We spoke to Chris Handel, general manager at McConnell Group (Supernormal, Cumulus Inc, Marion, Cutler & Co., Supernormal Canteen and Meatsmith), about how the hospitality group has implemented a strong development, training and recruitment program to support staff and keep turnover rates low.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a crisis but there certainly is a shortage and the recent decision does make it difficult, particularly for businesses in regional areas. For our business it’s been a little different, as we’ve got a greater pool of domestic talent in inner Melbourne. We’re extremely thankful for the skilled people we have from overseas who provide a wealth of diverse knowledge and experience to our teams.
Are our training institutions in need of an overhaul?
No. After recent meetings and constant dealings with our quality training institutions I’m convinced more than ever that we’re heading in the right direction. I certainly feel that there is a responsibility for us as employers to maintain strong relationships with these institutions and be constantly feeding back to them. By doing so we ensure that training programs stay relevant, internationally competitive and comparative, and ensure there isn’t a domestic skills crisis.
At what point did you implement an in-house training program?
We’ve done it for years and it’s something that we’ve been very focused on for a while now. We recognise and understand the importance of training and development in an industry with such high attrition rates and we’re committed to this investment. We’re committed to growing our own staff as we’ve seen the benefits of developing internally to maintain our position in the industry.
Most definitely, now more than ever and I think the commitment to training and development is largely responsible for that. Our staff enjoy training and can see the tangible benefits for their positions within the hospitality industry but also professional skills they can transition into other industries.
What are people starting at entry level looking for career-wise that you offer?
Progression. Most people who come to us for an entry-level position are looking for some form of education or training, and learning progression.
Do you see people switching from front of house to back of house (or vice versa) or do they tend to stay put?
We do for both sides or in both scenarios and it is something that we actively encourage. We have chefs enrolled in WSET (wine training program), and front of house staff doing shifts in the kitchen. Our chefs love running food to tables – it gives them direct interaction with our customers which is a sometimes new experience for them.
I’m extremely grateful for the learning and training offered to me as someone who entered the industry, it’s made a lasting impression so reinforced my commitment to it for my staff. I would say this reflects on Andrew’s (McConnell) experience as well and that’s why we commit to developing people. Offering opportunities and development doesn’t just shore up one pathway, it can take many different routes.
Other than making for happier staff, is it also good business sense?
Absolutely! Like Danny Meyer says: ‘Put your employees first, customers will follow’. In addition to that there is obviously a significant cost associated with high staff turnover and constantly recruiting. It makes good business sense to look after the staff you have!