Inside track: the small moment can make all the difference, says Wendy Bartlett

17 March 2020 by
Inside track: the small moment can make all the difference, says Wendy Bartlett

Focus on the little things... and the bigger things will look after themselves, says Wendy Bartlett

I was away when the big ‘B' happened, but I suspect that, given how fed up people were by the whole scenario, it sadly got a bit of a ‘whatever' from most.

As I sat with my G&T, I contemplated for the 100th time what it would mean to Bartlett Mitchell. I was mostly trying to determine what it would mean to employees and any employment issues.

Hospitality's common problem is retaining and recruiting staff in an ever-decreasing pool – a situation that will only worsen with the recent news regarding immigration restrictions.

In my 40-odd years, there has never been a shift in that conversation. We are still saying the same things, especially about how we should promote the hospitality industry.

What's really odd about all of this is that we have never had so many celeb chefs and cooking programmes. We even have a front of house celeb and a TV programme on how to start a restaurant. Catering, it seems, is sexy on TV, but not in real life.

As leaders, we should think more about how we can influence and affect hospitality's reputation and the desire to work within this industry. What can we do to make a difference?

We could go out and support campaigns, get involved in initiatives – but the best thing we can do is make our businesses a great place to work by being fair, fun and focused on our teams. That's what we are in control of and accountable for.

This is what Ian Mitchell and I spent a lot of time discussing when setting up Bartlett Mitchell. We wanted to take the things that impressed us in our careers, whether they were done by a boss, a person or company, and deliver the same experience.

In our business, we are in a privileged position as we go into other industries and see how they value people first hand. And in reality, it's the small things that we as leaders do that make a difference.

For me, it was when my big bosses used to make the time to say hello and remember my name; it was having a birthday in a place where it was a big deal, celebrated with a card, cake and fuss.

It was also the boss who treated me with respect, recognised when things didn't go well and questioned, improved and supported me, rather than blaming me. It was the flowers when I was sick, the reassurance I wasn't alone when things changed, and the constant recognition, encouragement and support. It was those that said thank you.

Rarely is loyalty achieved just because of a salary. I stuck with people, not the company.

What we try to think about are the small moments where things have happened to make someone feel they've been valued.

I'm constantly astounded by new recruits when they tell me that they have never met the ‘big' boss in their old companies.

These same bosses will be telling us that they are the most important asset of their organisation.

I don't think catering companies need a mass corporate programme. What you need is a culture where people feel valued, and truly believe that we are the industry that adds a smile to any given day – be that through promotion and training, a thank you and appreciation for what you do daily, a birthday card, or just having something that makes you enjoy your day to day.

Brexit has made the battle for talent harder, but maybe it can do some good and focus the minds of leaders to concentrate more on their own little impacts.

Our industry has faced significant challenges over the years, and coronavirus is going to be one of our most difficult. However, we cannot forget about investing in our people. People get us though the worst of times.

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