Hospitality workers value pals over pay

‘Tis the time of year when staff start thinking about moving jobs – but how can you encourage them to stay? More money? Extra benefits? Flexible working? Think again.

When asked to choose the top three factors that would make them remain in their job for longer, 30% of people in the hospitality sector put workplace friendships at the very top of their list. Just 7% specifically cited a pay rise as a reason to stay put, according to a survey of 1,015 people by employee engagement firm, Eko.

The findings echo research in January, by the Institute of Leadership & Management, which also found that relationships with colleagues is one of the most important factors in determining job satisfaction. More than three quarters (77%) of the 2,100 workers polled said it was their pals that kept them happy in their jobs, compared to 34% who said pay.

In fact, salary was way down the list of factors keeping people satisfied in their jobs. Access to training, a feeling of “connection to the purpose of the organisation”, being valued by their manager and getting on well with colleagues topped the list, with a fair salary eighth.

However, amongst those who were not satisfied in their current role, salary was the third most-cited reason, behind lack of opportunities for growth and development and being undervalued by their manager. This reinforces other studies in the field of job satisfaction that found the aspects of work that provide satisfaction are distinct from those that prevent dissatisfaction.

Kate Cooper, head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership & Management, said the latest findings were particularly encouraging given the focus on mental health and wellbeing at work. “These relationships can help to create a healthier and happier working environment, and a team with higher morale,” she explained.

Pay rises, on the other hand, tend to offer only a short-term fix. “[Pay rises] may persuade people to hang on in their current roles [but they] won’t make anyone automatically like their jobs more,” Cooper added. “So while pay is really important – particularly if we feel that, compared to others, we’re being inadequately rewarded – it still doesn’t provide us with intrinsic satisfaction with the work that we do.”

Hospitality is a sector in which workers are reporting increased levels of stress: more than four out of five (84%) have done so, according to research published by the Royal Society for Public Health in May last year. The survey also showed that 62% of respondents felt the industry doesn’t take care of its employees. Only 10% had received training to support health and wellbeing, or access to mentoring, health champions or mental health first aiders. Another study by Nestlé found that 81% of people working in professional kitchens have experienced poor mental health during their careers, with 74% having called in sick due to stress.

Companies are beginning to take action. In October last year, Aramark encouraged its 16,000 employees in the UK, as well as people from its client sites, to take 15 minutes out of their working day away from phone calls, computers and smartphones to unwind, talk to their colleagues and reconnect. The firm’s Take15 campaign was aimed at addressing the stigma attached to talking about and seeking help for stress and mental health issues.

Last month, Compass and Hospitality Action, a charity that provides advice and support to workers in the sector, joined forces to launch a major new mental health awareness programme. This will include an industry awareness campaign to “normalise” conversations about mental health, instructional videos, best practice case studies and on-site mental health and suicide-risk awareness training.

“Mental health problems and self-harm are currently a major problem in businesses across the UK,” said Hospitality Action CEO Mark Lewis.

“We want to act quickly to provide practical, simple information and tools that are easy to implement and can help break the taboos that surround talking about our mental health.”

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