Onboarding best practices: the secret to hospitality staff retention

Do your current onboarding best practices consist of throwing your new hire in at the deep end on their first shift, and hoping for the best?  It’s the reality for many hospitality businesses that are continuing to fight the good fight against staff AND skills shortages. But unsurprisingly, it’s making matters worse!

This isn’t good news, especially in light of The Caterer’s recent synopsis of the state of hospitality recruitment in 2022. “The number of job vacancies in the hospitality sector reached 174,000 between March and May this year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)”, it said. “Around one in seven hospitality jobs remain unfilled, despite 77% of operators increasing pay, according to the latest Future Shock report compiled by UKHospitality and insight specialists CGA.”

You’re spending a lot of time and ad budget on attracting and recruiting any candidates. So, the last thing you need is for new hires to run quickly for the hills, scared off by a frazzled employer who is run ragged, unprepared, disorganised and even plain disrespectful!

Add to this the plain fact that disenchanted, neglected and poorly trained or completely untrained staff aren’t your secret weapons for exceeding customer service levels and sales targets.

“As an industry, we’ve been notoriously bad when it comes to dedicating time to immersing new talent into the industry”, explains Cally Bannon-Smith of specialist hospitality recruitment agency Sixty Eight People in Manchester, England. “The ‘lack of courtesy’ is, unfortunately, a tone we have set. We haven’t always given people our time and energy at interview and onboarding stages and now we’re on the receiving end of it – we don’t like it.”

Yes, it’s tough to plan and implement new processes and procedures when you and your people are already up against it. But, isn’t it time to stick your neck out and put some transformational onboarding best practices in place now that the stakes are so high?

For example, awe-inspiring onboarding software equips you to plan and implement onboarding best practices to perfection, by –

  • Streamlining your processes
  • Saving precious time
  • Integrating what needs to be done at head office level and at site level

It all comes down to three simple and stress-free categories –

  • Pre-Start orientation
  • Induction
  • Sustained onboarding

Pre-Start Onboarding Best Practices for New Hires

Hooray, they’ve accepted your job offer! So first up, there’s all the internal and statutory onboarding paperwork to trawl through, such as –

  • Contracts of employment
  • Bank details
  • Tax

Getting these things right and keeping track of where you’re up to can be gruelling, especially if over-stretched site managers are making do with ramshackle non-aligned processes. It’s exactly how a new hire’s tax document can wind up getting shoved behind a cash register and mislaid, resulting in them not getting paid correctly and on time!

Imagine the difference that a leading-edge self-service system can make. A site manager or hiring manager simply enters a new hire’s details as soon as the job offer has been accepted, (or these details can be automatically transferred from an ATS if you already use one for recruiting).

And voila! An automated request by email and/or SMS text message is triggered, requesting that the new hire:

  • Signs their contract with an electronic signature (for which functionality is provided)
  • Uploads all their new starter documentation

 You can even schedule automated prompts to remind them about anything outstanding that they haven’t yet provided.  

What happens to their paperwork? It uploads in to one single, secure place in your system, where it can be accessed by authorised personnel and also integrated with any existing HCM, HRIS or payroll systems you already have.

In addition, it enable you to automate and share some basic pre-start training with your new hire, such as –

  • Customer service standards and benchmarking
  • Current and forthcoming menus, drinks promotions, meeting and events packages, etc
  • Employee handbook, including things like dress / uniform code, organizational chart and work policies

A checklist in your onboarding software will keep you informed about what you’ve sent and what your new hire has completed. What’s more, progress can be viewed and contributed to at any time by any authorised head office and / or on-site personnel.

It’s an effective way of prepping a new hire for their first shift and getting them excited about working in your business. You might even ask them for a few fun facts about themselves that you can share with other team members, to get the conversation flowing during their awkward first few weeks as the ‘new kid on the block’.

Engaging and Helpful Induction

Exemplary onboarding best practices entail a gigantic welcome and the way your new hire is inducted into your business during their first day, week and month. After all, there’s a lot to take in at every hospitality business. Nobody is going to become a master of it all overnight!

So, draw up an induction checklist in conjunction with all the relevant personnel who need to be involved on a continued basis, or just for a single session, such as –

  • HR representative
  • Line manager
  • Supervisor or ‘buddy’
  • Regional manager
  • Any other departmental head

It might help to think in terms of what your new hire needs to know, in order to inform the best person to take responsibility for each area. Your induction checklist should include practicalities, such as locating the bathrooms and the coffee machines. It can also cover off basic working procedures, such as –

  • Cash registers
  • Booking and reservations systems
  • Customer and / or supplier databases and software/technology
  • Stock control

Planning an engaging induction and monitoring step-by-step progress skyrockets efficiency, engages your new hire from the onset and expedites their ability to do their job confidently and unsupervised. Plus, it frees up on-site managers to spend more time focusing on the daily running of the business, rather than turning in an unintentionally half-baked and stressed-out performance.  

Sustained and Supportive Onboarding

Marketing leading onboarding best practices in the industry don’t just stop after the first week or month. It’s important not to overlook continued onboarding, because there are various sector specific issues at play it can help to mitigate. For example –

  • Underqualified managers – It’s not unusual, especially in the current climate, for underqualified managers to be recruited, or for existing team members to suddenly find themselves holding the keys and being promoted to management positions they aren’t ready for. In either case, they need to be given the tools of the trade to supercharge their skills.
  • High staff turnover – Factors such as low pay, long and unsociable hours and lack of long-term career aspirations all contribute to high levels of staff churn. But onboarding best practices can help you to earn loyalty amongst your people and retain them for longer, by demonstrating a career path that’s rich with training opportunities.

“Training is the answer” Bannon-Smith concluded. “And I know that’s easier said than done with limited time and the cost of everything rocketing. But I don’t see another way. There is no easy fix to this and collectively we have a lot of work to do to rebuild the talent pool. ‘Poaching each other’s staff’ is not solving the problem long term and a mass of experienced hospo humans aren’t suddenly going to appear.”

Let’s not forget that times have changed. It’s not so long ago that hospitality professionals across all levels lost their jobs in droves during the pandemic. Many of them have since decided that the grass is greener on the other side. Now, onboarding best practices don’t magically eradicate some of the elements discussed in this article. But they go some way to offsetting and diminishing the issues that the hospitality industry has with a) getting great people on board and b) keeping and nurturing them.

At HireRoad, our formidable onboarding software is helping hospitality businesses to take control of their futures, onboard hard-won new hires more efficiently, and keep them sticky.

If you’re looking for innovative ways to ignite your onboarding best practices in line with your recruitment efforts, get in touch today. We can’t wait to arrange a ‘show and tell’ demo to walk you through the difference HireRoad Onboard is making to hospitality businesses globally.