The 21st century manager

Martin-Christian Kent, Executive Director at People 1st explains how the changing role of managers can help to create quality jobs

How a fresh approach can help businesses attract and retain talent

The recent publication of the Taylor Review, examining the future world of work, highlighted some of the critical challenges facing UK businesses. Whilst its authors praised the UK economy’s job creation, it was clear that there is also a need to create ‘quality jobs’ if standards of living and productivity are to rise. 

The hospitality industry doesn’t fair well historically against the six measures used to assess quality jobs, but our new research – The Performance and Talent Management Revolution – shows that this is changing.

In the face of rising costs, recruitment difficulties and changing employee attitudes, businesses are rethinking their people strategies and there is a renewed (and overdue) emphasis on staff retention and engagement. Managers are a critical part of the solution, but having strong management base isn’t without its challenges.

16% (7,535) of hospitality businesses report that their managers lack the required skills to meet their needs. They are faced with two key management challenges: how to develop and support current managers to get the most out of the existing workforce and how to identify, develop and nurture tomorrow’s managers.

Supporting today’s managers

The role of a manager has changed tremendously in the past decade, but this isn’t apparent in some hospitality businesses. The industry has traditionally had a strict hierarchy where ‘what the manager says goes’, and, as our forthcoming report on the chef shortage shows, this is still seen in many kitchens. It’s an important factor undermining chef retention, and it needs to change.

Managers need to be able to engage, motivate and inspire their teams in ways we haven’t seen before. They need high-level people management skills, as well as a broad skills base from finance to marketing.

Most businesses have an annual engagement survey, but we are increasingly working with clients to support a deep-seated change in the way managers engage with their staff, giving their team a real voice and stake in how their business or unit performs. It means that the external brand values of a business are consistent with the internal ones, and that managers are embodying them.

Businesses are increasingly developing these essential management skills, whilst others are bringing new managers with this skillset in from other sectors. They are also looking at how managers are measured and incentivised, so key people metrics, such as staff retention and engagement, stand side-by-side with financial ones.

One of the key tools in any manager’s armoury is performance reviews – taking time out with each team member to give them an opportunity to feedback and to understand their thoughts and ambitions. The trend for regular, informal chats works well in hospitality, but managers need to have the right skills to get the most of these encounters and, critically, follow up and respond.

Tomorrow’s managers

Individuals who show ability as waiting or bar staff, chefs or room attendants are often promoted to management roles without the required development or support. Identifying future management talent early on is key and, again, regular performance reviews are a vital tool.

More businesses are talent-spotting through performance reviews and developing staff before they become managers. Many are turning towards the new apprenticeships as a means to develop and promote staff. Our recent survey with levy-paying employers showed that nearly a third were using apprenticeships for management progression, opening up new opportunities to work with universities and third-party providers to enhance their management training.

Falling unemployment and Brexit means that if businesses want to attract and retain talent they need a fresh approach to their people strategies. Many businesses are on that journey and managers are key to its success. This has the potential to revolutionise the hospitality workplace – and demonstrate that our sector not only creates jobs, but quality jobs.