The introduction of the national living wage is set to put extra pressure on wage budgets for UK employers. To offset this, businesses will need to increase productivity by attracting, motivating and retaining the very best talent. This is especially true in restaurants, where labour is inevitably the biggest operating expense.
Despite the challenging business climate, the direct correlation between knowledge, skills and productivity means that the hospitality sector has one of the greatest opportunities to achieve this goal, and reap the benefits in the form of return customers.
At Côte we have seen firsthand that we can make a tangible difference to motivation, efficiency and retention by raising awareness among our teams that skills and qualifications can lead to opportunities for progression; more than half of our general managers have progressed internally.
Inspiring people with a prospective career path is only one part of a holistic approach to learning and development. Everyone who joins the company begins by attending the Côte Induction day. These are delivered centrally by our training team, and offer new recruits a chance to learn about the business’s beliefs and values. As we grow it is integral to our success that we instil the same positive ‘Côte culture’ into all of our staff, just as we did in our first restaurants in 2007.
To continue to evolve our approach to training and retention in 2015 we set up he Côte Academy: a dedicated training programme that provides nationally recognised and certified qualifications in partnership with Lifetime Training. These bespoke training programmes have been created with the aim of providing specific training to support the growth and development of our teams.
The academy is unique in the restaurant industry; qualifications are accessible to anyone in the business who demonstrates passion and commitment to career progression. Moreover, by offering a range of training – from skills-based learning to leadership coaching – our people can join a programme at a level that’s right for them, regardless of their position or length of service.
In this way we equip them with the essential skills and knowledge needed to excel in their roles and progress within the company. Each qualification (which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete) is work-based, which means that employees are observed, coached and receive the necessary attention to nurture and encourage their development.
At Côte we recognise that our staff may learn, develop and progress in different ways. We adapt our training to allow for a flexible learning environment, and it is important that our teams learn from each other, share best practice, and benefit from a culture of actively inspiring great performance. We encourage all employees to share their training experiences through our Côte Academy Facebook page. This enables an ethos of sharing knowledge to be easily practised everywhere, from Dorchester to Glasgow.
Senior managers have a responsibility to be supportive of their teams and recognise the significance of being involved in their growth process. Loss in productivity and quality can have implications far greater than the cost of training. By providing our staff with a wide range of opportunities we ensure that we retain them and move towards resolving one of the most common issues in our industry.
Alex Scrimgeour is CEO of Cote Restaurants