouldn't we all be? It's not just about male and female board set up. This is a much broader diversity we're looking for if we're going to kind of have a hospitality industry that really understands what a multicultural society wants from its events and venues and places to go.
00:31:06 - Karen Bosher
I think one of the biggest things that has happened has been the revolution that's happened in the last sort of two years around women's... viewing women's sport in pubs. I think that has been huge. And whilst not all pubs show sport, it's a big part of the inclusion conversation. And I remember way back when we started saying we would show fixtures, football fixtures, with the women's teams in, people thought we were mad. But I'd obviously come out of working in the football industry before I came to the pub industry and I had this insight that women's, the women's game around soccer, particularly, given it was a fast growing sport in America and China, it was growing faster than the male game in those countries. It was inevitable that a tonne of money was going to go behind that and therefore sponsorship viewing.
So when I come into the pub space, then I make that connection and say, this is going to be a really viable and enjoyable sort of experience. But people thought we were a bit mad, really. And here you go, you roll forward six years on from that and now people are really looking forward to those big fixtures and it's growing all the time and the game for women is growing exponentially. But you're right. I think as part of that, we either then were approached because gay women didn't feel... lesbian and queer women did not feel safe to watch football for women, and they follow those teams in our pubs and they were saying, can you start to create safer spaces for us? How do we tackle this? So we went on a mission then about that.
So it's sort of from one little thing, lots of things start positive things then start to spring out about. You go, "God, I haven't even thought about that." You think everybody can come to the pub and watch football because football is very acceptable in pubs and people know how to manage that, but for certain cohorts of our society, a growing part of that is they didn't feel that they could socially socialize there. And yet this was going to be one of the biggest growth opportunities for viewing football in pubs in the next sort of, umpteen, years. So you're going, oh, we're missing a bit of a trick.
The Changing Attitudes Towards Gender and Inclusivity
Statistically, 36% of under-25s don't really relate to gender anymore. So when you do these surveys, these are really big numbers where people are saying, actually, in the future, will gender even be important? Therefore gender exclusive spaces are going to be much more important because people just want to be who they are and be able to safely socialize in those environments without fear of bias, accusation or persecution. And I know those sounds like massive words, but then you're saying, well, if you're going to be that sort of space, then can you attract team members also who are reflecting the society and the community that you're trying to attract? Will they work there too? So I think I made that kind of... for me, that was always the big connection, that was the puzzle you were trying to solve is that... particularly pubs which cover such a broad spectrum of socialization habits for communities, how do they start to become more inclusive? How do they bring more of the community in? How do they attract a broader base of teams into them and at the same time then attract customers in? Because they go, "Yeah, there's people in there who I think are like me, who understand me. I feel welcome there." I think that's really inspiring, though, when you do hit the nail on the head, you really feel it. They're much nicer places to be. They're better, they're brighter, they're more colourful.
00:34:52 - Andy Goram
I would totally agree. I mean, that is symptomatic, I think, of this societal change that is really, really sweeping through. And I think if you can ignore that at your peril. Just linking quickly to the football thing. I listened to something last night that sort of staggered me in that the Champions League format for the women's leagues has been in operation, the new format has been operation for two years. It's already not fit for purpose because it's excluding too many teams because of the phenomenal growth of the female football industry and all those leagues. You've now got top teams complaining they can't get into the Champions League because the format isn't right. And it was changed two years ago because it wasn't right then.
00:35:38 - Karen Bosher
And the blind spot was people thought everybody wanted to watch a man's game, men playing. The actual conversation was people wanted to watch people winning. Yeah fact that the England team, they've been so successful has been a massive help here because they just wanted to see them win. So it didn't really matter whether it was a man or a woman, it was just they wanted to see their team win. And for a long time people got kind of hung up on the fact they wanted to watch men playing. And just that subtle shift of idea then changes and broadens out the opportunity for those spaces. So that's all kind of tick tick good.
Other Industry Change Influencers Like A.I.
00:36:22 - Andy Goram
Yeah. So we have got I guess in summary, we've got board and people changes right across the board that's needed to bring new and different perspectives and a different approach to I guess, I don't want to use the word incorrectly, but sort of segmentation of venues and all those things are needed. That will be great for customers, but also great at attracting and retaining different cohorts of employees too. I know there's a lot more that's going on to sort of like help disrupt, challenge the industry. What other things are out there that you think actually if we're going to make UKH stickier that we've really got to get to grips with. I mean you can't ignore topics like AI wherever you go at the moment. Is that something that's also playing a part in something that actually hospitality has really got to get a grip of? And are there any other things like that Karen, that you think about?
00:37:14 - Karen Bosher
Yeah, well definitely bringing up A.I. I mean I wasn't really that aware of A.I. while I was in the industry. But I think coming out started to have lots of conversation with companies that are quite interested in that space and it's really something that interests me because I think understanding the balance sheet as well as I do, and assuming that we're hitting a little bit of a place where this might be the new normal. I hate that phrase. The way the businesses are trading now and the level of profitability and the fact that companies have had to accept depressed levels of revenue and conversion, means that the model has systemically changed forever. Imagine that was true.
A route out of that to ensure the survival and potential revival of the industry has got to sit with AI, because that's where organizations could take efficiency benefit and from my point of view would then tip this balance in favour of experience. And I do think it comes... at the end of the day people go to businesses where they have great experiences and increasingly they're saying we're going a bit less but when we get then we spend our money. We want great value for money and we want really brilliant experiences and the value creation then sits in the human interaction rather than the central pieces where it looks as if the capacity and the capability exists for businesses to use AI to create more efficiency in the organization and therefore pay to protect the guest experience. So I'm kind of looking forward to that a little bit. Because even though if I was an accountant, I'd probably not be looking forward to it. Because I think there's a load of stuff there that at the moment you might pay a lot of financiers. And you think, "Oh, well, there's actually a bot that might do quite a lot of that thinking for me."
But when it comes to the experience end of the business, then maybe more value will go into that end, which has traditionally been the bit that gets starved first. Businesses are compromised and I'd love to see that, because that then means we come off being a minimum wage payer or a living wage payer and it starts to become a more valued currency to be able to make do and create things. And I think that would be a very interesting zone for hospitality to suddenly find themselves in, because they're constantly trying to process things to create efficiencies to ensure the businesses remain viable. They're sort of sitting on the model a bit.
00:39:45 - Andy Goram
Yeah. Do you think, though, with the years of turmoil that they've had in the run up to this point, there's a real risk of those efficiencies just end up being banked to backfill holes, or do you think the industry will really kind of wake up and invest it back in the experience?
Investment in The Experience
00:40:03 - Karen Bosher
I think there is a real risk they will bank the efficiency, but I think the biggest challenge in the first instance is actually changing hospitality. Unlike retail generally would have investment portfolio around tech and hospitality hasn't generally approached tech that way. And I think the biggest challenge in the first instance is actually having the insight and vision to be able to strategize investment pots that then set up the fact that you'll be able to build things to create advantage. They've got to get more organized in their strategic intent, so that they can use tech in a more organized way.
And I'm seeing quite a lot of platforms set up at the moment that's of harnessing the idea of multiple formats because there's so many apps and widgets, and they're all very clever and they all do remarkable things, but it's chaos. I was talking to a founder a couple of weeks ago and they said, "God, in the last year I've signed up 15 different tech widgets." And they were asking me for some advice about what the hell do I do now? And I said, "Well, it's all a bit of a muddle, really." Because certain things were going over the top of other things. And I do think there's going to be a rationalization of that, because everybody's getting highly excitable about technological advantage and people are able to... this is an economy where 45% of revenue is created out of independence. How do you get tech scale into smaller companies? And they're doing that, but it's untidy.
So I think there are some really inspiring businesses that are starting to harness platforms that bring some of those solutions into one place so that small and mid cap businesses can access the same advantages as large companies. But I think you're going to see a real reshuffling and I hope that happens fast, because otherwise the bigger companies will take advantage faster and potentially that makes it even harder for the small entrepreneurial businesses. So one of the things that I'm doing at the moment is getting involved in looking at how we can support founders and small businesses to create the same advantage that a big company would have, quicker, and get access to information and insight quicker, so that they can enjoy the benefit of all of that. And then that will create efficiency in their business, which I'm sure in an entrepreneurial business, they'll immediately want to reinvest in growing their business. In a larger business, they may decide to scoop that off and give that to their shareholders. I don't know.
00:42:37 - Andy Goram
Yeah. Well, I, for one, really hope that the hospitality industry as a whole kind of really grabs this AI bow wave, I guess that's going to come through and uses it in that force for good when it comes to experience, because I think there's a lot of fear around AI and what it's going to do to certain industries going forward. I'd really love to see the hospitality industry really use it to be a much more efficient engine so that they can plough things into people and experiences. Because, like you say, that's what we go out for. We go out to lose the day, make a connection, have an experience. And then actually, you're not thinking about what you've spent. It's not a transaction at that point. It's a proper experience and I really, really hope that it does that.
Conclusions & Sticky Notes
Karen we are coming to the end of the show, but I would like you to try and summarize for us, if you can, in terms of what you see as the key things here in transforming a whole industry and making it stickier. You know, to continue and maybe overegging the sticky theme, I have my sticky notes section at the end of the show for summary. So if you were to fit three pieces of advice, you'd like to be ringing in the ears of UK hospitality as to how this industry can be transformed and made more sticky, what advice would you leave on those three sticky notes, Karen?
00:43:57 - Karen Bosher
The first one would be that the industry needs to make sure they are supporting their founders and entrepreneurial businesses, so that our hospitality society doesn't become hugely corporate and driven by just the big brands who do a great job. But I do believe the lifeblood of the industry sits in all the people who are prepared to put their neck on the table and start things up. So I'm hoping that we have a really rich ecosystem of entrepreneurs that the industry protects. That's my first one.
I think that will make us more sticky for younger people who will be inspired by seeing that. Second one would be about, everyone has a duty to create socially relevant spaces through inclusivity and work hard. Don't try and kid yourself that you're creating socially inclusive spaces and then change nothing about it other than you put nicer cushions in. I'm talking about how do you deal with some of the real challenges to create spaces where people from all kinds of backgrounds and diverse backgrounds feel included when they walk in and those occasions are recognized. So I think that's really important, and I think that will make the industry more sticky.
And then finally, I think that at the bottom of it, we can look at all the frills. The third one for me would be that the industry does need to deal with real pay benefits and work life balance for people at the sharp end, because there's still too many examples of people not working in the right conditions. And I think that it's no good talking about sustainability and inclusivity initiatives when very basic considerations for people who have to earn livings every day are still going unchecked. So I would say the industry needs to get their house in order, as much as any industry ever can, so that it has a great reputation as an employer and it'll come from pay benefits and work life balance. And I think until that's dealt with, I think we'll always have a challenge on our hands. So I hope that there's a big emphasis on that as we start to grow back from what has been a really difficult time for all businesses, big or, small, those would be my three sticky notes.
00:46:27 - Andy Goram
Brilliant. I mean, who thought that you could solve and transform an entire industry on the back of three sticky notes? But I think if UKH had a look at those three, I think they'd have a pretty good chance. Karen, thank you so much for joining me on the show today. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you here. I've loved listening to you, and I wish you all the best as a fellow sticky person in your conquest and fight to make things stickier.
00:46:52 - Karen Bosher
Thank you very much.
00:46:54 - Andy Goram
Okay. You take care, Karen.
00:46:55 - Karen Bosher
00:46:57 - Andy Goram
Okay, everyone, that was Karen Bosher, and if you'd like to find out a bit more about her or any of the topics that we've talked about today, please go ahead and check out the show notes. So 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.