Lindley Catering Group Ltd
Failure to invest in staff training and development programmes is a recognised “Achilles heel” within the hospitality industry costing the sector potentially millions of pounds every year in staff costs as team members look for the promised land.
Many organizations within the sector too readily accept that poor staff retention rates are inevitable, according to Tracey Willmott, director of people development specialists Eat the Elephant.
According to a recent Labour Force survey carried out by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure and travel tourism, the UK hospitality industry employed more than 1.96 million people in 2007. This represents a 5% year on year rise, with 94,400 more people now employed in the sector than in 2006.
Tracey Willmott commented: “The hospitality industry is an expanding service industry and staff ‘churn’ ultimately is a major headache for businesses.
Whilst many companies will focus on NVQ type development outside professional training and encourage employees to pursue such qualifications; in many cases there may be no real cost to them. NVQs and professional development shouldÂ work together.
“However, when it comes to working with training development opportunities from outside partners with experiential knowledge, it is a different matter. Then, such an initiative can be regarded as money off the ‘bottom-line,’ rather than an investment in the future of the business,” she said.
Figures released by People 1st revealed that the hospitality services sector grew by 6.9% in 2006 adding a further 27,100 jobs. In contrast, contract catering saw a small drop in its workforce falling from 182,600 to 181,000.
Overall, employers felt 10% of their workforce was not fully able to meet the needs of their role, with 15% holding no qualification. More specifically, 16% of hotel and accommodation managers and 14% of publicans and managers of licensed premises, had no qualifications. Customer handling skills were seen by employers as the area most lacking among their employees, followed by communication, team working and technical and practical skills.
Commented Tracey Willmott: “To break the circle of losing staff and be able to consistently retain good team members requires a leap of faith by some players in the industry, but one that is justified,” she says. “Whilst recognising that there are significant numbers of students working in the hospitality industry as a ‘stop-gap’ and an ongoing but unavoidable problem, retaining core staff such as chefs and managers can be difficult.”
“For people within the hospitality and leisure industry such a proclamation may be regarded with cynicism â€“ after all losing staff is a way of life and goes with the territory. However, one of the industry’s major players is proving it does not have to be this way and has committed to training programmes for its management team to great effect.”
Alex McCrindle, chief executive of Lindley Catering, is a recognised high profile figure and the shrewd operator of the Â£55 million turnover company. Overseeing an outstanding and growing organisation – currently comprising 550 full time staff and 15,000 part time employees â€“ he recognises the need to ensure managers have the necessary skills to carry out their jobs and be able to communicate effectively to their teams.
He commented: “Back in 2006 we acquired Heathcotes Outside, creating the leading sports and venue foodservice company in the UK.Â Heathcotes was the brainchild of Michelin star chef Paul Heathcote, who built up a strong customer base at the top end of the hospitality market in the North West.
“Whilst this was an ideal marriage of two companies, we recognised the ethos and culture was very different and needed to be addressed. That is when we developed our relationship with Tracey Willmott from Eat the Elephant to develop a team building programme,” he said.
This has included around 20 senior managers from both companies undertaking a Personal Profile Analysis – a powerful and effective tool used to gain a practical insight into such areas as how people behave at work, both their strengths and limitations, as well as how they communicate.
Tracey Willmott comments: “The analysis only takes 7 or 8 minutes to complete, yet provides an outstanding insight into the make up of an individual at work and how this blends with the rest of the team. It can tell whether your team are self starters, how they react to change, how they prefer to communicate, and what motivates them.
Alex McCrindle of Lindley says: “Moving forward we wanted to identify the opportunity strengths and weaknesses of our managers and to maximise the value of bringing both organisations together. It has enabled us to look at opportunities for certain individuals that are more suited to their specific skills and, in a couple of cases, has brought to our attention individuals who can quickly make significant advancements within the company.
“Everyone who has been involved in this people development activity has said that the results are accurate and that is crucial in terms of practical application opportunities.
“If an individual is comfortable with the process then they are more likely to ‘buy-into’ it. We are looking to advance the team working within our business and doing profiling when recruiting new managers is one way of making sure that they can work as part of a team.
“The off shoot development has been received extremely well and the relationship which we have forged with Eat the Elephant goes beyond what I regard as a training company. It goes far deeper than that â€“ what they are doing is helping us to develop the company and culture in a way that differentiates us from others,” he says.
Tracey Willmott takes up the story. “During 2006/7 we undertook a series of one and two day programmes for Lindley Catering. These comprised “Step to Excellence,” Focus on Time” and “Powerful Presenting.”
“‘Powerful Presenting, for example, was aimed at managers who need to pitch for new contracts, as well as hone their communication skills when addressing their teams,” she said.
According to Alex Mc Crindle, the programme was an outstanding success. “It was a real confidence building exercise for people who are at ‘the coalface’ so to speak.Â Prior to the development some of them were not confident in their presentational skills and nervous of taking part. However, they came away far more self confident and equipped with the skills necessary to deliver business critical presentations.”
“Tracey Willmott adds: “Our programmes are tailored to the needs of an organisation and are definitely not a “sheep dip” process.
Meanwhile, a further eight new middle managers are due on Eat the Elephant programmes. Lindley have really bought into the process. ”Tracey has worked in the hospitality and catering industry for many years and so understands many of the problems that our team members and senior staff face every day. This has definitely been a bonus, ensuring that the content is really relevant to our needs.
“Providing staff with a more structured career path will undoubtedly help inÂ staff retention. People can get bored in this industry â€“ providing new challenges and training to take them to the next level will help prevent this.
“Eat the Elephant really has made a difference to our business”
Alex McCrindle, Chief Executive of Lindley Catering