The growing importance of employee engagement [Hospitality Talks interview]
Each month Katy Moses, MD of KAM, chats with hospitality industry leaders as part of the Hospitality Talks series. In this latest episode, we share our insight, predictions, and advice to help the industry thrive.
In the new video our CEO of employee services, Scott Read discusses the growing importance of employee engagement and reveals new insights from our recent research.
Hospitality Talks: The Importance of Employee Engagement
Watch this episode of Hospitality Talks with KAM where we discuss our latest research and white paper and Scott’s thoughts on how to measure profitablity from employee engagement services.
Prefer to read?
Read the transcript of the discussion between Scott and Katy for this episode of Hospitality Talks here…
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Hospitality Talks. I am absolutely thrilled to be joined by Scott Read, who is the CEO of employee services for Growth Partners. Scott, thank you so much for joining me. We’ve had some research recently conducted that we did together about employee engagement services, but for anyone out there who hasn’t seen that research or doesn’t know who you are, do you just want to give a brief introduction?
Yeah, definitely. Thank you, Katie. Growth Partners is a payroll and pension business. We set it up about five years ago with a view of doing payroll and pensions very differently and adding a huge amount of value to what is traditionally commonly outsourced service that businesses will look to use, and that value is all around. How many other employee benefits, employee engagement type services could we include at a really cost effective way? In essence, can you get all of these tools and services at the same price as what you would normally outsource your payroll for? So something that’s commonly done, but ultimately not, given the wide range and breadth of additional services and value-added services alongside it.
We did that because both myself and the person who founded Growth Partners back in 2017 have a background in employee engagement – he had probably 20 years of experience and knowledge of the employment employee engagement sector, and I’d worked alongside him for the previous ten years. So it really helped us, and we felt that it was a way of getting employee benefits and employee engagement services to smaller to medium-sized businesses that wouldn’t traditionally invest in it.
Before I started KAM, I ran a recruitment agency. And, of course, employee benefits was a sort of buzz phrase that we used a lot of the time, and it encompassed holiday, maybe a gym membership. This is quite some time ago, remember? What is the difference between benefits and employment engagement services? What exactly is an employment engagement service?
I think it’s a great question, because employee benefits and employee engagement is massively misunderstood, and I think it means something different to everybody. I mean, even the people that you interviewed during the whitepaper we did together, they’ve all got a slightly different take on what employee engagement is, which is really interesting to read for me.
Employee engagement comes down to trying to achieve something within your business, right? And that sounds really vague, so I will explain…what I always talk to people about is, how can you unlock the discretionary effort from your employees?
And that’s the question that I pose myself, which is, effectively, I’ve got employees working nine to five or, I don’t know, six till ten in a pub or a restaurant or whatever, and everybody has a set of tasks that they need to do during their shift or during their day’s work. I personally have a to-do list that I write at the beginning of every day of the things that I want to achieve that day. And subconsciously, you have almost a level of acceptance of what looks good for the day. If I get to the bottom of that list, is that a good day? If I get the top three done because they’re quite massive tasks, is that a good day? And in reality, everybody has this subconscious acceptance of what good looks like.
And what I mean when I talk about unlocking that discretionary effort is, how do you get the individual to do the next two things on their to-do list even though the end of their shift is there, or even though they’ve already had a really productive day. And you can’t do that by management alone in terms of just asking them to do it for a start. It’s not right. Everybody’s got to get the work-life balance.
We are well beyond the ‘you work an extra hour and now because that’s just what’s expected of you, right?’ That’s not the culture that society sees as acceptable anymore – for all the right reasons, but actually, it’s about an individual caring, passionately about what they do, the company that they work for, and wanting to go above and beyond.
And I guess a couple of examples for me, it would be:
Technically it’s clocking off time (whether we have a technical clock in off time or not is another question for another day) but ultimately I can look at my to-do list and say, no, do you know what? There are two or three things that I still need to get done today because I don’t want them to dictate or change what tomorrow looks like or the next working day.
Or for somebody else, it might be the element of my job is to serve the food. But actually, I’ve got two minutes whilst I’m waiting for the food to be ready from the chef, and I can see that the dust bins are overflowing and need to be emptied. So actually, I’m going to take it upon myself to do that extra bit, when actually I could be completely justified in standing there and waiting for the food to be ready for me to serve. But instead of being told by my manager to do something, I’m voluntarily doing it and going the extra mile.
So it’s very much about using employee engagement services to create a positive culture within businesses where you are working as a team by choice, and actually, you want as the employee to add as much value as the employer is adding to your life, essentially.
I think so many businesses, for all the right reasons, look at employee engagement as almost a list of employee benefits. And what you can do is you can believe you’re doing a truly amazing job for your staff. And genuinely, you’re convinced that you’re doing everything right because in front of you, you have a checklist of “do I do anything about emotional wellbeing? Do I pay people the right? Are people getting holidays more than statutory? What are all the things that we do?” And you can go down this tick list and you could tick every single one of them and go, brilliant, look how great we are as an employer.
But actually, do you regularly pay them late? Do people wake up on payday and not know whether their money is going to be in their account first thing or whether it’s going to be mid-afternoon? Now, that one act in itself undoes everything else that you’re trying to do.
And even if you get that right, do you actually create a culture whereby people understand why you’re putting these benefits in place, what the benefits actually are to the employee? Because in reality, a really good employee benefit or employee engagement culture, there should be benefits to the employees, but also to the employer. And it’s that double-handed approach of. Why are we doing this? Are we communicating? Why are we doing it? And I guess, more importantly, what’s the strategy behind every element of it?
There’s no point ticking and saying, we’ve got the most popular top ten employee benefits. So what if they’re not relevant to you or they’re not being used an example of that is ‘we do a cycle to work scheme. Yeah, but your staff might all live literally 200 yards from the building.’ What benefit is that really doing? You’re creating maybe a green culture and it fits with another strategy that you might have, but is it actually the right place for you to invest your money to support your staff? And conversely, people might have a cycle-to-work scheme in as much I know you like your bikes, but if I was to get on a bike, I’m talking about that’s a 50 miles journey to work every day. It’s not realistic that that cycle-to-work scheme is going to be something that actually motivates me.
So find the right benefits for your staff and have a strategy about what is it that you want to implement? Why are you implementing it? Can you then communicate that to all so that they understand what you’re trying to do? And then ultimately, can you measure whether that’s having an impact on your business or not? And for me, it’s the strategy and the communication piece that takes it from a list of things that you can do to actually driving engagement and driving that of the discretionary effort. Because if the employee doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do and why, then you’ll never unlock it.
I suppose this isn’t just about attracting new staff, is it? I mean, these are some statistics, I think, that were in the white paper that we wrote together – there were 149,000 hospitality vacancies at the end of last year and you’ve got all of these fantastic initiatives like Hospitality Rising who are going to come in and change the perception of the industry and make it a more attractive place to work. But presumably we all know that it is cheaper and easier to retain the staff that you’ve got than it is to bring on new staff. So does employee engagement have a place to sit in that area of hospitality as well in the retention?
Absolutely. I think one of the people who was interviewed used the phrase that “employee engagement services are an essential part of a business and then they went on to say they’re costly, but ultimately, if they’re applied right, it’s worthwhile rather than a cost.” And I think the problem that you’ve got with employee engagement services (and it’s a challenge that’s been there since employee engagement benefits became a thing in reality) is so many businesses look at them as a drain on the bottom line because there’s a £10,000 cost or £50,000 depending upon the size of the organisation, ultimately people see it as well that’s money off the bottom line and we’re not going to get a return on that.
The hardest thing to do if you’re trying to sell it to somebody is to give them the tangible benefit from a monetary point of view. Businesses that adopt it and work it really well have stopped trying to monetise what it does for them. Ultimately, they just know that over a period of time, their staff loyalty increases, retention increases, recruitment costs go down, and productivity goes up.
The other thing the white paper does is clearly talk about the link between happiness and productivity
That in itself has to mean happiness equals productivity, which ultimately is what every CEO and FD is after within their organisation anyway.
But probably not the first strategy that they put together to demonstrate how they were going to be profitable in the first place. They’re much more likely to go and speak to a supplier about reducing costs or chain supplier to get more margin in a product than they are thinking about, I need to invest in my staff because that will ultimately get us greater profitability. The reason for that is because they are tenuous financial examples that you will give. You have to a certain extent take a leap of faith that by investing in this you’ll get a return.
I think the key thing that I also need to stress there is that if ultimately the management within your organisation isn’t supporting what you’re trying to do by creating that culture, then please don’t invest in it because it will just be money off the bottom line. Because how it is communicated, how you then manage your staff, how you pay them properly on time, how you encourage them to save or make their money go further. All of those things are pointless if fundamentally you’ve got a bad manager running a site because it just that’s the thing that overrides everything. So the management have to be on board with what the strategy is.
So it’s a top-down strategy that everybody needs to be engaged with. And one of the things that I’ve always found is how do you make sure that all those managers are invested in it. And we all as people managers give our staff objectives. How many give them people objectives? In my opinion, every manager should have a people objective as much as a financial or a commercial one.
I agree. I wholly agree. And I think that we are as an industry changing for the better when it comes to looking after our people. But there is still a way to go. And obviously having access to employment engagement services is one of the tools that we should all be looking at to recruit and retain.
Scott, thank you so much for your time. I’m afraid that is all that we have time for. Although I am going to come and personally pick your brains on employment engagement and see what we’re doing right and wrong at CAM and see where we should be making some changes.
Employee engagement services in hospitality research paper
Our new study led by insights and research consultancy KAM reveals how employees in the hospitality sector feel about the employee engagement services available to them. Download a copy here.
About Growth Partners
We’re a payroll provider and so much more. We’re on a mission to make employers’ and employees’ lives easier, happier and healthier. We provide an end-to-end solution for payroll, pensions and employee engagement services. You can book a demo here or see how much you can save, or even earn by outsourcing services to us.