In the hospitality sector, it’s not uncommon for staff turnover to exceed 60% annually, some venues are unfortunate enough to see figures in the 90% and above region! Even if your business is performing far better, I’m willing to bet that you’d welcome anything that helps you to engage and retain your best staff. What does the staff engagement survey mean if there are only newbies left to fill it, or even worse, not enough employees to make it matter? 

Maybe you’ve heard of the latest buzz about gamification currently making headlines in hospitality? Just in case you’re not familiar, gamification isn’t anything new. It has been doing the rounds in many industries over the past 10 years or more and is touted as the best way to increase engagement by using game theory and game mechanics to drive desired behaviour.

In its simplest form, it utilises rewards (points, badges, etc) and competition (against yourself or others) to encourage particular actions, but is often more subtle. A common example I’m sure you’ve seen is the progress bar your social media profile. Seeing that your profile is 80% complete and you just need to upload a profile picture to hide the final ‘task’ and have the satisfaction of a complete green progress bar is enough to make most people do it. That helps the platform designers who know that users on their platform engage more with others when there is a nice smiley photo.

Up until now, you were possibly thinking that gamification sounded like a pretty cool way to engage your customers. Loyalty cards, social media competitions and content-driven apps have been core revenue generators for hospitality marketing teams for the last few years. But should you turn the tables and use gamification techniques to engage your staff to get them to do more of what you want?

Gamification is Bullsh*t

Firstly, it is impossible to make it fair. Different staff have different levels of expertise. They’ll work different numbers of hours. And, the way you set up your systems to track work will be biased. This is due to the varied nature of hospitality tasks – some of which are desirable to track (for regulatory or performance reasons), and others less so. Therefore some staff will always have the ability to earn more points/rewards/recognition than others.

Secondly, and to put it bluntly, gamification in this context is coercion – and that’s the worst way to engage your employees. You’re trying to get them to do something they don’t really want to do, or find difficult to achieve already, by offering them a nice juicy carrot. Have some respect, don’t gamify your staff.

Motivation 101

The best managers out there understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation to do your job is ‘external’ (the big juicy carrot). Intrinsic motivation is ‘internal’, it’s why an employee wants to do the work even without the external reward. Intrinsic motivation is way more powerful as FedEx found out…

It’s a famous story that’s decades-old about how FedEx was struggling with huge backlogs of parcels stacking up at major airports resulting in missed overnight deadlines. They tried many approaches to get the night shift to work harder, demanding, coercing and threatening. Nothing changed. 

Eventually, someone asked the question “why are we paying an hourly rate when we want the job done as quickly as possible without mistakes?”. Suddenly everything changed. The workers were paid the same flat rate regardless of how long the job took. What once took more than 10 hours was now done correctly in just 7 and the workers got to go home ‘early’. Pay someone for an hour and you’ll receive an hour. Pay them for a job, and they’ll do the work in 40 minutes.

How to make it work in Hospitality

This story isn’t about hourly pay. After all, in hospitality, if you’re open to custom until 11pm, you need your staff there. No, this was an example of the right incentives producing the right actions.

Put simply, give your staff what they want.

Your staff don’t need another social network (i.e. your intranet made youthful by virtue of it being available via an app). They don’t need arbitrary perks, free cinema tickets don’t put food on the table. And they don’t need points for jumping through hoops they’d rather not jump through.

What they do want is to be able to look forward to work, enjoy their shift and go home feeling like they did a good job. An obstacle-free work environment that values their time and commitment. 

Ask not what your staff can do for you, but what you can do for your staff.

These guys and gals are your front line. They probably understand the day-to-day problems better than you. Between them, they can probably come up with more possible creative solutions to these problems than you ever could.

Ask them what the biggest problems are that they face day-to-day. What takes the longest. What frustrates them most.

Ask them how they would solve those problems. 

Ask them what would make their job better and their shift easier.

Listen to what your staff say and act on it.

You’ll quickly learn what the biggest issues are and you’ll have a good clue about how to resolve them.  Pick the most important and fix it. Communicate the improved situation to all staff. Explain the positive impact. Thank and praise those involved in identifying the problem and contributing to the solution. If you can, share some of the benefits with them.

What gets rewarded gets repeated.

Next, get to work on the second biggest issue and fix it. Rinse and repeat. Now you have an engaged workforce. Your staff know that you listen. They know that what they say matters. They know you care – you just made their day better and you’re going to keep doing that (with their help and involvement).

They’ll want to come to work tomorrow and contribute more. In the process of doing this, do you know what else you’ll achieve? You’ll make your business better too… in many, many ways!

  • You’ll become more efficient and improve your margins as you solve these issues
  • You’ll be providing better customer service as you improve brand standards
  • You’ll be retaining your best employees because your business is now a great place to work
  • You’ll find it easier to attract new top talent as word gets out that you’re an employer who cares

All of this without a single perk, point or prod. So far we’ve talked about the principles of good employee engagement. Now let’s talk about… 

How Tech Can Help

You’ve probably already worked this out, but here are the things to avoid.

  • Don’t use gamification
  • Don’t use rewards, perks or loyalty apps
  • Don’t force your staff to use an internal social network to consume articles only you think are interesting (sorry to bruise your ego)

Instead… Give your staff the tools to help them do their job more easily. Make it quick and easy to carry out compliance checks. Make it quick and easy to raise and manage issues through to resolution. But mainly… Make it easy for your staff to communicate with each other and you.

Your staff don’t want to give out their personal phone number and belong to 10 different WhatsApp groups that interrupt them day and night. They just want to be able to talk to the right people at the right time to get the job done. They also want 2-way communication with management regarding anything important that affects them. Is there a tool that enables you to do all of this in a single app? Software which facilitates operational excellence, issue management and centralises communications so that you can ditch email, ditch WhatsApp, ditch any other tools you pay for and survey and communicate with staff about work that matters?

The answer is ‘yes’ – would you like to book a demo?

Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin

Head of Client Services

Mark lives and breathes customer journey and success, having championed end-users in startups for over 15 years.

A Co-founder and tech enabler for businesses small and large, his expertise ranges from product development, to automation, to customer service excellence.

As Head of OpsBase Client Services, he’s the perfect go-to to find out how to make your day-to-day operational challenges a thing of the past.

Daily task management, issue resolution and team communications, all from one platform.

OpsBase software is designed for busy restaurants bars, hotels and retailers. Manage your day-to-day operations on the move, report any issues with the click of a button, and communicate with your whole team, across multiple sites, all from one easy to set-up, simple to use app.

Find out more

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