In his key note speech, Emeny told MCA Pub Conference delegates: “The labour turnover in our industry is very high, and at Fuller’s, because we are growing quite rapidly, we anticipate that we will need around 4,000 colleagues over the next 18 months, just to continue to run our pubs to the standard that we do now.”
He said the brewer and operator’s position in the market means that it can only thrive if it recruits, develops and retains great people.
“We have a rich history of investing in our pubs and our brands, but we have always recognised the need to invest in encouraging and inspiring our teams, and this is really the investment that we are increasingly going be focused on going forwards, because we know that it repays in spades,” he said. “If the people are right, the rest of the customer experience is relatively simple.”
He said Fuller’s encourages its people to give their personality to the pub, because it believes it is the only way that pubs can compete in a marketplace where customers have an increasing choice of dining experiences at home or in a restaurant.
The company has been working to develop its people in a number of ways, from the launch of service passports five years ago, to installing the latest equipment and air-conditioning in its kitchens, so there are “no more sweaty kitchens”.
“It’s not that long ago that inductions were a quick 10 minute inspection of how the tills worked, now we have structured, measured training in place, which is recorded in a service passport for all our staff.
To coincide with this it also launched its Five Golden Rules of Engaging Service, which has a strong emphasis on colleagues taking ownership of the customer experience, “engaging all of our team members in delivering an experience, not just functionally serving a customer”.
Engagement is also “absolutely key” to reducing staff turnover, explained Emeny. In addition to development programmes, the company introduced ‘Connection Week’, where every pub sends a member of its staff to an off-site day of learning and fun, he explained. “We can get our messages across to those colleagues and they can go back and share it with the rest of the team,” he said.
Most of the work Fuller’s had done around engagement and development up until 18 months ago had been quite analogue-based, he added, “and we needed to bring ourselves into the digital world”. “So we launched an app for our colleagues in the business, which is called Fuse. The content that we have is Fuller’s specific – it is written by us, for us,” he said. “It connects our 5,000 colleagues in the business together through their mobile phones. It means that when we launch a new beer, for example, tasting notes and a video explaining the characteristics of that new product are seen by all of our staff.”
Emeny the biggest challenge it faced in terms of development and retention of staff has been in its kitchens, so it has “significantly increased our investment in training and infrastructure”. In addition, its chefs now have access to a range of financial and non-financial benefits, which put them ‘on par’ with what its most senior managers are offered, he said.
It also recently recruited nearly 100 chef apprentices, “and they are making a great contribution to the business”. “All our chef apprentices spent at least a day a week at the college they have come from. I think it’s important that as an industry we don’t take advantage of apprentices and we allow them to carry on with their studies outside of the workplace environment,” he added.