Our Blog

Staff shortages - ideas on how to cope
31 July 2018 - 10:00
The pubs, bars and restaurants sector is facing a major challenge - an acute shortage of staff, especially chefs.
This comes at a time when competition is more intense than ever and consumers, with easy access to countless online reviews, are more demanding. It means that the concept, the value proposition and the customer experience all need to be spot on. It also means that staff need to be properly trained, customer focused and engaged.
The problem is that good staff are getting harder to find. For years EU nationals have been a key element in the industry’s labour force but as soon as the UK voted to leave the EU there was a slump in job applications and now we have what’s been described as a recruitment black hole. Job applications are at an all-time low and HR directors lie awake at night worrying about how they’re going to find and retain the people they need to keep their businesses going.
There are calls for the government to help with the EU nationals issue amid fears that the gap won’t be filled with UK recruits. The sector has long been viewed by many as unattractive and poorly regarded for its low pay, long hours, hard conditions, and limited career prospects.
However, the sector has woken up to the dilemma. Some businesses have responded with golden hellos for chefs– substantial cash incentives in return for a commitment to stay for an agreed period. In Ireland where the situation is just as difficult as the UK, businesses have pressured the government into increasing the number of work permits for non-EU recruits and some businesses have even started recruiting suitably skilled refugees. In the UK there is talk of introducing a nation-wide French-style apprentice system in which the state funds catering schools to produce a steady stream of graduates with valued diplomas. In the meantime some businesses are being forced to limit their opening hours to just four nights a week.
There are no quick solutions. In the short term the winners will be those who address the low pay, long hours and hard conditions. In the longer term it will be those who can raise the status of chefs (and front and back-of- house staff generally) to the level they enjoy in France, develop a compelling employer brand and offer a winning people-proposition.
Some operators are well on the way to doing that. They are already offering recognised hospitality apprentice schemes leading to degree level, and investing in Chefs and Craft academies. They are working hard to provide young people with work experience opportunities, they recognise outstanding performance, and reward loyalty.
Increasingly, they need to engage in an ongoing conversation with their chefs and other staff to understand what is keeping them motivated and what is causing itchy feet. They need to closely monitor their recruitment and on-boarding processes to ensure that promises are kept and the work experience is positive. They also need to conduct exit surveys to identify why things have gone wrong for some people and what can be done to stem the flow. In other words they need to up their game in terms of attracting, recruiting and engaging chefs and other key staff and dealing with the perennial concerns around pay, hours and career paths. They need to start demonstrating that the pubs, bars and restaurants sector can offer attractive and rewarding career prospects that people can be proud of.
If any of these issues are keeping you awake at night, give us a call on 020 8456 7243 to discuss how we can support you. Digital Opinion has been involved in the pubs, bars and restaurants industry for 17 years and has the knowledge and experience to help operators measure and drive motivation and performance and increase retention. We offer state-of-the-art always-on, real-time feedback platforms for engagement surveys, on-boarding and exit surveys, and action programmes.
Thoughts on recruiting, motivating and retaining the best people in retail
10 August 2018 - 10:00
Times are tough in retail. Consumer confidence is low and set to remain so as long as there is uncertainty over Brexit. The UK currently enjoys high employment and low interest rates, but household budgets remain tight and spending continues to be squeezed. At the same time retailers’ costs are rising, competition from online operators is intensifying by the day, and many brands are starting to by-pass retailers altogether and seek direct relationships with consumers.
For some retailers these headwinds have proved too much. Since theturn of the year Maplin and Toys 'R'Us have failed, while other major companies have been forced into store closures.
However, retailers are fighting back. They know that customer experience is becoming ever more important and are intensifying their focus and re-imagining their stores. They recognise that many consumers want to associate themselves with brands that share their views, beliefs and values, and shun those that don’t, and they are focusing more tightly on brand authenticity.
But there is another critical area they need to focus on. Retail is a customer facing business which needs properly engaged and motivated staff to deliver outstanding service. If they come up short in this, consumers, with easy access to countless online reviews, will take their business elsewhere.
Unfortunately recent research indicates that many retailers need to get better at recruiting, motivating and retaining their people. It suggests that few have good retention initiatives in place or run training and development programmes to help build employees’ skills and support career development. As a result staff turnover is relatively high which has a negative impact on customer satisfaction, productivity and growth.
So, just as many retailers are re-thinking their customer propositions, they also need to strengthen their employer brand. They need to engage their staff in an ongoing conversation to understand what motivates them to give of their best and stay with the company. They need to monitor closely their recruitment and on-boarding processes to ensure that promises are kept and the work experience is motivating. They also need to conduct exit surveys to identify why things have gone wrong for some people and what can be done to stem the flow. In other words they need to be the best they can be at offering attractive and rewarding career prospects that people can be proud of.
If any of these issues are keeping you awake at night, give us a call on 020 8456 7243 to discuss how we can support you. Digital Opinion has been involved in the retail industry for 17 years and has the knowledge and experience to help businesses measure and drive motivation and engagement and increase retention. We offer state-of-the-art, always-on, real- time staff feedback platforms, on-boarding and exit surveys, action programmes, and a proven approach to advanced analytics - linking engagement to other key performance metrics such as sales, customer satisfaction and staff retention.
3 ways to win the War for talent
3rd July 2018 - 10:00
The phrase “war for talent” first came to the fore in 1997 and more than twenty years later that war is still being fought. Over time the tactics employed by organisations engaged in the war have changed, and ideas like Employer Brand, Employee Experience, and Employee Value Propositions have emerged as new weapons. Nevertheless, the war continues as do complaints about the lack of quality job applications, the difficulty of filling certain roles, and tight budgets limiting competitive salaries.
However, this isn’t just about attracting people, it’s also about retaining them. For many organisations, and whole industries, attrition levels are way too high with many employees leaving their jobs in the first year. That leads to further lamentations about the unreasonable expectations of Millenials and the inadequacy of outdated recruitment processes. It also has a big impact on employment costs and customer satisfaction.
The war for talent is set to continue. Organisations will adapt their tactics and the best will get better at using a range of social media channels. However, the fundamental challenges won’t go away any time soon.
In the case of retention the challenge might not be quite so daunting. By fine-tuning their on-boarding processes, carefully monitoring engagement at every stage of the employee lifecycle, and conducting exit surveys, organisations should be able to generate the flow of data needed to understand how and why things go wrong and identify the actions they need to take to reduce attrition. That, in turn, will support the recruitment effort.
For more information on using our Always-on platform to conduct on-boarding, exit and engagement surveys click the link below.
Always-on feedback
The secret of engagement and productivity
25th May 2018 - 10:00
Want to engage your people? – then organise them into small teams and give them a specific task. Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, once described the happiest people she knows as those who are dedicated to dealing with some of the most daunting problems the world has to offer. Happiness, she says, comes from the feeling that they are making a difference, and she sees the same spirit in business teams creating new initiatives.
Want to increase productivity? - again, organise your people into small teams and give them a task. Small teams are far more productive than large groups. As a group gets bigger, all sorts of issues spring up: individual performance falls off and people start disengaging. More people might provide a bigger pool of resources, but they require more coordination and management, to the point where size becomes an impediment.
How do you find or create small team-working opportunities? One solution might be your engagement survey and more specifically post-survey action. In our experience ongoing, team-level action programmes have a huge impact on both engagement and productivity. Sounds simple but it works.
Is listening your best weapon in the war for talent?
2nd May 2018 - 10:00
The idea of employee engagement has been around for some time but as the nature of work changes so do the implications for engagement.
Employee expectations and demands are changing. People are putting an increasingly high premium on a positive work environment and flexibility. They want jobs which give them a sense of purpose and opportunities for growth, and they expect their employers to be good corporate citizens. When selecting an employer these considerations are sometimes seen as more important than compensation and benefits.
The idea of a job for life has long since died. Employees change jobs more frequently than they once did which increases the pressure on employers to provide streamlined promotion opportunities and give employees tools to manage their own careers.
At the same time social media provides people with opportunities to assess an organisation’s employer brand and attractiveness as an employer. If it doesn’t measure up it will lose the war for talent. So the pressure is on. If companies are to compete successfully in attracting, engaging and retaining their people they will need to focus on driving meaning, purpose, and passion and, above all, on listening to their people. And listening means more than the annual survey. Competing with the best means adopting an “always-on”approach.
Fortunately, a new generation of always-on survey tools and feedback systems is already available. They enable organisations to monitor closely their organisation’s “pulse”, provide insight into what’s working and what’s not working, and help them identify potential problems. Some companies have already embraced this new approach; others are managing the transition from the annual survey to always-on step-by-step, focusing on regular pulse surveys until the idea of continual two-way dialogue is properly embedded.
Always-on does not automatically lead to better quality feedback and higher levels of engagement. Careful design is essential so that the feedback can be used to monitor alignment with strategic priorities and goals and as a driver of continual improvement. The platform should provide employees with the opportunity to give a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback so that a rich blend of numerical scores, opinions and suggestions is generated. It needs to guarantee anonymity so that employees can share their views openly and freely, without fear of censure. At the same time it should allow people to identify themselves if they want, so that colleagues and managers can follow up ideas and suggestions. Above all we should not forget that feedback is of limited value unless it is acted upon. It needs to drive action and continual improvement. Therefore, the best platforms should incorporate an action planning component which enables teams to records actions, encourage them to share best practice and enable management to track improvement team by team over time.
Leading companies work hard to attract, engage and retain top talent and they employ a wide range of approaches and tools to help them. They continuously re-visit the question why their employees should commit to working for them and what they can do to make the workplace more attractive. Gathering, analysing and acting on feedback is a key part of that process and makes a big contribution to the development of the employer brand and business success. Indeed one of our own clients, Mitchells and Butlers, has recently been recognised at the National HR Distinction Awards as the “Overall Best Place to Work”.
Onboarding – a key touchpoint in the Employee Experience journey
19th March 2018 - 09:00
An increasing number of organisations are turning their attention to the idea of Employee Experience, a concept which encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employment with an organisation.
It is being seen as a key driver of the behaviours which drive performance, and some major businesses now have a Head of Employee Experience. Their job is to design, build, and sustain the right employee experience which encourages people to perform to the best of their ability.
Each step in the employee lifecycle impacts people’s experience so it is usually considered important to gather feedback at each step. That enables the organisation to measure how well it’s helping its people to be successful, and where it needs to do more.
One of the most important steps in the employee lifecycle is the onboarding process. It is during this process that the new employee is introduced to the organisation’s people, processes and tools. When done well, it helps new starters hit the ground running, reach their full potential quickly and stay with the organisation longer. When it’s not done well individuals can feel held back, leading to disaffection and a quick exit. And a high level of staff turnover can have a negative impact on both productivity and finance.
3 ways in which schools hammer working mothers
28th November 2017 - 09:00
For many people balancing the demands of work and family is an ongoing challenge. Very often it’s the working mum who has to juggle things and when it comes to balancing work, family and school things can get very tricky indeed. Below we describe three of the ways in which schools add to a mother’s burdens.
  • In many families siblings attend different schools, each with the same start and finish times, and often some distance apart. For some lucky mums that isn’t a problem, they can call on friends or relatives to drop off and pick up at least one of the children. But mums who don’t have that luxury face the daily challenge of being in two places at once. On top of that they have to fight their way through heavy traffic and cope with the road rage of other mothers who are also trying to get their children to school on time. So we shouldn’t really be surprised when our working mums arrive at their desks feeling highly stressed.
  • And then there are the five inset days during which schools are closed for teacher development. Let’s say our poor mum has two children at different schools, and no friends or relatives to call on. She must now either find and pay a childminder to look after the children, or take 10 days out of her own well-earned holiday allowance.
  • And then, as if adding insult to injury, the schools invite our mum to join her children in their assemblies or watch them perform in a school play. All very well meaning, no doubt, but what they fail to recognise is that when they invite our poor mum to school during working hours she’s got to do yet more juggling. And when she simply can’t get out of a work commitment she’s taken to task by her disappointed child who is quick to point out that her friend’s mum is always there. How does this make our poor mum feel? She can’t help but feel she’s letting her child down. It all adds to the stress.
  • Not only can this stress affect a mother’s wellbeing, it can also impact her family and work. Neither schools nor the government appear willing to sweep these practices away so is there anything that employers can do to help? What would your working mums say?
    Employee feedback – does it deliver value?
    21st November 2017 - 12:00
    An increasing number of organisations are introducing always-on employee feedback platforms. They enable employees to provide feedback how and when they want, using web and mobile channels. They take much of the hassle out of surveying, and enable businesses to ask any number of questions, tune into employee views and address key issues. The big question, is do they deliver value?
    The answer is yes provided we avoid the ‘more is always better’ trap, and instead focus on generating quality rather than quantity, and then acting on it. In broad terms that means two things:
  • Designing systems which help and encourage people to give actionable feedback in a safe environment, and shifting the emphasis from closed to open questions in order to start constructive dialogues about the issues that matter.
  • Empowering managers to act on the feedback. Real-time systems, like any survey systems, are counterproductive if nothing happens with the feedback.
  • Providing the real-time data is rich, contextual, and constructive, and managers act on it, always-on feedback should deliver real value which helps to engage people and drive business performance.
    Employee Voice
    10th November 2017 - 13:00
    The MacLeod Report (perhaps the most important study of engagement ever undertaken in the UK), identified employee voice as one of the four enablers of employee engagement. What is employee voice?
    According to the report, employee voice exists where an organisation has put mechanisms in place which enable it to have an ongoing conversation with its people so that everyone in the organisation feels they can have a say, that their voice is heard and listened to, and their views taken into account.
    In this environment people are involved and actively invited to contribute their experience, expertise and ideas.
    Some tips on getting started with always-on feedback
    09th October 2017 - 11:00
    Always-on platforms are powerful feedback tools which take the hassle out of surveying. They don’t need to be overly complex and a good supplier can set one up quickly and host and maintain it to avoid any demands on in-house IT teams. The challenge in making it a success is seldom technical. It’s more about how you introduce it and embed it in the business in a way that encourages employees to use it and managers to have confidence that it adds real value. Here are a few tips on how you can get an always-on feedback process up and running in your business.
    Start off positive
    One of the concerns about introducing an always-on platform is that the first people to respond may well be those with an axe to grind. One way to avoid that is to start off with a topical issue and invite feedback from a specific group. Focus on eliciting ideas and suggestions rather than presenting them with a set of closed questions.
    Keep it simple
    Managers new to always-on feedback sometimes see it as a mini version of a full-scale survey. Perhaps it’s better to see it as an opportunity to start a series of mini conversations on different topical issues. Keep each set of questions short and simple, and the tone informal.
    Make it frequent
    Always-on lends itself to lots of mini feedback projects. Think of all the questions you could ask. Get feedback from a specific location or function, or from people who’ve attended a training course. Use it to run exit and on-boarding surveys. Create a project plan which sets out all the mini feedback projects you want to run.
    Be proactive
    Don’t just put a link on your intranet and wait for people to respond. Ask them directly. Text them or send an email explaining why you’re asking for their feedback and what you’re going to do with it.
    You told us, we listened…
    Always-on should be a two-way process so you need to respond to people’s input, champion good suggestions and acknowledge contributions. Keep the conversation going and demonstrate that the process works.
    How to win the battle for talent
    02nd October 2017 - 12:00
    Businesses face a lot of uncertainties at the moment. Nobody knows how Brexit is going to pan out or how the economy is going to fare. All we can say is that for most of us things could be tough.
    In those circumstances it is more important than ever that organisations are able to recruit, motivate and retain the best people. But that is an increasingly difficult task. Talented people know their worth and know what they are looking for from a prospective employer. If businesses don’t measure up, they will lose the battle for talent.
    What does measuring up mean? It means recognising that for many people family values are more important than corporate values and that work-life balance is vital. It means creating a compelling work environment in which the free flow of information and regular feedback are the norm.
    Always-on feedback platforms can help create that compelling environment. Asking simple, questions such as “How are you feeling about your work?”, “What stopped you doing a great job this week?” and “What would you like to tell us about today?” can provide ongoing insight into what is motivating people and help to identify potential problems. With this approach, feedback becomes a positive, constructive process that encourages involvement and innovation, and engages and empowers people.
    Using employee voice to raise engagement and beat Brexit
    25th September 2017 - 10:00
    Despite the vaporings of politicians on the question of whether or not Britain will ultimately benefit from its divorce from the EU, a period of uncertainty will affect business.
    It has been reported that 36% of employers say their staff have concerns about job security and that their non-UK people are worried about their right to continue working in this country, while the emotive and divisive nature of the debate has only added to workplace tension.
    The clarity and assurances that are essential at times such as these are not forthcoming from our politicians. Therefore, it’s incumbent on businesses to step up to the plate and demonstrate that they understand the human as well as the financial implications of Brexit, and how a highly engaged, united and motivated workforce will be vital in helping them navigate the unknown waters ahead.
    If they haven’t already done so, it’s time for businesses to invest in effective engagement and communications processes that open an on-going, two-way dialogue between employees and management, which enables them to address concerns, and remove uncertainty and fear.
    By doing this they will go a long way towards Brexit-proofing themselves whatever Westminster or Brussels throws at them.
    A revolutionary approach to employee engagement– could it work for you?
    11th September 2017 - 16:00
    As management teams struggle to engage their people and make their company a “great place to work” a new generation of feedback tools are emerging which are helping companies transform the employee experience.
    These platforms tend to favour simple, actionable questions such as “How are you feeling about your work today?”, “What stopped you doing a great job this week?” and “How far would you recommend this company as a great place to work?” They can also go beyond engagement and get feedback on operational issues, staff turnover, and customer service. Asked regularly, they provide companies with immediate, real-time feedback, keep them in contact with front-line staff, and enable them to identify potential problems and fix them.
    With this approach, feedback becomes a very positive, constructive process that encourages involvement and innovation, and engages and empowers people.
    These employee feedback tools are not a fad. They are set to revolutionise the way companies relate to and manage their people.
    Who’s responsible for engagement in your business?
    05th September 2017 - 15:00
    Many businesses have long realised that nurturing and looking after existing customers is far more profitable than chasing new business. Part of that process involves getting regular, real-time customer feedback from customers and acting on it to ensure that products and services remain exactly in line with their needs.
    It’s the same with employees: retaining and engaging existing people makes far better business sense that constantly hiring and training replacements. However, the engagement process seldom involves getting real-time feedback from employees.
    This can be remedied with relative ease. Always-on platforms can provide real-time, continuous feedback on a range of critical people processes such as on-boarding, retention, performance management, and engagement. As well as uncovering trends, they can drill into emerging issues and provide nuanced insights into why employees feel and act the way they do.
    With always-on feedback, engagement is no longer the exclusive responsibility of HR. Team-level reporting puts it in the hands of line managers and their teams, and gives them the insights to drive bottom-up improvements.
    Smartphone apps for HR – Which to go for?
    21st August 2017 - 10:00
    Smartphone apps have been described as the next frontier for HR technology. They give companies the ability to provide online learning, manage performance, facilitate continuous feedback from managers and employees, and run pulse surveys to measure engagement.
    For companies considering a smartphone app, one of the first questions is should they go for a native app or a web app. A native app is something that is installed on the smartphone like the apps that are downloaded from app stores. A web app is something that is opened in your web browser but not stored on the phone. Below, we offer some of the pros and cons of each.
    Native apps are easy to use, run fast and make full use of the device features. However, they have certain disadvantages. They are built for specific devices. They are expensive to develop and maintain and cannot be easily updated. And because data can be stored on the device there are considerable security issues if the device is lost or stolen.
    A web app, on the other hand, typically works across all platforms and operating systems. It is relatively inexpensive to develop and is simple to maintain and update. Security is much less of an issue because data is stored in the cloud rather than on the device.
    So unless you are looking for full device integration or game-quality graphics, the web app is probably the better option.
    Are you losing your best people?
    14th August 2017 - 10:00
    A certain level of staff turnover is normal and even beneficial. It can provide opportunities to promote high performers and bring in "fresh blood". However, when it’s too high the costs can be considerable: direct costs involved in recruiting replacements, and indirect costs related to administrative and management tasks. In many cases the greatest costs are those related to reduced efficiency and the skills and knowledge lost to competitors.
    Most organisations recognise this and conduct exit interviews as a means of understanding why people leave. However, research suggests that leavers seldom divulge the real reasons in those interviews. As a result, the value of exit interviews is often limited.
    For that reason an increasing number of companies are turning to leavers surveys as a means of gathering reliable insight into why people leave. They offer the same confidentiality levels as other surveys and consequently the results should be reliable, and when they ask the right questions it is possible to separate out the critical pull and push factors behind the decision to leave, and identify the key drivers ofstaff turnover.
    Nowadays the leavers survey can be part of a much bigger, always-on employee feedback platform which can also be used to track engagement and give your people a voice on a range of issues.
    Why always-on employee feedback?
    7th August 2017 - 10:00
    Always-on platforms take the hassle out of surveying. The supplier looks after set up, invites your people to participate via emails or text messages, and automates the whole survey process. Your people can take part on their smartphone, tablet or PC.
    You can invite feedback from who you want, when you want, and on any subjects you want. You give your people a voice and listen to them throughout the year.
    Up-to-date feedback enables you to respond to challenges, act on good ideas, and make timely changes. You can measure the effectiveness of initiatives and communications, track trends, and raise engagement. Just as you do with your customer feedback.
    What to look for in a supplier
    A tried and trusted platform, top-notch support, and powerful, easy-to use reporting. On top of that, look for competitive pricing and flexible terms.
    Millennials – Do you have what it takes to engage them?
    31 July 2017 - 09:00
    A lot has been said about generation Y, the Millennials, their preferences and expectations. Some of it is fanciful exaggeration but some things ring true. As a group they tend to be tech-savvy, attach more importance to family values than corporate values, and expect to balance work with their personal life. It is said they have a preference for team-oriented environments, and value a free flow of information and regular feedback.
    As an older generation retires, Millennials are moving into management and leadership positions in increasing numbers. This, together with the proliferation of digital technology and social media, is already having an impact on how we organise work.
    If we want to recruit and retain the best people we need to remember, at the flick of a touchpad, they can see how their current business or competing businesses are rated by their employees.
    To attract the people we want, and manage their expectations we need to start seeing the world through their eyes. Only then will we be able to create a compelling work environment.
    Many businesses already embrace social media and a variety of tools to help with that. One of those tools is the always-on feedback platform. Managed properly it can provide the real-time, two-way communications process that is not only important to Millennials but all employees.
    Always-on feedback – Is it really killing the annual survey?
    20 July 2017 - 10:00
    Purveyors of always-on employee feedback apps would sometimes have us believe annual surveys are dead because:
    • They’re time-consuming,
    • They produce a huge workload spike,
    • They are outdated by the time the data is analysed,
    • They are unpopular with employees.
    Are those criticisms justified? In our view no! With good project management and analytics skills it is possible to minimise the impact on workload and produce even the most complex analyses and reports in days. And provided the business has a track record of acting on feedback and driving improvement, employees readily recognise the value the survey brings.
    An always-on approach, on the other hand, is unlikely to provide the sheer volume of data that is needed for linkage analysis - an assessment of the impact of engagement on key business metrics such as sales or customer satisfaction.
    That doesn’t mean annual surveys are better than always-on programmes. In our view they complement each other. Always-on is a great way of keeping your finger on the pulse, identifying issues as they emerge, and pinpointing the things that are of concern to people. The annual survey, on the other hand provides the big picture and the long view, and highlights issues that might need to be tracked over time via the always-on platform.
    Always-on employee feedback – letting people communicate as they do outside work
    6 July 2017 - 12:00
    As consumers we’re used to providing feedback – just think of Amazon and Tripadvisor. And some of us, especially millennials, have grown up with instant two-way communications – things like texting and online messaging. But as employees, most of us don’t get the same opportunity to provide regular feedback.
    Some organisations are beginning to recognise its value and are introducing continuous feedback programmes which enable employees to provide feedback how and when they want, using web and mobile channels - mirroring how they behave outside work. It helps to engage them and it enables businesses to ask any number of questions, tune into employee views, and address issues before they escalate.
    Always-on platforms are powerful but they don’t need to be overly complex. They need to enable businesses to create, launch and analyse surveys, and share information rapidly. Getting set up need not be difficult. The challenges are more cultural than technical. Above all, businesses need to be agile with their responses.