Work smarter not harder

24 August 2017ducker

Peter Ducker FIH reflects on the UK's productivity and the way forward for our sector

According to the Office for National Statistics, UK productivity has fallen for the second quarter in a row, dipping below 2007 levels. UK productivity per hour is now 35% below the German level, and 30% below the US. Why is this? Some reasons are arguably within the gift of politicians but largely beyond the business community's control. The UK struggles with an overcrowded and creaking transport infrastructure. Traffic congestion means deliveries and general commerce take longer. We are slow at decision-making; look at how long it is taking to decide where to increase airport capacity in southern England.

Other reasons can be attributed to how businesses, particularly large organisations, operate: resistance to change, lack of innovation, poor management practices, poor leadership, over-reliance on cheap labour, and not enough investment in research and development and new technology. The need to re-think how the UK does business could not be greater.

An illuminating new report from People 1st highlights how hospitality and tourism businesses are at various stages of looking at new approaches to retaining their staff in order to drive productivity and performance.

The performance & talent management revolution: Driving productivity in hospitality & tourism report comes to some interesting and perhaps surprising conclusions. On the subject of recruitment, for example, offering flexible working hours is generally seen as a positive in our sector. And yet one business owner is quoted as follows: "When we are advertising locally for roles we are saying, “Come and join us. Work any time between four hours and 40 hours across seven days a week.” I think we have had a bit of a dawning realisation over the last six to 12 months that this is clearly not an attractive proposition in the current employment market. It might give us a really high degree of flexibility, which a lot of our managers value. However I think it is also leading to a high degree of instability amongst our team.”

The report also finds that whilst zero-hour contracts are popular with students and young people, they are less so for older workers. Both recruitment and retention are more challenging if older people do not want to join the company.

The Institute's recent roundtable on Brexit and recruitment found that demographic change and Brexit are sharpening the minds of HR personnel who need to find new and creative solutions to recruitment and retention. For some businesses, recruiting at food fairs has been a new source of F&B staff.

In terms of retention, an example of new thinking is to put more emphasis on asking people why they stay with the company while they are still with the firm, rather than finding out why they are leaving during an exit interview.

Improving productivity in the UK is not about getting people to work harder. You are not going to get better results from your housekeeping team simply by cutting their break times and telling them that, instead of 13 rooms, they now have to clean 17 rooms per shift. It involves training, investment, innovation and finding smarter ways to do things.

This summer the Institute acquired Hospitality & Leisure Manpower, a national training, research and consulting group, founded and managed by David Battersby OBE FIH, a former president of the Institute of Hospitality and a co-founder of the Gold Service Scholarship. It has developed algorithms to benchmark productivity in hospitality.

Watch the video of Peter Ducker FIH explaining how the acquisition of HALM will benefit Institute members and the industry at large.

Peter Ducker FIH is the chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality