Staff shortages and recruitment is endemic in the hospitality industry, but the care sector has borne the brunt of the impact. As operators seek lasting ways to keep staff happy and motivated, we caught up with Phil Raynsford, consultant, trainer and motivational speaker to get some advice.

“There’s no single answer for the issue of staff shortages” says Phil, “but I do believe a key part is for management to discuss how staff would like their career to progress and both encourage and support them to get there. Where do they see themselves in the near to medium term future? What development do they need and want to get there? Would they like to move to a different department? They might not know all the answers as they are unaware of opportunities. By talking to them, the manager is saying I want to help you progress.”

Not all team members have the confidence to voice their aspirations, when this occurs, try helping them become aware of the skills they have. This could include things that seem straightforward but are essential to the job such as the ability to help people, working as a team, being a self-starter and multi-tasking. “Not everyone will have all these skills,” says Phil. “Some people may not be aware of the massive range of skills and abilities they already have. This can cause many to be reluctant to step out of their comfort zone because they lack confidence and don’t realise what they can already do.”

Phil recommends using a “drip-feed” approach in helping staff realise their potential. “It may sound basic, but it’s about spotting people doing something right,” he says. “If someone has managed to prioritise three things in a stressful situation, you don’t just say ‘well done’, you catch up with them later and have a chat with them and explain what it is you’ve noticed and why it was so good. The individual will recognise that and think ‘maybe I’m better at this than I thought.’ The care home catering sector is a real balancing act as staff are putting on special menus, meeting dietary needs and making meals tasty and nutritious to a strict deadline. It’s an incredible achievement and yet they think they’re just doing their job.”

Praising staff helps to make them feel valued. One way of doing this is for staff to nominate colleagues when they do something outstanding and perhaps offer a prize for the person with the most nominations. Phil says, “It needs to be done in the right way so people feel recognised for what they do.”

Asking staff to complete a task they’ve not done before needs to be carefully handled. Chefs, for example, could be encouraged to enter competitions or do a cooking demonstration to residents and families. Phil says, “This is a great way for staff to develop their skills, but they may feel it’s too daunting. This is where it’s important for managers to help team members realise just how good they already are and the foundation of skills they already have. Then introduce the new challenge and talk it through answering any concerns.”

Communication with staff is vital and makes them feel part of the team. “Get people together in small groups. Mention to people the great things they’re doing and recognise their achievements and be sure to share any testimonials from satisfied customers. Research shows that motivated workforces stay longer and reduce recruitment and training costs.”