People management is vital to staff retention
Happily, the choleric chef turning tantrums in the kitchen and never communicating with his minions at less than 100 decibels, is one of a disappearing race. Yet the widely held belief still exists that the key to becoming a “proper” chef is learning the hard way and taking lots of knocks. Participants of the Intergastra Think Tank which this year brought together experts and decision-makers from the catering and hotel industry for the first time to Stuttgart agree:
“It doesn’t have to be that way!
Our industry is often regarded as holding little attraction for different reasons – pay, working hours, work-life balance,” says Andreas Müller, Hotel Adler am Schloss. “So if people also get the impression that the working climate is bad in every kitchen, then we might as well give up.” Yet there are many approaches employers and chefs can adopt to not only recruit new staff, but also keep them in the long term.
As Ralph Hilse, member of the Executive Board, Rauschenberger Gastronomie remarks: “We need to pursue an effective business strategy to counter staff shortages. We have to create a new appeal for the industry among job starters and promote the professional and personal skills of young people. Although glossy campaigns are an excellent recruiting method up front, social media are becoming increasingly important in the wake of global digitisation.” Another possibility is cooperation with mentors and training ambassadors who visit schools and colleges to inspire interest and enthusiasm for the job at an early stage in the chefs of the future.
Change is also possible at system level. “The training regulations give us plenty of leeway, which we don’t even use,” explains Eva Maria Rühle from Reha-Klinik Schwäbische Alb. “We should make the most of our already modern training regulations in the area of three-year vocational training and both foster and challenge young people. In addition, we need a possibility of training young people who lack theoretical skills – and gladly also young people with a migration background – in shorter courses with less emphasis on theory.” Possibly the biggest mistake recruiters can make? “Recruiting people with no interest in the job simply to fill vacancies”, according to Ralph Hilse. Long-term success hinges on a combination of vocational training quality, good recruitment and the employer’s own corporate guidelines.
Employers must create incentives
Attractive incentives set employers apart from competitors and offer staff exciting prospects. This starts with team events and agreeing bonuses for exceptional performance to – depending on the size of the company – providing social benefits like the company’s own children’s day care facilities.
Soft, but no less important factors for recruiting and retaining staff, are mutual respect, motivation and career opportunities. “Today young people are very security-conscious and are looking for jobs with prospects, but 85 per cent of restaurants in Germany are small businesses. As Eva Maria Rühle comments: “Career opportunities are difficult given this established structure.” So flat hierarchies, involving staff and defining clear areas of competence are all the more important. “And also having the courage to design the job to suit the person and thus make the most of their personal skills,” adds Rühle. Letting people work on their own initiative and placing trust in them is not only motivational, but also takes pressure off the management in the long term.
Bridging gaps with career jumpers
Career jumpers and also refugees can fill jobs in the absence of trained staff. “What is important in this case is to provide the right supervision and continuous coaching,” says Andreas Müller, Hotel Adler am Schloss. “If we break down specific job blocks into simple processes and explain them for instance in easily understandable videos, even people new to the job will be able to grasp instructions on how to do things properly.” A positive side effect: staff with higher qualifications who had to cover these tasks as well in the past, are once more free to focus on their core tasks again.
No doom and gloom, please
“You often get the impression that we work in the world’s least attractive industry. But that isn’t the case,” remarks Mario Pick from Novum Group. “We should focus less on the negative, and more on the positive aspects, of which there are plenty. For one, our flexibility: if you have trained in the catering or hotel business, you can work anywhere in the world. And somehow, the people who work in this business seem to have the job in their blood.” Jürgen Lochbihler from Der Pschorr adds:
“Of course we work weekends in our business. But many young people aren’t interested in a 9 to 5 job anyway, they prefer rock ‘n roll and working Saturdays so they have Mondays free and can head off for the ski slopes.”