Hospitality is a high-pressure industry, and the largest cost is employment. Employees have good days and bad days, opinions, aspirations, families, and a greater or lesser commitment to their job. A friend of mine recently sold his cafe, and said the criteria for his next business will be simple - no staff! We know where he’s coming from.

The good news is that modern technology and workplace psychology gives us a lot more tools for managing the workforce. Here are the top 5 challenges for most business operators, and how to handle them…

Can’t find skilled staff.

Good candidates are out there, but how well are you promoting the positions you want filled? Do the job ads talk about benefits, or do they just talk about ‘highly-motivated, passionate and committed team players’. Of course we want those people, but those hyped-up terms won’t impress the A-players. They’re tuned to Radio WII-FM - What’s In It For Me. Your ad will get a much greater response when you list the benefits you offer: flexible roster, good pay, training and development, modern equipment, close to transport, uniform provided and opportunities for promotion. You probably offer many of these, so why are they left out of advertisements? There are many good people looking for a better job - your venue could be just the ticket if promoted the right way.

Can’t cope with the employment bureaucracy.

Modern technology can streamline most processes, from advertising, recruitment and induction, through to employment records, rostering, leave management, workcover and training – no more paper! Setting up and running systems like these requires a new set of skills - modern operators and chefs are learning about cloud-based systems and online communication. Old-time management is stuck in 1998, whinging and complaining. They’ll be out of business very soon.

Can’t get on top of wage costs.

The award wage system isn’t going away, and rates are unlikely to fall - these are some of the lowest-paid people in Australia. What you can take more control of is the cost of your roster on a day by day and even hour by hour basis - no more shocks about last week’s wages when you do the payroll. Connect a modern rostering system like Tanda to your Point of Sale results and bookkeeping system, and the increased control can slice hundreds and thousands of dollars from weekly wages. Staff are available when they’re needed most, and off duty when it’s quiet.

Can’t handle the lack of discipline.

You want a motivated, skilled and conscientious workforce. But all they seem to want is unlimited flexibility and a party atmosphere - how do we compromise? The foundation of a productive workplace is a positive culture. It’s a term that’s used more and more, and is based on a set of agreed values that are followed by all levels of management. When you put in the work to get employees and management aligned with these, you’ll attract steadier and more productive people. Discipline becomes much less of an issue.

Can’t sack people when you want to.

Another fact of life: you can’t push people out the door without a good reason, backed up by evidence. That’s also 2018 thinking - we want government and big business to be transparent and accountable, so that means small operators have to embrace the same principles. Once you have proper Job Descriptions and review systems in place, you’ll find staff management much simpler – expectations are clear, and when people step out of line, the issue can be handled quickly. A workplace based on fairness attracts and keeps the best.