The training and retention challenge

Bob Cotton OBE, member of P&G Professional’s Expert Advisory Council and hospitality industry veteran, shares his thoughts on Brexit and the labour market.

For many of us in the commercial world, we have become almost numb from the daily news regarding ‘Brexit’. What impact it will have on our country, our economy, and for each of us in the UK personally.

However, in reality, we have to look at our businesses now, constantly review them and assess how improvements can be made. The single biggest issue we are seeing at the moment is a major change in the labour market. The effects of near full employment and perhaps Brexit-related concerns have further accelerated this.

We are seeing wage increases of perhaps twice the level of inflation, difficulties in finding new staff, higher staff turnover levels, and fewer people coming in from Europe. For those who do arrive, they are staying for a shorter period just to learn the language and not for a longer-term job. The issue for businesses is how to respond to these challenges.

The first task must be to focus on staff retention. This needs to become the key role for every manager and supervisor. Nowhere is this more important than for cleaning staff. Poor cleaning in bedrooms, hotel public areas or restaurants has an immediate impact on business: dissatisfied customers will never return.

When analysing staff turnover and the reasons for excessive levels, it can always be traced back to the same issues: poor initial recruitment, a lack of ongoing training, poor work conditions and ineffective staff communication.

All of these are key responsibilities. To address these issues, I would introduce some of the following ideas:

1. Put a focus on local recruitment, making contacts with local schools and colleges.

2. Make sure as many people as possible are trained to do their job effectively.

3. Sign up to an apprenticeship programme wherever possible. Most of the cost is covered by the government.

4. Pay a fair wage and incentivise staff wherever possible.

Never underestimate the importance of basic communication. Gather staff together, listen to their concerns, try to implement some of their suggested changes and offer career progression. Ensure they have the right equipment and materials to do their job well, and look to new aids to help communications: ‘staff apps’ on mobile phones/tablets are relatively easy to set up.

People enjoy careers, not ‘just a job’. Good managers can and will always make a difference. After all, as the saying goes: people leave bad managers, not just bad companies.


Alongside developing strong communication with staff, reviewing products and equipment used to complete tasks further supports employee development. Choosing quality, professional products and tools is a key part of employee investment, and those from P&G Professional can help employees get the job done right the first time.

Fairy Professional’s rapid cleaning system is tough on stains, even in short cycles and is suitable for hard water. Likewise, the Flash Professional system provides four multi-purpose cleaners for kitchens, bathrooms and shared common spaces that both clean and disinfect. Used with their automated dosing systems, it can help prevent the over-usage of products. Our products and systems, along with streamlined training and simple colour coding, ensure employees feel confident using the systems.

Not dealing with rising levels of staff turnover puts the future of any hospitality business into doubt. Failing to acknowledge the recruitment and training challenges could see the demise of many businesses. Instead, it is crucial the sector provides the bright future it should to young people looking for a long-term career, and support the dedicated, hardworking employees we currently have to protect industry growth.

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