Training and flexibility will be key for hospitality businesses when they look to reopen, according to a panel of HR experts speaking on The Caterer's HR leaders webinar earlier today.
Industry figures from the likes of Home Grown Hotels, CH&Co and Yo! discussed how best to prepare businesses for post-coronavirus recovery in front of an audience of 550 attendees.
While the panel agreed that communication is key at this moment – John Orr, senior vice-president of retail at HR technology provider and event sponsor Ceridian for instance said it was very important for associates to hear from their chief executive – flexibility in staffing would be one of the biggest challenges ahead.
Job sharing, split shifts, rotating furlough, staggered start times and breaks, and moving people into different areas of the business were all discussed, and it was agreed flexibility will be required from both employees and employers. On top of this, individuals will each have their own circumstances to deal with, and while some will be keen to return to work post-lockdown, others won't and may have responsibilities that prevent them from doing so.
"We're all going to have to think a little bit differently about talent, flexible skills, multiskilling people, the job-sharing piece and all of that agile stuff that will enable us to react as we move through this period. We're going to be in this ‘not normal' for quite some time," said Lisa Charles-Jones, HR director at Parkdean Resorts.
Charlotte Hutchings, people director at foodservice firm CH&Co, said she was focusing on social distancing and is already looking at training around that. Orr said it was likely the industry would see a "touch-less demand" going forward, with technology enabling that and the training for it ahead of reopening.
Hutchings said employees at CH&Co will go through "a full online training session to make sure they're really comfortable with what they're doing".
She added: "Reassuring people to ensure they're comfortable to come back to work is absolutely vital."
Training was emphasised as key to ensure staff feel safe and protected and can then communicate that confidence to guests.
Alyson Hancock, HR director for Yo! Sushi, said: "HR teams are going to have to react quickly to make sure this is all trained in before we go back to work… It needs to be normalised before the teams get back into the restaurants."
She said the restaurant group was revisiting its service cycle to minimise touchpoints to ensure guests feel comfortable – and while once cleaning may have been "discrete", in future "the more visible the better to try to reassure guests".
However, Steve Rockey, people director across Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels, pointed out that flexibility will also have to extend to guests and that some may not want to follow certain ‘rules'.
"How do you enforce it if someone says no? From a guest perspective a little bit more tricky," he said. "You have to take it on a case-by-case basis."
Watch the webinar in full:
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