Why Employees Leave the Hospitality Industry: Closing the Back Door for Better Retention

Why Employees Leave the Hospitality Industry: Closing the Back Door for Better Retention
October 16, 2023 Susan Diepen

Why Employees Leave the Hospitality Industry: Closing the Back Door for Better Retention

Curt Archambault

Curt Archambault, FMP

Education Strategist, CHART
Partner Consultant, People & Performance Strategies

The hospitality industry is known for its demanding nature, fast-paced environment, and customer-centric focus. However, despite the industry’s glamour and appeal, many employees find themselves disenchanted and eventually leave their jobs. Here are the top 10 reasons why people are dissatisfied with their jobs in the hospitality business, with a focus on understanding these issues to develop strategies for improved retention. By adopting innovative tactics and getting back to basics, companies can create an environment where employees feel motivated, valued, and eager to excel.


Low Wages

Data shows that low wages remain a significant concern for employees in the hospitality industry. According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, the average hourly wage for hospitality workers in the United States is $12.43. Insufficient compensation affects employee morale, motivation, and can lead to high turnover rates. Check out the Top Ten lowest paying jobs in the United States. (SPOILER ALERT – More than HALF are roles in the hospitality industry).


Long and Irregular Working Hours

Hospitality jobs often involve grueling working hours, including weekends and holidays. The lack of work-life balance can strain personal relationships and contribute to burnout. A study by the British Hospitality Association found that 50% of hospitality employees consider excessive working hours as a reason for leaving their jobs. Recently, a prominent and legendary restaurant in the Northwest was reported for wage theft and working people off-the-clock. It’s not been proven true as yet, but the fact that it is out there now means we all suffer in the industry. Guilt by association.


Lack of Career Advancement Opportunities

When employees perceive limited opportunities for growth and development within an organization, they are more likely to seek new challenges elsewhere. Hospitality businesses must provide clear career paths, offer training programs, and promote from within to retain talented employees. Let’s grow our staff. This is what we do as Learning and Development (L&D) professionals, and many of us have benefitted from ourselves. Think about it…did you start as an hourly employee?


Stressful Work Environment

The hospitality industry can be highly stressful due to demanding customers, tight deadlines, and high expectations. The constant pressure can negatively impact employee well-being, leading to burnout, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with their jobs. The philosophy of “The Customer is Always Right” and social media platforms showing poor behavior on guests’ part is only exacerbating the image challenges the industry already faces.


Lack of Work Appreciation

Recognition and appreciation are crucial motivators for employees across all industries. A study by Gallup revealed that 70% of employees believe they would be more engaged at work if their efforts were recognized more often. Hospitality businesses should implement regular feedback mechanisms and reward systems to acknowledge and appreciate their employees’ hard work.


Limited Autonomy and Decision-making Power

Employees who feel their opinions are not valued or have limited autonomy may become disengaged and frustrated. Empowering staff members to make decisions and providing them with a sense of ownership can enhance their job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.


Inadequate Training and Support

Insufficient training can leave employees feeling unprepared to handle their responsibilities, resulting in decreased job satisfaction and confidence. Hospitality businesses should invest in comprehensive training programs and provide ongoing support to help employees succeed in their roles.


Poor Management

Effective management plays a crucial role in employee satisfaction and retention. Data from a study conducted by Gallup indicates that 75% of voluntary turnover can be attributed to subpar managerial practices. Companies must prioritize developing strong leadership skills among managers to foster positive work environments.


Lack of Work-life Balance Initiatives

The hospitality industry’s demanding nature often makes it challenging for employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Organizations can implement initiatives such as flexible scheduling, remote work options, and employee wellness programs to support their staff’s well-being.


Limited Employee Involvement and Engagement

Employees who feel disconnected from the organization and its decision-making processes are more likely to disengage from their work. By fostering a culture of inclusion, actively involving employees in decision-making, and seeking their feedback, companies can improve job satisfaction and retention.

Closing the Back Door: Strategies for Retention

So now what? To close the back door and increase employee retention, hospitality businesses can adopt several effective tactics:

•  Focus on Living-Wage Compensation: Conduct regular market research to ensure wages are competitive and align with industry standards. Heck, follow the lead of the two guys from South Park fame who bought and remodeled a classic restaurant in Colorado and are paying staff $30.00 per hour and removed tips. This puts their staff above the median income in the state, which is $26.00 per hour.

•  Implement Career Development Programs: Provide clear career paths, mentorship programs, and training opportunities to help employees grow and advance within the organization.

•  Foster a Positive Work Culture: Encourage teamwork, open communication, and recognition of employees’ contributions to create an inclusive and supportive work environment. “Leading with empathy” might be a great training program to deliver to your management teams.

•  Conduct Employee Engagement Surveys: Regularly assess employee satisfaction and engagement through surveys to identify areas for improvement and act upon feedback. Those last three words are the most important.

•  Implement Work-Life Balance Initiatives: Offer flexible scheduling, remote work options, and wellness programs to support employees’ personal well-being. One tactic used by restaurants is actually closing the restaurant for a day or two. Chick-fil-A has been doing this since its inception, but others have found that work-life balance improves for staff, management, and owners by only being open five days a week. The other surprising result – profits are actually up.

•  Enhance Training and Onboarding: Invest in comprehensive training programs to equip employees with the skills they need to excel in their roles and provide ongoing support to foster continuous growth. Think of all the resources and amazing sponsors, vendors, and connections at CHART that can propel your training and onboarding to the next level.

To transform the hospitality industry into an environment where employees look forward to showing up and doing their best work, companies must prioritize addressing the key reasons behind employee dissatisfaction. By focusing on competitive compensation, career development, work culture, employee engagement, work-life balance, and training, organizations can create a place where team members can thrive and be their best selves. Closing the back door through effective retention strategies will not only enhance employee satisfaction but also positively impact the overall success of the business.