Staff motivation

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Recruiting the right people is just the start of it. Once on board it pays to get the best out of them. It pays in terms of customer service and it...

Recruiting the right people is just the start of it. Once on board it pays to get the best out of them. It pays in terms of customer service and it pays in terms of staff retention.

People get a lot of satisfaction out of doing a good job. But how, exactly, do you get them in the mood to do a good job in the first place?

There are two kinds of incentives. There are hard incentives, which come down in the end to cash, whether it's basic pay or bonuses, and there are soft incentives, the touchy-feely stuff about enjoying the job itself.

Ideally, a successful business needs to do something about both. Traditionally, the pub industry hasn't scored too highly at either. Barstaff in particular tend to be employed on a casual basis with little encouragement either to add anything to the basic art of pulling a pint or to make a career of pub work.

There are some signs, however, that this is beginning to change. Pressure is coming from the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), the Hospitality Training Foundation and other industry bodies to increase professionalism. The BII is even about to introduce a qualification for barstaff.

Pub companies, too, are coming to recognise that the quality of their staff has a huge role to play in the success of their business, and some of them, at least, are investing in their people.

For the corporate operator this can be a bold step. Tim Martin, the chairman of JD Wetherspoon, told delegates at the Publican Conference last autumn that he had to resist a lot of negative pressure from investors over the introduction of bonuses for barstaff.

Ignoring the City, Wetherspoon paid out £8.5million in bonuses last year, on top of the £5.1million it handed out to staff in 1999. Increases in basic pay are set to add some £8million to the bill this year.

Quite early in the company's history, Martin recognised that to meet the staffing requirements of the company's relentless roll-out programme while maintaining the quality that made the outlets so successful in the first place, he needed to recruit and develop a high calibre of people.

"As the company continues to expand, with the opening of 90 new outlets each year, our investment in our staff remains paramount," said personnel and training director Su Beecham. "We believe in offering real career paths and opportunities for all employees to ensure they each have a long-term future with the company."

With more than 10,000 employees already, this year Wetherspoon expects to create around 3,000 new jobs as part of a £140million pub opening programme. Over the next ten years, it plans to create at least 30,000 more jobs through 1,000 new pub openings.

You might argue that Wetherspoon is a special case. Its fast rate of expansion means that holding onto the staff it has already got and promoting them to take on the job of running new pubs is crucial.

But well-motivated staff is an important factor in the success of any hospitality business. If you want to make your customers feel good, you ought to want to make your people feel good, too.

Regent Inns is taking this point seriously in a new in-house training programme it calls H3. The three Hs stand for head, hands and heart and while it's pretty clear how you might go about training heads and hands, the heart bit might be a puzzle.

For Marlene Collins, however, the heart is right at the - well - heart of what she is trying to do. Collins is a training consultant hired specially by Regent to reshape the culture of the company and she takes a tough line on where many employers go wrong.

"When they start a new job, most people arrive enthusiastic and motivated. Then, too often, managers pull the plugs one by one. We have got some talented people in Regent Inns and we have to exercise their emotional commitment.

"The heart is the starter motor. You have to manage the heart first through good communication and management style. We have to make our managers more aware of what keeps the light shining in people's eyes.

"There will be a lot more thank yous in the business. We mustn't take people for granted. It's about understanding everyone's insecurities. We need a supportive culture that makes people feel good after each little leap they make in their jobs."

The H3 programme involves all pub managers and support staff back at Regent's headquarters and consists of intensive workshops lasting between one and four days which focus on the end results that all this soppy heart stuff is aiming to achieve - enhancing the customer's experience and maximising profitability.

To get there, Regent has recognised that it needs to harness the ideas and opinions of the team and H3 negotiates what the company describes as a "minefield" of difficult issues including communication, motivation, forward planning, task analysis, problem-solving, time management, innovation and leadership.

A number of project groups have already spun off the programme giving pub managers the chance to influence the future direction of the business.

Once the managers are motivated, Collins expects the new culture to feed through to pub staff in the frontline with the hope that their renewed enthusiasm can spread across the bar and get those customers coming back for more.

Incentivising tenants has always been a more complex issue than motivating managers and other employees. Tenants, after all, are supposed to be business people in their own right.

But while the relationship between pub operator and tenant is a financial one, with the tenant paying rent and tied to his landlord for certain products, in an increasingly competitive market, many companies feel they can no longer have the luxury of collecting the rent, invoicing for the beer and otherwise leaving their tenants alone. Equally, many tenants welcome more support in a range of areas.

The trick is to work with tenants, giving them support where they want it, as well as the freedom to run their businesses in the way they choose. How well the average tenanted pub operator does all that is a matter of opinion - quite strong opinion in the case of many tenants - but to their credit, most companies are trying harder than they used to.

Pub operator InnSpired is currently awaiting the first results of a new incentive scheme aimed at recognising the achievements of its most successful tenants. The group, which changed its name from Ushers of Trowbridge at the beginning of 2000, launched a new tenancy agreement last autumn which, through a distribution agreement with Carlsberg-Tetley, is designed to give tenants in the 1,000-plus estate a far greater choice of beers and ciders. Tenants are also free to select their own suppliers for wines and spirits and negotiate their own terms.

With a network of business development managers in place, the incentive scheme is seen as the next step in supporting tenants in growing their trade and planning the future of their business. Each InnSpired pub has annual targets based on the combined volume of its tied products. Tenants who beat their targets earn retrospective discounts, not just on the amount of product by which they exceed their target, but on the total sales of those products.

The scheme applies to all InnSpired tenancy agreements, whatever the length. The previous incentive scheme was only available to Ushers tenants with 10-year agreements.

"This is the next stage in the development of the InnSpired estate," said chief executive Peter Brook. "We believe very strongly that success should be recognised and rewarded. We are making sure that the targets set are realistic and are agreed in liaison with each tenant."

As the end of the first quarter of the incentive scheme approaches, both InnSpired and its tenants are anxiously awaiting the print-outs which will show how everyone has done. "It obviously isn't going to be easy to m

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