The pandemic stripped back the curtains covering the smoke, and many have had ample time to reflect on how they were treated at work.
Some incredibly frustrating phrases that seem to come from every customer's lips in 2022 sound a little like this: "Why is the service so bad?" "Where are all the staff?" "Can somebody make me a drink around here!"
Hospitality is facing its biggest challenge yet: the great resignation of 2022. And the turnover levels clearly illustrate the tricky situation that we are in.
Before 2020, there was a comfortable inventory of nearly 14 million openings, with hospitality making 10 percent of jobs available in the United States. However, since then, 3.5 million Americans have left the workforce to pursue more independent means of financial stability, and a third who walked out the door were hospitality workers.
Those within an industry that could not work from home had to find other means of ensuring food arrived hot on the table each night, and many kissed the bar-life goodbye forever.
In the summer of 2021 came the grand reopening of the economy—and suddenly, there were more job openings than job-seekers to fill within the hospitality sector. The situation became dire for venue owners, and everybody kept asking 'why don't people want to work?'
Why didn't people want to return to bar or restaurant work when they could again? After all, perhaps you had a favorite waiter at your local diner who suddenly disappeared after serving you every day for ten years. They seemed happy. Where did they go? And why?
Let's unpack that.
Workers Are Fed Up, Burnt Out, and Demanding Change
The pandemic stripped back the curtains covering the smoke, and many have had ample time to reflect on how they were treated at work. Couple this with remote working options across the nation gaining further momentum and many opportunities becoming available for those fed up and wanting to make significant shifts in their career. We see an inevitable lack of staff willing to work in this sector.
Before 2020, the conversation around burnout had been brewing since 2019, when the World Health Organization officially included the phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases. But this red flag did not seem to significantly shift the hospitality industry's mindset toward new hires and existing employees.
Traditional mindsets of having to be thick-skinned working tableside stayed in-grained. Other industries started to modernize their approach towards staffing, training, and employee wellbeing, thus, allowing them to maintain staff throughout the pandemic.
"Figure it out or get out" may be something you’ve heard in this industry.
And usually, your first day behind a new bar or in a new restaurant is always a bit of a chaotic, stressful, and pressurized mess.
The first eight hours are commonly met with demanding, impatient, and sometimes intoxicated customers. Stress levels peak at an all-time high, and you are nervously aware that the owner is most likely watching on the cameras above, all while trying to figure out just where on earth the dirty cutlery goes.
With 64 percent of hospitality employees having said their job is their most prominent source of stress, we could look to a lack of ethical training and comfortability at work as the reason why we specifically see a significant turnover crisis in this sector.
Hospitality venues can look to display they're willing to adapt and move with the times.
They can choose to show from day one that they're a workplace advocating for change and employee wellbeing by implementing ethical training methods that help employees warmly move into new jobs.
Implementing immersive training modules that new hires can fulfill from the comfort of their own home before their first shift can ease the stress of starting a new hospitality job.
The Workforce Of Today Wants Growth, So Let's Give It To Them!
Open up Google and search: "what do millennials want from their employers," the first thing that comes up is the following from CNBC: "When choosing a new employer, good work-life balance and learning and development opportunities were the top priorities."
By leveraging this burning desire for career improvement and showing you prioritize care for overall wellbeing, you will see a team willing to stick around if you prove to them from the get-go you're a modern employer with modern values.
With immersive training technology, hospitality owners can create modules similar to real-life. This could include busy restaurant service hours so the employee can get comfortable working the floor before dealing with real customers face to face.
Allowing staff to familiarize themselves with the basics of your establishment before their first shift, such as the point of service system, the location of specific cutlery or glasses, where to run dirty dishes, or even the table maps and what their numbers are, allows them to come into work comfortable and ready to take on further challenges from there.
Immersive learning modules have shown to be effective in maintaining higher staff retention. The process is easy! Employers can work with companies who specialize in precisely this to create simulations of their workplace that are highly engaging and easily accessible on the employee's laptop or iPhone.
Hospitality owners can tackle the current employee crisis by standing out from the crowd by offering modules tailored to real-life restaurant service hours.
Today's work culture has shown they're fed up with being thrown into never-ending stress. Just look at the statistics. Why should someone in hospitality say that work stress is their No. 1 worry in life? All they're doing is serving beer and food with a smile.
Adaptation to a more modern way of thinking has become crucial. In the hardship hospitality owners are facing, we can no longer continue doing things the way they've always been.
Overall, those struggling to retain, or hire staff, should look to implement workplace simulations in their hiring procedures to gain a further opportunity to connect more in depth with the current employment market. They just might see an influx of applicants as a result.
Jose M. Azares is the CEO and Founder at NIDUM. He is a creative, resilient, and resourceful founder with a demonstrated history of creating quirky brands and innovative products in startups. As an entrepreneur, he founded RE:GRUB, a boutique burger chain on a mission to create innovative and creative food products in an equal and diverse workplace. This experience helped him realize today's training content has been boring, sterile, and non-evolving – and employee retention and engagement levels have been suffering due to it, leading to high turnover costs, poor service and quality products, and negative company cultures. This ultimately led him to found NIDUM, an Immersive Tech Startup on a quest to create a Drag N' Drop Training and Data-Driven Predictive Hiring Platform using immersive tech and microlearning methodologies that align with this new evolving world.