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CGA: ‘Staff engagement crucial over lockdown’

Published:  11 January, 2021

Businesses need to stay close to their teams during Britain’s lockdown to make sure staff are engaged and motivated when venues reopen, according to CGA’s latest Business Confidence Survey. 

The survey, produced in association with Fourth, identified employee engagement as a top priority for business leaders in 2021, with the wellbeing of furloughed staff a particular concern.

Nine in 10 (91%) business leaders said they had increased the frequency of communication with their staff, and two thirds (65%) said they had been in touch at least weekly.

Moreover, four in five (79%) had stepped up their wellbeing support and guidance, and well over a third (39%) had used the period of uncertainty to prioritise training and professional development.

During a vodcast to discuss the survey, Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food EMEA, said staff engagement during 2020 had been “excellent”.

“The sector has done a remarkable job of ensuring that staff are engaged and ready to return. The perceptions of a lot of employees is really positive, despite everything we’ve been through,” he said. 

Workers’ concerns about job security however had been heightened in the latest lockdown, he added, with Robin Rowland, operating partner at private equity firm TriSpan, highlighting the challenge of bringing people back to work after long periods of furlough. 

“The battering of the market in 2020 has also made it harder for the industry to promote itself as a place to build a career.  People who work in hospitality don’t feel very loved at the moment, and we need to encourage them to come back,” said Rowland.

The survey also highlighted a contraction in staff numbers, with leaders predicting that their workforces would be an average of a quarter lower in February 2021 than they were in February 2020. 

Two thirds of leaders said they will recruit no (29%) or fewer (38%) new staff this year.

And while the end of the current lockdown should see recruitment pick up again, this could lead to a different type of problem, said Karl Chessell.

“As sites open we’re going to need more people, because the underlying demand is still there—we saw that during Eat Out to Help Out.”

Predicting the levels of staffing that are needed after lockdown would be hard, Fourth analytics director, Max Tucker, added. 

“As we enter this new period of uncertainty… there are going to be big challenges in getting the right people in and holding on to talent.”