How do you motivate hospitality staff during lockdown?
By Dan Bignold
Jan 14th, 2021
Covid 19’s shutdown of the hospitality industry means restaurant, nightclub, bar and hotel staff are facing extended time off work. As well needing to keep teams sharp before re-opening, employers have got to stop their people leaving the sector forever.

If you’re a hospitality business in Europe, and many other parts of the world, you’re currently likely to be closed or severely restricted thanks to Covid 19, and facing the following situation:

  • Reduced, or non-existent, revenue.
  • Furloughed employees.
  • Reduced teams, working remotely.
  • Uncertainty surrounding business re-opening, pay cuts and worse, business survival.

It’s a tough list of ingredients with which to rustle up any job satisfaction or employee engagement among staff. But nevertheless, above-and-beyond people management is what hospitality businesses have to attempt during lockdown – and hospitality magic always finds a way, right?

Specifically in this post we’re looking at how the hospitality sector can keep staff motivated through the next few months, as the world waits for vaccines and normality. And how to do it without spending a penny of budget (which doesn’t exist right now anyway). Hospitality has always struggled with staff turnover, and there's a real danger that long term, once various furlough schemes end and doors re-open, many will turn their back on the industry for good in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

But the saying goes, it’s always darkest just before dawn, and if you’ve made it this far, there should soon be light on the horizon. Hang on in there – here’s a list of people management ideas to help keep your teams in the fight:

1. Make time for team-building

Combat boredom, anxiety and feelings of isolation with group activities or creative brainstorming (some of which might even later benefit your business):

  • Bake-offs.
  • Bar snack recipe competition.
  • Cooking tutorials (led by the kitchen team).
  • Wine tastings (write off some stock, courier to your team).
  • Cocktail tutorials (from the bar team).
  • Cocktail garnish competition.
  • Fitness sessions (led by the general manager, for bonus comedy).

All these activities will nurture mental health, and can take place over Zoom, Google Meet or any other video service without costing a dime. If it's not directly related to work – ie, one of the social activities above – it can also include employees being paid through the furlough scheme.

Consider too those non-work projects that the whole team can get behind. There have been some great examples of this, with hospitality staff throwing their weight behind charities at Christmas. Continue that through the new year and listen to suggestions from team members who have projects close to their hearts – as well as helping staff find purpose, these type of extra-curricular activities can be a great way to help employees who have previously struggled to find work life balance.

2. Management contact

One-to-one sessions with management are more valuable than ever for employees. Question-answering sessions or feedback opportunities will quell anxiety and make sure staff are kept in the loop about how the company is surviving during lockdown and what happens after covid 19. As ever, all face time with staff also keeps managers ahead of the curve on potential challenges they haven’t yet spotted.

It’s crucial that staff still see progression in their own careers and personal development, even if the business has slowed to a standstill

3. Decision making

Talk to a lot of companies, and there’s a sense that after the financial shock and pain of redundancies, this period of enforced downtime – hopefully the final stretch before optimism returns – is being used to plan the future. Strategy, marketing, product… whatever it is, bring your people into these long term conversations. There is nothing more motivating for junior employees and non-managers than seeing their ideas being listened to and given serious consideration.

Giving your team’s own ideas room to develop doesn’t just open up management’s eyes to new opportunities. It also involves staff in the decision-making process, which helps hone their strategic thinking. Taking raw ideas and analysing them with a manager’s perspective encourages them to understand the business case from the company’s point of view, and accelerates their own development towards future management or leadership material.

4. Maintain career development

Connected to that final point, it’s crucial that staff still see progression in their own careers and personal development, even if the business has slowed to a standstill. Online learning was obviously a big growth area in 2020 to help organizations and individuals combat the lack of business activity, and for now that trend is continuing into 2021 as staff continue to navigate remote working.

Giving staff the opportunity to find new skills and plug knowledge gaps with courses or training that they may previously have been too busy to finish is a great way to keep them motivated in their day-to-day routine. Plus, for the business, it means you will eventually return to work with a team that’s kept itself sharp – especially if the learning program can be implemented before re-opening and covers the specific challenges your business is going to face when that new, post-pandemic dawn finally arrives.

So those are some solutions…

But how easy are they to implement for the hospitality industry? Numbers 1-3 require time (which managers likely have a little bit more of these days) and positive energy. That’s the tough bit for leaders right now – who's motivating you? – but you’ve got to pull it out of the hat somehow.

Number 4 we can help with, especially right now when your revenue is wiped out. Small Batch Learning is free for operators, for as many staff as you need to train, and our proprietary technology runs just like a traditional LMS provider (only we think better, since we've built it from the ground up for hospitality).

Ask yourself whether you can afford to renew, and spend barely existing budget going forward

Not only does Small Batch Learning allow companies to upload their own training materials, our platform is also populated with around 30 hours of ready-written (but customisable) training courses, as well as a recipe and product library to help hospo staff get up to speed with the items they (normally) sell. Access to our training library is, again, all free. So, whether you want to create your own training, or give staff something off the shelf – or a blend – we’re the solution.

Perhaps you already have an LMS software solution, or subscription for online training from another company. But before you even ask yourself that question of whether you can afford to renew, and spending barely existing budget going forward, we’d love to set up a demo to show you how our hospitality-focused – and free – alternative works. (Note: we’re not offering a time-limited free period, so you’ll never be caught out with a bill after six months – a major irritation after investing all that downtime and energy migrating your training across to a new platform. We’re free, forever.)

To find out more, fill out an enquiry form here. Or sign up for your free personal account here to see what we’re all about first. Happy learning, and good luck getting through the coming months ahead (and just think, soon we can stop saying that). 

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