Upskilling to Beat the Labor Shortage

Upskilling to Beat the Labor Shortage

By David Faro

To see a complete list of the training opportunities available through your membership, visit the Hospitality Association Education Foundation (EF) website.  If you have questions or need consulting, contact the association and ask for the Education Foundation.


Currently, if you take a group of hospitality managers in the state and ask them what their “hot topics” are, many of them will mention “the labor shortage.” At the last big industry get together, the ProStart Golf FORE! Education tournament, one manager of an established pizza empire said to me, “If you can help us find qualified candidates to work in our stores, then one of my biggest everyday issues would be solved.”

After that we talked about career ladders and all the various pathways that people can take to to get from the starting line to ownership. But the fact remains, there are just not enough people to fill all the jobs available right now. After that we talked about the idea of “human resources,” and the role that training plays in creating a better, faster, leaner, “on target” team.

“I do today, with three support staff on the floor, what I did with nine five years ago,” said a full-service manager from the south sound listening in on the conversation. When I asked how she did it, she said training was a key ingredient.  ‘If you think about it, I invested a few hundred dollars in bringing all of my line cooks who had been with me for over two years through Servsafe Manager training.  I did this for three years in a row, after that my food cost ratios moved considerably.

“I know that I have saved in the thousands, because my staff now has the knowledge to rotate food correctly and all of the other methods that contribute to wasting less food.  On top of that, safety is a huge issue in kitchens, and my staff now operates in a way that has totally controlled injuries. My improved safety rating has all sorts of financial effects.  On review, my experience factor dropped, which affected my workers compensation premiums.  I saw big saving there too.”  This manager made a clear case for making the people who work for her, better, through training.

The last restaurant company that I managed saw the wage pressures of the last few years coming well ahead of the curve.  Serious measures were implemented to make our teams lean and ready.  One example was that servers were trained to absorb a higher percentage of table clearing. This allowed shifts to run two server assistants rather than five. Not a single high performer was upset about this in my memory. Server assistants took home thirty percent more from shifts, they were jazzed, they competed to be the best.

It took about six months to manage the organizational change, which we began in the post-holiday shoulder season, and by the time summer arrived, the new culture had taken root, and our labor costs had been significantly affected. There was a significant re-training component involved, managers had to exert a fair amount of pressure on struggling second-tier servers, but again, enabling people to be the best they can be, setting clear goals, and working towards them in a systematized manner through training is what won the game.

When considering the “labor shortage,” perhaps it is worth taking a moment to look at solutions from another angle. Do you empower your employees to do their very best for you?  Take a moment to consider the total potential horsepower of your team. Then ask yourself, are you running that machine optimally?  After 25 years of participating on hospitality teams in a variety of situations,  I have never seen a team that did not have room to grow into more than what they are today. When new workers are not turning in applications, managers must be compelled to look under the hood.  There is an overwhelming amount of data that supports the idea that, inside of this particular metaphor, training is analogous to high octane jet fuel.

So, here is the sell, I’ll be blunt about it.  The Washington Hospitality is the premier location for training programs, products, and networking in the state.  As a hospitality professional, I am not sure why hospitality organizations in the state would start anywhere else?  Top-tier customer service training programs, first aid classes brought directly to you, the whole raft of ServSafe products, from allergen, to manager, to alcohol, the association Education Foundation (EF) offers members discounted prices.  Looking for connections to premier anti-human trafficking training in the state? We can do that for you. The association is also networked with a national system of training professionals. If you have a need, we can find you a solution. That is why we are here.  That is why you are a member.  Right?

So take advantage of the training the association has to offer, and at the same time leverage your teams ability to be trained to be better at what they do, for you.  It’s called upskilling, and it is one potent solution to the labor shortage.  Let us help you get a program started.


To see a complete list of the training opportunities available through your membership, visit the Hospitality Association Education Foundation (EF) website.  If you have questions or need consulting, contact the association and ask for the Education Foundation.


About the Author: David Faro has extensive international hospitality experience ranging from facilities management to media relations. He has enjoyed key leadership roles in a variety of high-end, bespoke, hotel, culinary, and expeditionary adventures on all seven continents and has written extensively about Washington hospitality.