Written by Mark Williams, Managing Director EMEA, WorkJam

Skill shortages have become prominent in various industries, particularly in the hospitality sector. Post-pandemic, employee turnover continues to be high, with low retention and heightened levels of unemployment. Hospitality is not offering employees enough incentive to develop brand or company loyalty – businesses must listen to the renewed concerns of the public and utilise technology to improve working conditions. Issues with skill shortages and employee retention will not resolve unless they are actively addressed. So how can hospitality companies retain skilled employees and enhance the skills of their current workforce whilst keeping them happy?


Why is there a skill shortage?

The UK hospitality skill shortage and heightened employee turnover are problems that have been brewing for several years. However, the urgency of these problems became agonisingly prominent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lengthy periods of lockdown resulted in many businesses being forced to both furlough and lay off staff, generating significant instability for many employees. Consequently, employees are now looking for more secure jobs that can support their personal growth and development, while providing the appropriate salary and potential for future employment mobility within a business. 

Requirements such as these are backed by shifts in public opinion on what employers must deliver. The pandemic also opened the doors to new opportunities in employment – notably higher work flexibility (with non-front line staff enjoying work-from-home opportunities). Although features such as working from home are not usually feasible for hospitality staff, the WFH movement is part of a wider acceptance of the need for increased flexibility and a healthier life-work balance. 


What is required to begin resolving the skill shortage?

There is no one-stop solution to issues in employee retention and skill shortages. However, several approaches can be addressed through technology, including improved scheduling, centralised communication, and employment opportunities. Collectively, these generate a positive, productive work environment.


How does technology fuel these changes?

Scheduling Systems 

Digitised scheduling is more efficient, addressing the wants and needs of employees in an accessible, centralised location. Employees can digitally input their availability and preferred shifts. Employers can then accommodate employee needs where necessary, granting increased flexibility where possible. This is particularly useful for organising zero-hour contracts, which are increasingly common in the hospitality industry. 

Shift swapping is also easily facilitated through digitised scheduling. When employees can communicate unexpected absences to colleagues, those intending to take additional shifts can quickly express availability. Once a shift swap is agreed upon, the online schedule can be instantly updated to reflect the changes and avoid confusion. This is particularly effective when shifts can be shared among employees of multiple neighbouring locations with the appropriate skills.

Greater clarity on availability and scheduling avoids preventable errors and ensures employees feel acknowledged and heard. Alongside this, businesses can adjust their staffing in relation to footfall and busy hours to minimise under- or over-staffing issues. 

Centralised Communication

Efficient communication maintains a positive, productive workplace. Employees can remain confident in their roles and information can be distributed instantly, from any location, at any time. Interactions between employees can be encouraged – including feedback to management – helping businesses generate a supportive environment. Feedback can also provide crucial information to guide businesses in retaining staff. 

Communication is also vital in maintaining effective diversity and inclusion policies. Digital feedback channels can provide discreet or anonymous reports of discrimination, encouraging employees to report breaches of diversity and inclusion policies without them feeling intimidated or at risk.  

Employee Opportunities

Attractive opportunities for personal and professional development can significantly boost employee retention and develop a more skilled workforce. Internal training and education courses can be digitally provided company-wide, including diversity and inclusion training and induction material. 

Providing courses to employees also allows businesses to track their progress, potentially leading to increased internal promotions benefitting both employers and employees alike. Basing decisions on employee promotion on digital productivity and education tracking also helps combat the effects of unconscious bias in recruitment.

Overall, a digital frontline workplace fuels the transformation to a more productive, employee-friendly workplace where employees feel valued and empowered. As the hospitality sector continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, these tools will be vital in adapting to the new demands employers must meet to retain and attract skilled employees long term. 


About the author

As Managing Director, Mark Williams is leading WorkJam’s expansion in EMEA. Before joining the company, Mark held the position of Global Enablement Manager of Retail at Shell, where he was responsible for all frontline digital transformation projects.