Tips to boost employee retention amid a labor shortage

March 25, 2022
min read

Staffing shortages continue to plague the hospitality industry. According to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite a gain of 179,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality in February, employment in the industry still remains down by 1.5 million or 9% from February 2020. 

More than half of U.S. hospitality workers won’t go back to their old jobs and over a third aren’t even considering reentering the industry, according to a survey that underscores hiring challenges for restaurants, bars, and hotels.

Finding staff is only half the battle but keeping workers, especially in today’s challenging market is no easy task. Losing employees can be disruptive and costly and with lots of businesses hiring, workers are being lured by higher wages, perks, and other incentives. How can you compete and get your workers to stick with you? We’ve rounded up some tips to boost retention with your workers.

Praise is powerful. Say Thank You.

Have you thanked your employees today? Hospitality workers are some of the hardest workers out there and working in the industry throughout the pandemic has been no easy feat. 

Thousands of workers in retail, hospitality, and healthcare say they don't feel valued at work, according to a new survey that indicates that the "Great Resignation" will continue to hit employers in 2022.

Leadership expert Tim Durkin says employees want to be needed, noticed, and known. He shared his simple feedback technique recently with Hotel Online to help you motivate and keep your best employees. The idea is to not only praise your employee but also praise the performance. It’s important to tell employees why you appreciate what they’ve done.

For example, instead of just saying, “Great job and thank you,” Tim suggests getting more specific about what you’re praising. You could say something like, “Great job, Mary. Thank you for your hard work this weekend managing the front of house and handling all of the takeout orders alone on our busiest days. We appreciate the extra effort you put in to help operations run smoothly. Thanks again!”

Specificity is key and can have a tremendous impact. Of course, you’re not going to be detailed in your praise every single time you say thank you but it’s a tactic to keep in your pocket to use when you deem appropriate. 

In addition to making people feel known and noticed, praise is a great motivator. It makes workers feel confident and want to work harder, ultimately leading to higher job satisfaction. 

It may sound simple but we often don’t say thank you enough. It’s not too late to start to praise your employees, be specific and celebrate a job well done!

Raise Wages to be Competitive. 

According to a recent Insider article, new data shows a record-high 1 million restaurant and hotel workers quit in November. Hiring however remains strong which demonstrates that it may not be so much a labor shortage as it is a wage shortage.

"Lots of workers in those lower-wage industries seem to be leaving jobs for greener pastures, where they can get higher wages," Nick Bunker, the economic research director at Indeed, told Insider.

Tapping into a qualified talent pool within its own network, Jitjatjo conducted a Returning to Work Survey and found an overwhelming 76% of survey participants cited higher hourly wages as a key incentive for returning to work.

According to the NYTimes, the hiring crisis has prompted many restaurants to raise wages: Pay for hourly workers in leisure and hospitality jumped 13 percent to an average of $16.60 in August, from $14.72 a year ago. With the new year came an increase in wages for Jitjatjo.  Jitjatjo raised wages across all markets because we believe quality talent deserves to be paid a competitive wage.

Are you offering your staff competitive wages? Consider bumping up your hourly rate to meet or exceed those of your competition. If you’re not currently in a position financially to raise rates now, consider an agreement where you will raise rates at a future date and offer other incentives such as paid vacation days, an additional bonus for a job well done, and/or employee discounts. Remember workers are in the driver’s seat these days so you’ll need to make an offer they can’t refuse.

Employees Like Benefits.

In addition to higher wages, another way to be competitive is to offer employee benefits. Many career hospitality workers feel overworked and underpaid with limited benefits. Despite many states implementing sick day requirements for businesses, many full-time hospitality workers still have no access to sick pay and worry about how they will manage if they do get sick.

Medical benefits are a huge perk and incentive for full-time workers. A survey conducted by Toast prior to the pandemic found that only 31% of restaurants surveyed offered medical insurance for employees, while 21% offered dental and 18% offered vision. In addition to medical benefits some provide a 401(k) plan, others disability insurance and some franchises including Sweetgreen and Starbucks offer parental leave to their full-time workforce.

With food costs and other expenses on the rise, adding any additional benefits can be expensive. Bakery owner, Sarah O’Brien, made a completely unheard-of move and began adding a 4% pre-tax fee to all transactions to cover employee health care. She announced the change to her customers via social media, used signage at the restaurant, and also added a line item on each customer’s bill. Initially unsure of how customers would react, she has been met with positivity from patrons.

In addition to medical benefits, employees also look for the opportunity to develop and learn new skills. According to a 2021 Gallup survey conducted on behalf of Amazon, skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job. In that survey, 66 percent of workers ages 18-24 ranked learning new skills as the third-most important perk when evaluating new job opportunities, behind only health insurance and disability benefits. 

Benefits come in all shapes and sizes. What benefits do you think your full-time employees would value? Do your employees know of all of the benefits you currently offer? Learn from your staff and consider making additions and enhancements to meet their needs. 

Prioritize Work-Life Balance.

Over the past year and a half, the importance of flexibility in the workplace has become increasingly prevalent with workers taking on numerous new responsibilities in their day-to-day lives.

After losing two valued employees this past summer, Jason Berry, a founder of Knead Hospitality, a restaurant group in Washington, D.C., saw the need to provide more flexibility for his staff. He is now introducing a four-day workweek to his restaurant managers. Although it may be costly in time, recruiting and training in the short-term, he hopes to bring some balance back to people’s lives who still love the industry.

In addition to work-life balance as it relates to scheduling, it’s also important to continue to support your employees’ mental health. The pandemic has caused undue stress for everyone, especially those working in hospitality. According to a new study, workers reported a continued toll on their mental health, with 60% seeking more help for physical exhaustion, and another 57% hoping for more support with mental health, according to the report.

Connect with your employees to understand their preferences and make your schedule accordingly. Offer a paid mental health day or consider a team activity to de-stress from time to time. Remember employees are your greatest asset and if you do things to make them happy, they will be better performers and more likely to stay.

Build Company Culture and Help Your Employees Grow.

According to a recent Forbes article, 2022 will be the year of workplace culture. A renewed focus on company culture, employee engagement, and an employee-centric work environment will be key to winning the war for top talent.

It is a toxic culture, according to a study done by MIT Sloane, that is driving the Great Resignation. The study found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.

Communication is key in building a strong, positive company culture. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Human Capital Trends Survey, “Organizations that integrate well-being into the design of work at the individual, team, and organizational levels will build a sustainable future where workers can feel and perform at their best.”

Employees want to feel secure, valued, and heard. As an operator, it’s your job to set the tone for your company culture. Company-organized social events are a great way to build stronger connections with your employees and amongst your team and a great way to boost morale.  The more connected one feels to an organization, the happier and more engaged they will be. ADP Research Institute found that U.S. workers who feel strongly connected to their employer are 75 times more likely to be engaged than those who do not feel connected.

Additionally, part of company culture is helping your employees grow and providing them with the skills they need for a successful future. If an employee is in the same role for too long where they see no potential for future growth they may think about leaving. Consider offering your employees the opportunity to try different roles within your organization. Maybe your food runner would like some line cook experience or your hostess would like to learn the management side of the business. Find opportunities to have these workers “shadow” more experienced staff members to help their growth and development. 

For workers who are still in school or planning on getting an advanced degree, some businesses are now offering some form of tuition assistance to staff. For example, Chipotle has retained a substantial proportion of its general managers by offering employees college credit and subsidized tuition. McDonald's, Starbucks, and Taco Bell also offer some form of tuition assistance to staff. 

By assisting in your employees’ professional development and ongoing training you’re showing your employees you care and at the same time ensuring your team is relevant and in-the-know when it comes to industry trends and best practices. Investing in your employees is key to enhancing their abilities while also boosting engagement and retention. 

What do your employees think of your company culture? Have you created a positive work environment where your team feels connected and engaged? Small changes can go a long way to enhance your company culture.

Retention Tips Recap

In the war for workers, organizations have to find ways to keep employees happy and engaged. We’ve summarized best practices to help set you up for success in boosting morale and retention. It’s never too late to reimagine your organization,  your culture and employee offerings. Remember…

Say thank you and be specific in your praise.

  • Pay more! Or provide other incentives to help stay competitive.
  • Offer employee benefits – paid sick, medical, school tuition, etc. 
  • Give your workers a break! Offer flexible scheduling and consider mental health days.
  • Prioritize company culture and find ways to boost employee morale. 

Need Help With Talent Acquisition?

To compliment your business’s hiring efforts, Jitjatjo has a robust talent pool of contingent workers ready to work when and where you need them. Our talent community is filled with thousands of experienced, pre-interviewed, background-checked, and W2 temp staff. To place a booking, download the Ondemand by Jitjatjo app and get started! There are no contracts, fees, lengthy setup. Learn more about staffing Ondemand with Jitjatjo and our enterprise workforce management platform, Network.  


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