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Have a nice day!

Author : Tim Fryer

26 September 2012

If you in that vast majority who find the continuing economic gloom a bit wearisome, I have recently been subjected to a number of instances that reveal there is a very genuine silver lining to this seemingly endless black cloud.

This silver lining comes from the perceived wisdom that recession breeds an industry/sector/economy that is leaner and fitter. On a national scale this is clearly nonsense. All recession does is increase the national debt and the dole office queues.

I am also not so sure that it necessarily applies to individual organisations. Just by surviving will probably entail being leaner, but being fitter – by which I mean better – is far from certain. A company that has out of necessity had to shed experience and skills is probably not as well equipped to satisfy its customers as it was before. Indeed, if survival was dependent on cutting costs it is often the most skilled and experienced who have been moved on.

However, before you think I am submerging myself under a wave of negativity, I believe an opposite effect is emerging. In fact I believe that the historic British tendency to provide bad (or at least grumpy and reluctant) service is finally succumbing to the ‘American dream’. When margins are being pared down, rather than pass that on to staff through static wages and no training, companies are going the other way.

There is a realisation that what will win the business is offering more than the competition. When clients start appreciating that they have spiraled costs downwards to such an extent that the only way to reduce cost further is to reduce quality of service, then the spiral starts working in the opposite direction. The discussion starts revolving around quality and the winners are those who can offer a better service with better trained staff.

Despite sounding a cautious note about the ability of SMEs to fund training in the catering industry, the FCSI report ‘Taste of the Future’ that I have covered in this week’s FM Report comments: “There is no doubt that investment in service skills and improved talent management is necessary to deliver the high levels of service that consumers expect when they eat out. Thanks to television programmes like The Art of Service, the sector is finally making progress in the training and up-skilling of employees and enhancing its image as a ‘career option’ for high quality candidates.”

Bigger companies are recognising that offering training not only gives them the best workforce, it also encourages people to want to work for them. GSH recently told me it is to launch its own Academy to train its M&E employees – from apprentices right through engineering and management.

Similarly, Simon Pratt, the new MD at front-of-house specialists Portico, commented: “Our Portico Training Academy is linked to our Investors in People Gold Accreditation that we achieved about two years ago, which only 270 companies in the UK achieved – something we are very proud of. What this all means is that it attracts talent without having to look too hard for it. We get a lot of enquiries, around 20 a day, from people looking to work for Portico. They want to be respected for what they do, they want to be trained and given a succession plan that will help them to continue to develop further and realise their true potential.”

In these days of TUPE, companies often do not have complete control of who they employ. If they are to make a difference then in some occasions it will not be who you have got, but what you do with them - and while an a dispirited employee in one company can be a liability, that same person if engaged, motivated and well-trained becomes an asset.

Many companies have been moving this way for years, but I suspect that the current economic climate is accelerating the process.

Have a nice day!

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