Six challenges for the Hospitality industry in 2019…and how to thrive in response.

Q: “How was your day?”

A: “I just can’t stand Chris. He has literally no idea how to manage people.”

Sound familiar?

Whilst the accelerating pace of change places more pressure on political and business leaders to think and act desicively, it is instructive to note how often people’s gripes about their own bosses relate more to their perceived lack of self-awareness or people skills than strategic acumen. An interesting recent study in the Harvard Business Review found it was more important for senior leaders to be strategically focused rather than people focused, but it does not detract from the fact that most people’s day to day experience of their work is most heavily mediated by the interactions – or lack of them – with their line managers and colleagues.

Despite extensive digitisation, it is the human interfaces which remain most emotive: people leave managers, not companies.

The hospitality sector in the UK finds itself at the nexus of both “change” and “leadership”. We asked industry expert David Pepper, the former People Director at La Tasca Restaurants, to name the 6 most prominent challenges in this space as we enter 2019.

1. With the threat of Brexit and the potential of losing existing team members as well as having a reduced employee resource pool the requirement is to keep great people in the industry / companies.

2. The economy will tighten and disposable income reduce so the fight for market share will increase. The businesses have to provide a better experience, which is always people led.

3. Business need to keep and develop their own people. The future leaders have to come from within their own company. Good people will move to other businesses if leadership does not create the positive environments.

4. Margins and profit lines have tightened up as a result of increased cost of product and labour. Companies are looking for economical ways of maintaining and growing profit. Optimising employee performance through effective leadership is the best way to approach this challenge.

5. Capital and revenue investment is reducing, restricting the opportunities to grow from a material / site perspective. People initiatives can counterbalance as can be seen with the increased emphasis on L&D and PDP activities.

6. The Industry is often seen as a default career option and not one of aspiration. This is a constant irritation to the employers. Leadership can change this perception through their actions and the way teams are being led. To become a career of choice is a strong objective.

The competitive advantage for hospitality businesses lies in talent acquisition, management and retention. Just as employee experience is heavily influenced by line managers, we know that customer experiences are most heavily influenced by the human interactions with employees: front of house staff, cleaners, call centre staff etc.

So where does the hospitality sector currently rank in terms employee experience?

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Research by leadership specialists RiddleBox using their RBX Index tool, which measures employee experience, reveals a mixed picture. Their data is made up of over 1.25 million participants worldwide, measuring trust, empathy, loyalty, commitment and satisfaction between employees and their leaders, colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

Topping their list of 28 industry RBX Index averages are Hotels, averaging an impressive 76 out of 100. Restaurant chains, however, score a mediocre 58 – on a par with Telecoms, Government Training providers and Land Transport companies. RiddleBox quote their work with a global hotel brand, where the use of the RBX Index helped to turn a loss-making division profitable, and enable the company to rank highly in several “Best Places to Work” lists.

Amid all the relentless focus on optimizing the customer experience across the Hospitality sector and given the challenges ahead for key players in 2019, it could be that those who choose to look internally at optimizing their employee experience could find themselves not only surviving, but thriving.