Hospitality is missing a trick with employee engagement

Katy Moses, MD at KAM, reflects on recent research, carried out in partnership with Growth Partners looking at Employee Engagement in Hospitality, which highlights that most Hospitality businesses are missing a trick when it comes to recruitment and retention of staff.

“Before I landed on Research and Insights as a career, I ran a recruitment company down in Surrey. I was often amazed at how many job vacancies we were given WITHOUT mention of salary and only scant descriptions of benefits- surely, I thought, nobody applies for a job without this most basic of information?

Katy Moses, MD, KAM

Fast forward 16 years (yes, I AM that old!), and we are still seeing this irritating practice in hospitality.

But that was then, and this is now. We used to only know the things about companies that they wanted us to. But now there are a plethora of ways to ‘gen up’ on a company, its management team, its culture, structure and salary/benefits schemes. And not making this information transparently and publicly available simply isn’t good enough.

In a time when our industry is facing a recruitment and retention crisis, shouldn’t we be doing our best to woo the best candidates rather than hiding (very important) information from them- and then doing our best to keep them?

Employee Engagement services in Hospitality

Confirming my suspicions, recent KAM research, conducted in partnership with Growth Partners shows us that hospitality businesses are still not effectively communicating many things when they’re trying to recruit, including employee benefits; 75% of employees we spoke to couldn’t find information about employee benefits while researching their hospitality job. 20% said they only found out during their interview and 15% had to wait until after they’d started in the role. 

“Hospitality businesses are still not effectively communicating many things when they’re trying to recruit.”

Hospitality employees also told us that when in a role, their current employers need to do a better job of communicating the services available to them, many don’t have a clue what benefits are available (or where to find info on them), this despite the clear impact they can have on staff retention. 79% would use employee engagement services more if they were made aware of what was available.

Claire Clarke, People Director at Flat Iron recently pointed out the app fatigue that employees are suffering from.

“We are expecting our employees to download apps on personal phones, unless they are head office. The perfect solution would be you join, here is your company app, it’s going to give you engagement, comms, rotas, pay, it’s a single sign on.”

If you don’t know it’s there, you can’t use it; and it’s not because these benefits aren’t available- so many hospitality companies offer phenomenal employee engagement services but very few are using them to attract potential candidates.

The benefit to working in Hospitality

We know from previous research that 1-in-2 hospitality job candidates won’t apply for a role if it doesn’t have an advertised salary- so anyone NOT making renumeration clear, is missing out on 50% of the already scarce pool of talent. The research showed us that the majority of employees (75%) believe that offering employee engagement services makes a business a more attractive place to work and there is an expectation for businesses to offer services which look after their physical and mental well-being as well as their financial well-being. 

So why oh why aren’t we shouting more about it?!

Things have changed since Covid

I liked what Anne-Marie Sarantis, Head of People, Gusto said on the topic;

“Everything has changed since covid and there has been a shift towards better engagement and usage of benefits– it’s all important, but equally many employees don’t even use it when we give it to them. So, it’s important that we, as a business, signpost them sufficiently.”

Anne-Marie Sarantis,
Head of People, Gusto Italian

It’s also important businesses are aware that the types of benefits wanted by employees are changing- not just with the times, but also from one employee to the next- we need a less ‘cookie cutter’ approach, and more of an individual understanding of what matters to our team members.

But, if you want to look at an overview from our research, with regards to ‘health and lifestyle’ the most popular benefits among hospitality employees are gym discounts, flexible shifts, healthy eating programmes and medical healthcare (no surprise that this is particularly popular among older employees.) The most sought-after financial benefits are 24/7 online access to payslip documents, the ability to receive their pay earlier than pay day and an online chat service to query/sort out issues with their pay slip.

As an industry, we need to realise that we have to be competitive with other industries when it comes to salary and benefits- AND we have to shout about it- otherwise, aren’t we just stuck in a 2007 state of mind?”

You can access a copy of the full research report here or sign up to the KAM Knowledge Hub to access endless research and insights focused on Hospitality.

Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).