Employee wellbeing key to attracting and retaining staff

staff bell
Hotel staff. (kadmy/Getty Images)

Insight Comment
Happy employees are likely to be more productive. Wages aside, a tight job market means those looking for work can be more choosey and may expect to be better appreciated. The problem is cost – and the availability of line managers who can combine empathy with efficiency.   

Shortages in the supply of labour are making hotel managers much more aware of the wellbeing of staff, the AHC’s ‘Power to the People’ panel heard. A clear message was sent about individual employees’ individual needs.

Harry Cragoe, owner of The Gallivant hotel in Camber Sands, East Sussex, was especially eloquent on the subject. With no prior experience in hospitality, Cragoe says he hasn’t been weighed down by tradition and is never afraid to make mistakes when testing accepted conventions. Prior to getting involved in the hospitality industry, Cragoe made smoothies. 

As a hotelier, he said that his business is “all about creating happiness” and he wants happy employees because it means guests are likely to be happy.
Among staff, he said, validation of a job well done is as effective as financial rewards. Simple personal touches – such as posting photos of all employees on the website – were important. 

Financial incentives, however, show employees that employers mean what they say. At The Gallivant, mini-bonuses of £10 are handed out each time a staff member is name checked by guests giving end-of-stay feedback. Monthly totals can be as much as £300-£400, said Cragoe. 

Cragoe also spoke of the need for empathy for mental health problems. He said: “There are many people who overtly may seem fine but actually aren’t fine. We encourage staff – especially the guys – to open up about these things. I have had conversations – tricky conversations – of a sort which two or three years ago I would not have expected to have.” 

He said he also made firm links between mental health and physical health and did what he could to encourage all round fitness. He recounted the story of one staff member who at one time was overweight and smoked 40 cigarettes a day and had three children. Over time, the individual got herself in shape. Then recently said talked of an ambition to do a triathlon but wasn’t sure about the swimming. “We bought her training for that,” said Harry.

He also said he tried to ensure that new recruits would fit in. “I ask other staff if so-and-so is someone you’d want to go for a drink with. After all, if you couldn’t face sitting down for a friendly chat it’s unlikely the two would get on well as colleagues.”

David Orr, CEO of Resident Hotels, said it was important for employers to be thoughtful, to be aware, to provide training in mental health care. He also said it was hard to underestimate the impact of the pandemic on staff, not least because of strain caused by guests annoyed by lockdown restrictions. 

Thomas Greenall, CEO of Bespoke Hotels, said his company drew people in who were backpacking around the world though one of the drawbacks was that accommodation had to be provided. 

He also referred to ways staff might be encouraged to help the zero-carbon cause by using public transport instead of driving to work, he said. “Sure you could pay for that. But it would be more effective if the employee is reimbursed 110 percent of the cost.”

As well as leading Bespoke Hotels, Greenall is a non-executive director of Randalls Jersey, the largest pub company on the island. A former amateur jockey, he also advises Aintree Racecourse, the home of the Grand National.

The session was guided towards identifying solutions to labour market issues by Chris Mumford, the founder of Cervus Leadership Consulting.