Confidence is key to staffing success

COVID compliance will rely on how well teams are trained on new systems

Bar and restaurant staff not only have to carry out a number of the COVID compliance measures, but communicate them to customers too

THOROUGH staff training can play a critical role in making both staff and customers feel more comfortable in licensed premises in the time of COVID-19.

That was the message from training providers, who argued that well-trained and confident staff have never been more important in hospitality.

The pandemic has led to a raft of requirements for licensed premises, from stricter practices on cleaning and hygiene to social distancing and recording customer contact details.

Ensuring these processes are clear and that staff are well-trained on them is a must, said companies.

“Providing clear guidance and information to the workforce about how to operate in the new normal is essential,” said Lucy Lamb, programme manager at Diageo Learning for Life.

“Businesses will need to deliver new and more stringent types of training in hygiene, clinical cleaning and infection control practices.

“Time must be taken to support staff, to help them to understand what is required by law as well as best practice, for example hand washing, minimum distance, and appropriate use and disposal of personal protective equipment.

Time must be taken to support staff, to help them understand what is required.

“As a result of the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, training should focus on building awareness and understanding of the new measures that have to be put in place.”

Compliance is incredibly important – particularly if a venue is informed that a customer has tested positive for COVID-19 – but ensuring a business is covered is just part of the picture.

Customer confidence is said to be vital as venues bid to attract customers back into their premises after the extended lockdown period – and then to attract them back again.

In order to encourage repeat visits it is vital that these visitors feel safe.

And this is another area where staff training can make a big difference, said firms.

“We have seen over the past few weeks how important it is to keep consumer confidence when there is so much panic and confusion in respect of the virus,” said Morag Beattie, owner of MB Training.

“Good customer service should fill consumers with enough confidence to visit premises again.”

Training should focus on building awareness and understanding of new measures put in place.

Steven Alton of the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping), agreed.

“Consumer confidence is one of the areas where hospitality businesses can really win,” said Alton. “A confident staff member, who knows how to manage the new requirements will in turn reassure customers who were maybe reticent to return to the pub.

“Similarly, conflict management training has been key to giving staff members confidence to manage potentially difficult situations.”

This was reinforced by a recent survey of BII members, in which 66% of respondents cited consumer confidence as one of the biggest challenges facing the industry as it looks to recover from the impact of the lockdown.

Of course, in the longer-term, there are obvious benefits to ensuring staff are continually trained and developed.

“Communication is key to the retention of great team members,” said Alton. “If you make your staff feel valued and invested in, they are much more likely to go above and beyond for your business. If you are disinterested in your people, they will do the bare minimum.

“Having a clear development plan, even where there is currently no “next step” role available lets them know you value their contribution and are invested in their career, not just their current position. In the long term, this will save you more money in recruitment, but also will allow you to recruit people with the right attitude and offer them the opportunity to develop and learn to do things your way.”

Lamb, at Diageo Learning for Life, agreed.

“It is incredibly important for staff to have a clear development plan and an overarching support framework, from health and safety, to customer service, brand advocacy and work place efficiency,” she said. 

“Encouraging staff to gain industry recognised qualifications can benefit both your company and your staff, offering additional skills and contributing to improved employee motivation while also improving morale.”