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One of the many life lessons that eventually penetrates once you are over 40 is no matter what the problem is it pays to always ask the person in the mirror first – which partially explains why Mr Hospitality spends so much time looking in the mirror.

This week, we’ve been doing a bit of navel gazing ourselves around the serious skills shortages in the Hospitality Industry.

The recent edition of The Thymes (May 2016) from the Restaurant Association has rightly focused on the question; Is it harder than ever to recruit quality hospitality employees who meet the skill requirements to fill management roles in your business? Hardly surprising to anyone, the results of a RANZ survey tells us that a whopping 96% of employers in the industry has had difficulty recruiting a manager over the last year, and that’s without even asking the same employers about the frightening shortage of excellent chefs … sorry didn’t mean for you to skip a few heartbeats.

RANZ has been wonderfully pro-active in this area; they have clearly explained why Immigration NZ’s Immediate Skills Shortage List (ISSL) is unlikely to be a quick fix any time soon. They have also put effort into providing training for managers and kick-starting the well-proven ProStart Programme. However, the brutal facts are that RANZ is always going to be limited in what it can do … the Association can support but never fix the issue. RANZ have gently and respectfully pointed out that the key long-term answer to the skills shortage is for individual employers to retain and attract their own employees.

At The Hospitality Company – we have more freedom to talk straight and tough; which is what you’d expect from a company that provides business coaching. Please indulge us for a moment and allow us to look in the mirror … it may help communicate what we believe to be a deep and problematic cultural issue in the industry.

With all that we know about the industry, are we prepared to encourage any of our children into Hospitality?

The answer is yes … and no …

It’s easy to say ‘yes’ for the short term – three of our five kids are teens and we’d love them ALL to have jobs in the industry by November, and I’d like those jobs to continue for the next 5+ years while they continue to study. I have one that wants to be a Doctor, one a Physics Professor – so IF they achieve their dreams they are a complete loss to the industry. My daughter, on the other hand, may not be a loss long-term. She wants to do Business at University and I can’t think of better ‘on the job’ training than long term exposure and training in an excellent Hospitality business.

My answer is very revealing isn’t it. Note my motherly emphasis on high paid and high achieving aspirations for my children – hardly unusual.

The high paid and high achieving aspirations are normal (and good) and I believe almost ignored in our industry. We bemoan our ridiculous and costly high-staff turn-over and the low-skilled pool of workers available all the while doing ALMOST NOTHING to recruit and retain an excellent aspirational workforce.

It’s understandable, most Hospitality employers are already struggling with a wage percentage that is far too high, and they look around them and all they see are other Hospitality employers who are also struggling – so their answer to the skills shortage problem is, naturally, that the problem and the solution is ‘somewhere out there’ – except it isn’t … sadly.  

I wish the problem could be fixed through government legislation, or a re-configuration of NCEA – then it would be a lot easier. Like the problem of child poverty – there is an enormous elephant in the room – that can’t be said in polite circles. Tragically, family dysfunction causes child poverty and business dysfunction causes a dearth of available skills.

There is a great deal of humility and personal ownership involved in making progress.

We may even need to say that perhaps we lag behind some other countries in making Hospitality an attractive career option?

Is it an attractive career option? Does Hospitality offer exceptional employment and an outstanding career? Because it if doesn’t – no bright young prospect will be fooled.

It doesn’t, and it NEVER will, IF you as the employer are only focused on urgently filling a floor supervisor or waiter position – oh you’ll get the two sons who need a few dollars to pay off their student loan (if they’re lucky) – but you won’t get the bright and business savvy daughter who is deeply interested in learning from you long-term through practical experience. She is the one who aspires to earn the big bucks and is prepared to spend time learning about business – of course she’s willing to earn minimum wage now and $20 an hour while she studies … with the right employer. That employer will attract her by nurturing, training and facilitating her on her way. The relationship will be mutually blessed, because the employer will equip her with business experience and nurture her leadership skills – in return she will become a skilled and productive worker who is not transient and self-serving.

There ARE people earning serious money in the industry and I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage and the long hours, because actually being a young, nurse, cop or teacher is tough as well – the difference is that in Hospitality the sky is the limit – you’re in business and you won’t hit the ceiling at 30 like many public servants.

Don’t take on wait-staff – take on a future CEO of a large Restaurant Franchise, employ a future multi-site owner/operator, or a young mother who is back in the workforce and wants to own her own Pub on the West Coast by 2020. Target, attract and nurture those people, and don’t forget to target some older employees as well. What about the Mums whose kids have left home and they want to run their own B&B when they are 60? Not everyone in your business has to be under the age of twenty-five.

If your workforce consists of a bunch of transient youth and international workers who actually believe that hospitality is just hard work and few rewards … then you are targeting the wrong crowd. Do things differently!

The Industry is tough – there is no getting around that, but tough is also the boot camp to success and that’s how the industry should think of itself.

Easy for us to say and hard for you to do … absolutely true; what we can offer is our ability (and luxury) of time to create some pointers that may help …

  1. Look in the mirror … would you want your own child working with you? Are you taking your current employees somewhere brilliant?
  2. Decide what kind of talent you want working for you and TARGET them through a long-term marketing type recruitment campaign.
  3. Have a strong web-presence – clearly communicate what you offer that is BETTER than everywhere else – emphasise experience, learning and flexibility.
  4. Are you a trustworthy boss? Are you an honest and kind person? Do people like working for you because of what you do for them, or just because they need the $15.25 an hour?
  5. Have a long-view for recruitment – never leave it until the moment of need – recruitment processes should be a constant activity in your business.
  6. There is no ONE recruitment ‘hook’ that works on its own – advertising fancy wage adjustments, flexibility, an encouragement of work-life balance, benefits or adapted roles will not trump a boss who is really going somewhere and is prepared to share that positive journey with their employees.
  7. Create your own skilled workers; employ good, honest hard workers that you really like and you want to help learn some brilliant stuff.
  8. Keep as eye out for the launch of our membership site; HospoCentral on June 20th where we will provide practical material on how to Target/Attract/Recruit & Retain talented staff.


Meanwhile we have three teens that need a job – any takers?

07/06/2016 Mrs Hospitality