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How to Retain Talent, Before it’s Too Late

Did you know, on average a person changes roles between 7 and 12 times during their working life?

BaxterStorey Team

Have you ever thought, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m going to find another job?’ You’re not alone if you have. On average a person changes roles between 7 and 12 times during their working life.

Loyalty is hard to win and easy to lose and with the hospitality industry facing a recruitment crisis, employees will increasingly look towards companies that will nurture their talents, pay well and help them to meet their career aspirations.

Retaining key people is vital for the long-term health of any business and keeping your best employees has many other benefits including on-going customer satisfaction, effective succession planning, retained skills and experience, reduced HR and recruitment costs and a happy, satisfied and secure workforce.

Estimates vary but what is true is that failing to retain a key employee is expensive, costing as much as 100% of their salary in lost revenue, recruitment costs and training a replacement. Added to which losing an employee puts additional pressure on co-workers to absorb extra duties until a replacement is found and can have a destabilising impact, making other team members feel insecure.

Why Stay in a Job?

When asked, in a recent survey of over 1,500 people working across the hospitality industry ‘What keeps you in your job?’ Not surprisingly ‘people’ was the main reason for respondents wanting to stay or leave a role. 66% said that positive relationships with managers and colleagues together with feeling valued and appreciated by an employer (62%) would make them stay in a role.

Other positives were tied to career development and flexible working, with 63% saying that their employers offered training programmes, 55% valued clear opportunities for career development and 52% of respondents felt flexible working hours were important to them.

Why Employees Leave

Asked what would make them want to leave their job 69% say poor management or a bad manager (57%) would make them leave. Pay is another major reason people leave a job, followed by limited learning or career development opportunities.

Interestingly workplace perks, for instance free meals, bar facilities, stand-up desks, dogs at work, didn’t rate highly as a reason to stay in a job. Additionally, only 36% believed benefits such as cars, computers, phones and above-average salary and benefits would keep them in a role.

What the research shows is that when it comes to retention, employers who deliver training and career development opportunities are significantly more likely to retain their staff and build brand loyalty.


As the UK’s largest independent foodservice provider BaxterStorey employs more than 8,500 people at more than 700 locations. Set up in 2000 by founder and Chairman Alastair Storey, the portfolio boasts over 400 clients across a variety of business and industry sectors including education, retail and banking.

The business is immensely proud of its people, who in turn are proud of what they do. The brand is built on culinary expertise and professional training and development. Through a variety of Academies, BaxterStorey provides focused and dedicated training to front-line teams and support office teams, helping them to provide great service and build a career for life.

To find out more we spoke to Amy Primrose, Resourcing Manager for BaxterStorey’s Central Region. We started by asking Amy about her career path and why she joined BaxterStorey. ‘My background was in hospitality as a manager but a change in career meant I left the industry and joined a PLC in a different sector. I was keen to return and knew that BaxterStorey was a good business with a great track record. I wanted to recruit for a business that I really believed in’.

With such a diverse range of clients and service offerings, Amy chose to focus on the hospitality side of BaxterStorey’s portfolio. Amy’s role is to provide 360-degree support to new sites, helping them find the right people to make each new opening a success. Within BaxterStorey, Operations Directors, Senior Managers and Head Chefs recruit for their own teams and Amy is on hand with advice and support throughout the process.

Successful Retention

What is BaxterStorey doing that results in such high team retention? For a start, they consider themselves one big family, something born out by the enthusiasm, pride and passion that permeates every aspect of the business. They offer real career opportunities aimed at all aspects of the industry.

Taking the long view on retention, and some consider being ahead of their time, BaxterStorey has been setting up academies that offer industry-recognised qualifications and career progression for their teams for many years. The results speak for themselves.

Chef Academy

BaxterStorey’s Chef Academy, led by Rik Rizza launched in 2003. Chefs sign up to 12 – 15 months of structured development. To date over 500 chef apprentices have graduated from the academy, and by offering opportunities to become qualified trainers, 350 have received further development through the academy.

Chef retention currently sits at 72% for those who have attended the academy over the past five years, with promotion prospects standing at 70%. This is an outstanding course that exceeds the points required to achieve NVQ accreditation by double.

Chef academy training includes visiting food markets and fisheries, meeting suppliers and developing an understanding of the financial impact of the chef role within the business. Highlights include interaction with inspirational chefs such John Campbell, one of the UK’s most cutting-edge chefs with an international reputation for innovation, expertise and flair and Tom Kitchin, Scotland’s youngest Michelin starred chef-proprietor and a well-known face on television, having appeared on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, UKTV Food’s Market Kitchen and in BBC2’s successful series, The Great British Menu and newest mentor, Josh Eggleton of The Pony and Trap in Bristol.

Apprentice Academy

BaxterStorey apprentice academy offers an alternative to university and is open to current team members or recruits aged 16 to 70. Entry levels are set to suit individual interests. Apprenticeships cover a variety of roles from front of house to administration and management, developing appropriate skills to secure on-going employment. All learning and assessment is carried out ‘on the job’ so that those undergoing apprenticeships can stay focused on developing their skills and knowledge.

Esther Smith is a Commis Chef apprentice in London who started her apprenticeship in October 2017. She commented, ‘I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after leaving school but hospitality seemed exciting. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I thought I’d be working in the staff canteen, not that I’d be working in a fine-dining kitchen cooking for the board of directors’.

Esther credits her ‘amazing mentor’ from whom she has learnt so many cooking techniques and feels very lucky to be working with such a great team. She said ‘we’re like one big family. I’m the youngest but it’s been a great opportunity to develop my communication skills. The apprenticeship has given me so much; I’ve completed my food safety level 2 training and I was lucky enough to visit Michelin star restaurant The Woodspeen’. It was a great experience and I worked in the larder, pastry kitchen and in service – it was incredible’.

Graduate Programme

Again with an eye on retention the BaxterStorey graduate programme is for those who enjoy a challenge and thrive in fast-paced environments. Over nine months participants receive hands-on experience across all areas of hospitality including HR, leadership and nutrition.

Matt Callaghan, BaxterStorey Operations Support Manager, South West, feels that the graduate programme has been a fantastic journey, allowing him to develop the skills he learnt at university. The guidance and freedom within the scheme mean Matt could follow his own path and in doing so experience many diverse parts of the business.

Matt commented, ‘The nine months have flown by, with an abundance of training days, site visits and food festivals. Having completed the programme I feel like a completely different person and I’m really enjoying my new role after a fantastic period of learning and growth’.
The programme received over 500 applications from hospitality graduates each year proving how popular and recognised the scheme is. 90 graduates have completed the programme so far with 85% retention.

Advances Management Journey

The hospitality industry spends a great deal of time and resources developing managers who are skilled in their roles. However, once a manager reaches a certain level they can become frustrated by the lack of further career progression and opportunities.

BaxterStorey recognised that losing vital managers had a detrimental effect on the business and created the Advanced Management Journey (AMJ), designed for current managers, with over two years experience, who want to take the next step in progressive learning.

Charlotte Rouse is a Project Manager who has completed the AMJ. ‘My greatest learning on the AMJ were self-awareness, coaching and project management skills. The highlight of my journey was receiving the news that the BaxterStorey board wanted to invest in our business and development project’.

Charlotte continued, ‘the AMJ has an exceptional standard of experts supporting you with training, coaching and mentoring. Although challenging, the hard work is worth it. When I look back on my progression, the project we implemented, I feel very thankful for the opportunity. The AMJ is for anyone committed to their career in hospitality who is seeking that next challenge and wants to progress within BaxterStorey’.

At the heart of the programme are business development projects where managers embrace real business topics that demand a creative approach to solving problems facing the hospitality sector. The Advanced Management Journey focuses on developing strong leadership and management skills.

Empowerment and Creativity

What comes across is that retention, for BaxterStorey, is also about empowerment and creativity. Chefs are encouraged to be innovative, build their own menus, host pop-up events, bring new ideas to their kitchens and have the freedom and autonomy to do their own thing.
And it’s not all about work – employees are encouraged to support local and national charities, with team members being given time off to complete fundraising challenges including the recent Borneo Trek for Springboard UK.

It’s also about giving back to the industry – ‘how do we upskill to meet our clients’ needs? The answer to that question drives all the initiatives that BaxterStorey does so well, with the added positive impact on retention. Anyone with passion and enthusiasm can succeed within the business – to quote Amy Primrose ‘there are no limits to having an amazing career’.

No organisation likes to see great talent leave their business. It happens and smart businesses understand the importance of putting the right structures and opportunities in place to retain their people. If businesses do nothing else, they should treat retaining their employees as seriously as they do recruiting them.

8 tips for Successful Retention

  1. Give your team the tools and training to do their jobs effectively. Without these they will quickly become frustrated, disillusioned and quit.
    Make sure your employees know what is expected of them and what they can hope to achieve.
  2. Provide well-trained, structured, role-appropriate management and supervision. People resign because of managers and supervisors more often than they do because of their actual jobs.
  3. Give employees the opportunities to train and develop, be that in-house or through external training providers.
  4. Say Thank you – a little appreciation can go a long way. BaxterStorey has ‘Appreciation Friday’ when people have an opportunity to show gratitude to someone who has gone the extra mile during the previous week.
  5. Allow creativity and entrepreneurship. Give employees opportunities to explore what is happening in other parts of the industry – such as visiting food markets. They will bring that learning back to your business.
  6. Offer clear career paths. Give your people defined career paths showing them what is possible and how to achieve it.
    Recognise their individual talents or abilities and nurture these, allowing them to be entrepreneurial. A motivated employee will want to contribute to areas outside their own role.
  7. Make sure that every induction is individually tailored to the recruit and not a ‘one size fits all’. Doing this will give new starts a sense of being valued, a better understanding of their roles and how they fit into the overall aims and objectives of the business.
  8. If you want to keep people, involve them in the decision-making process. Create a “safe zone” where you ask them the hard questions about what should be changed . . . and listen to their comments. You may not be able to implement every suggestion but let employees know that you value their input.
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