Ten steps to better career pathways in hospitality

This week’s ‘Creating Career Pathways in Hospitality’ webinar from CGA and CPL Learning explored the challenges of retaining talent in the industry. Here are ten takeaways from CGA research and development experts to help businesses keep and develop team members.

1 Recognise the strain on staff

CGA’s third-quarter Business Confidence Survey reveals the crisis in recruitment and retention at the moment. Half (51%) of leaders have found staff shortages greater than anticipated, while those feeling confident about recruiting, retaining and training their workforce have plunged from 67% to 18% over the last quarter—denting business confidence just as it starts to recover.


It is tough for frontline teams as well as leaders. The latest Hospitality Professionals panel from CPL Learning and CGA—a group of people in various roles and sectors who provide crucial ground-level perspectives of the industry—found that two thirds (67%) think shortages are one of their main working challenges at the moment, making it a bigger factor than pay (65%) or benefits (52%). The strain of busy and extra shifts is showing, said CGA’s research and insight director Charlie Mitchell at the webinar. “Shortages are having a significant impact on people in the industry.”


2 Stress the benefits

Despite all the pressures, hospitality remains a great sector to work in. Well over half of the Hospitality Professionals panel see working with the public (61%), the variety of roles (55%) and venue atmospheres (55%) as key benefits of the profession, and there is a long tail of more benefits, like the chances to acquire very varied skills and experiences. Promoting these plus points can help to promote the industry as a place to build careers, said Mitchell. “There’s no sector that can provide such a broad range of skills… it’s about identifying the elements that are fulfilling to each individual, and finding career paths that are linked to them.”


3 Renew the focus on pathways

Well over half (58%) of professionals think the sector offers good career opportunities—but far fewer (38%) say they have a clear career pathway, and well over half (56%) haven’t had any professional development since returning to work. The good news is that among professionals who can’t see pathways or are unsure, the large majority (84%) would like to see them—and now is a good time to bring back the focus on them.


4 Recognise that investment and engagement pays off

CGA’s research consistently shows that investment in career pathways can repay itself many times over. More than half (56%) of professionals who only plan to stay in the sector for the short-term would remain for longer if their employers invested more in training and progression, and those who see a clear career pathway are much more likely to recommend hospitality as a place to work (95%), to stay in the sector (52%) and to be more engaged with their work (70%). Good engagement pays off in sales too, Mitchell pointed out. “Staff are the gateway between brands and customers… so having engaged staff is going to support revisit rates, satisfaction and ultimately spend…. there’s a real bottom-line benefit.”


5 Focus on wellbeing

The Hospitality Professionals also survey shows a close correlation between career pathways and wellbeing. Well over half (58%) of staff who think their employers prioritise wellbeing also feel they have a clear pathway, compared to just 11% of those who don’t feel their wellbeing is prioritised.


6 Set out pathways from recruitment onwards

Two hospitality leaders at the webinar—Sian Quick, learning and development manager of the Liberation Group; and Dom Jones, co-founder of the Maray restaurants group—agreed on the need to be demonstrate clear career-building potential from the hiring phase onwards. “You can’t be what you can’t see… if we can show people a career pathway from the recruitment stage, we can counteract some of the challenges [of hiring],” said Quick. Telling the stories of people’s careers is vital to this, said Jones. “We try to be clear from day one that if you want career progression, it’s there for you… celebrating people’s progression is really important.”


7 Try to find the time

In pressurised environments like restaurants, pubs and bars it can be hard to squeeze in training and other career-related activities. Online training that can be fitted in around shifts can help here. “We’re an always-on business … and finding that time for development can be hard… you’ve got to be clever with how and where you train and where the energy is going,” said Jones.


8 Be flexibile

On both training and career progression, flexibility is key. Not all staff have the same ambitions, so pathways should be tailored to individuals. “You’ve got to be flexible and open to what people want to be achieving… not everyone wants to be the ops manager. People have got such different skill sets that you’ve got to think outside the box,” said Jones. Regular communication is important here, said Quick. “We make sure there are clear check-in areas in pathways… so we can intervene quickly before someone decides that a pathway isn’t right for them.”


9 Keep it interactive

“The most important [development] learning we’ve had is to make it as interactive as possible,” said Quick. That may mean using people’s peers as well as managers for training, and finding ways to make it enjoyable rather than a chore. “Find a solution that makes it fun to engage and complete and record the training you’ve done.”


10 Learn from exits

Turnover of staff is big challenge in hospitality, and many factors in it are outside of employers’ control—but it can be an opportunity to get better at career progression too. “Every time someone leaves it should be a learning—you should find out why they have left and if you could have done anything better,” said Dom Jones.


The Hospitality Professionals panel from CGA and CPL Learning provides in-depth insights into people’s experiences at work and can support the strategies of all hospitality businesses. To learn more, email charlie.mitchell@cgastrategy.com. For more about CPL Learning’s suite of learning and development services, click here.

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