Work-related stress: Tips for businesses

Vanessa Oakes, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business school


Stress is no longer a mental health condition that organisations can afford to ignore. In 2018/2019 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety (HSE, 2019) at a cost to the economy of £34.9bn. This cost is related to temporarily replacing absent staff, the cost of disruption to the organisation and lost opportunity costs, the cost of paid sick leave and the time required to manage employees who are off work, with an average number of days lost per case at 25.8 (HSE, 2019).

These numbers make for sobering reading, particularly if you are a business owner or a manager who has seen sickness absence related to stress, increase in your team. However, there is more than just a financial cost to the organisation. Your organisation’s reputation as an employer diminishes with high rates of absence due to stress, the engagement levels of your staff drop and in response, so does productivity and all of this happens because you are sending the message to your staff that their mental health isn’t as important as the performance of the organisation.

When it comes to proactively managing stress in the workplace, there is a lot that can be done to reduce stress before sickness absence takes hold. The CIPD’s 2019 Health & Wellbeing at Work Survey reports that 61% of organisations are recognising this as a priority, at Board level. But what can you actually do to reduce stress for your workforce?

Determine if employees are suffering from work-related stress or stress in their personal lives.

If your employees are experiencing stress at home, this will also impact their productivity too, so help them to acknowledge it and provide as much support as you can. An EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) can help you to offer support to staff without having to pry into their personal lives and will show your employees that you are concerned about them.

If your employee is suffering from work-related stress, then there is a lot that can be done to improve their environment. Firstly, take a look at your expectations of them.  Are they achievable and realistic? Do they have the support and authority needed to do their job? Are they under excess pressure to deliver? Can their responsibilities be shared by others or delegated?

Look at your absence management process – is it too harsh or too lenient? Can you build flexibility into your process to ensure you are able to support staff who are suffering with stress?

If too harsh, it may be forcing staff back to work before they are ready because there is a financial impact, or they may be afraid for their job security. These staff don’t get the time to deal with their stress before they are plunged back into it, and so may get worse over time. Are you conducting return to work interviews consistently for all staff? This is the best opportunity to determine if you employee is ready to be back at work.

Where your absence management process is too lenient, or you don’t have one, do you know why your staff are off sick? If you don’t know then you can’t help. Maybe your line managers don’t feel that they can ask such personal questions? If so, provide training to boost their confidence.

Focus on health and well-being

Communicate regularly with staff about the importance of their health and wellbeing and ask them about initiatives they think would improve health and wellbeing for all. It might be that water coolers within easy reach of desks will mean they are better hydrated; encouraging walks at lunchtime could improve the mental health in many different ways; having a space for staff to eat lunch, away from their desks means that their focus will be away from their work for at least a short time during the day. Most importantly though, ask them what they think and follow up on it! They will often have the best ideas about what would improve things for them.

Make sure that you react proactively when you suspect an employee is under stress, don’t wait for them to go off sick. This requires your managers to be more alert to possible changes in behaviour, timekeeping and work productivity and quality. Ensure that they receive training in how to start conversations about stress and mental health, and that they can signpost employees to other services if they are unable to help.

Finally, it may seem like managing stress and the related absence is time consuming, costly and unnecessary, but it has been proven to pay off. The CIPD’s survey found that three quarters of organisations who implemented proactive health and wellbeing strategies, however informal, saw a positive improvement in metrics such as morale and engagement, lower sickness absence, improved employer reputation, better retention of staff, a reduction in reported work-related stress, improved productivity and better customer service levels. Supporting your staff through difficult periods in their personal and working lives pays dividends when it comes to the success of your organisation. Now is not the time to delay!

Currently, it is even more important than ever to consider the health and wellbeing of staff as they endure lockdown and furlough leave. One thing which no organisation can offer, is certainty but there are ways of encouraging staff to maintain their health and wellbeing whether they are on furlough leave, working from home and trying to juggle childcare and other caring responsibilities. Here are a few tips:

  1. Communicate with them as regularly as you can – you may not be able to reassure them that their jobs are safe, or that things will return to normal quickly, but at least they will know that someone is still looking out for them.
  2. For staff on furlough leave, ensure that you have given them written details of their remuneration – try to avoid uncertainly building about how much they will be paid and when.
  3. Ensure that managers are in touch with their teams to ensure that each gets individual support – some employees might be coping well; others might be feeling higher levels of stress and may need more support.
  4. Remind your staff about their importance to your business, what their strengths are, how much they are valued and their latest achievements. They need to hear this now more than ever.

These steps should help you to maintain an engaged and productive (if they are homeworking) workforce during this challenging time and beyond.

What is a university for?

Professor Jess Power, Associate Dean – Students


There are several possible interpretations of the fundamental role of a university, however the one that holds close to my values and beliefs is “the university” as an institution for the creation and dissemination of knowledge, creating graduates who have a genuine commitment to making the world a better place and of being significant players in civil society. The western university model has been a remarkable success and is one in which we should have immense pride. Operational freedom within an interactive setting which enables excellence across teaching, research, learning and enterprise opening unlimited opportunities for many. However, in an increasingly complex and uncertain world the role of the university is constantly being questioned. In particular there has been a recent drive for developing “value”, in the form of employable work ready graduates. This may be interpreted as a set of desirable skills and attributes to be embedded within the curriculum or perhaps and more importantly the development of an entrepreneurial mind-set. The ability to think outside the box, to adapt and respond to change in a fast paced environment and more importantly the ability to be able to communicate within and beyond their academic discipline is perceived key to graduates contributing to societal challenges.

In today’s global economy and in society as a whole we are faced with many complex challenges (clean water, ageing population, disaster management, global-warming, sustainable food production, transitioning populations), which require new ways of working. It is widely accepted that innovative and sustainable solutions for many complex global social issues reach far beyond the boundaries of a single academic discipline or methodological approach and as such the practical argument for embedding interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities into the learning experience within universities is strong. Interdisciplinary working is widely accepted to be the new mode of knowledge production, it focuses on building intellectual capacity and is supported by government policy makers and research funding agencies. Many of the most exciting developments cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and therefore have great potential to break through complex societal problems and foster innovation.

The concept of interdisciplinarity within Higher Education is not new: Thompson and Fogel (1921), acknowledged in their publication ‘Higher Education and Social Change’ that all social problems require interdisciplinary skills and knowledge. They expanded on this by stating: “if graduates … are to be societies’ leaders …they need a broad social and historical perspective that is difficult to achieve in one discipline”. Thompson and Forgel’s (1921) paper highlighted specifically the need for Higher Educational institutions to promote interdisciplinarity as a means of developing the essential skills of leadership required to impact on civil society.

So, what is a university for? It is to change mind-set, opening up opportunities to bring together individuals to generate knowledge to solve societal problems for the good of mankind. Thus, the connections we make, the disciplines we cross and the knowledge we form are only part of the picture, it is the transformative impact on people’s life’s that we make that hold the true meaning of the value of a university, which instil the leadership qualities desired to make the world a better place.

 

Thompson, K.W. & Fogel, B.R. (1921). Higher Education and Social Change: Promising Experiments in Developing Countries. Vol 1 Reports. US: Praeger.

www.staffs.ac.uk 

A Recipe for Success

Written by Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean at Staffordshire business school


There’s an Autumn nip in the air, the Great British Bake Off has begun and the annual McMillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is just around the corner. Kenwood mixers are whirling into action in kitchens across the UK.

Meanwhile, bags are being packed, goodbyes said, and freshers are itching to begin their university life. Around the World lecturers are preparing to welcome their new students and planning for the academic year to come.

It strikes me that these two situations have something in common. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that all lecturers are good bakers (far from it!), but there is something vaguely familiar about the nurturing, caring principles of baking and lecturing; the desire for a good outcome and the commitment to working hard to achieve this.

Quality Ingredients

Ever tried baking a cake with less than quality ingredients – with a dodgy cooker and scales that don’t quite weigh correctly? The chances are your cakes won’t turn out to be as good as you would like them to be. Quality, fit-for-purpose equipment and excellent ingredients are needed to guarantee the bake that you are looking for.

When choosing a university to spend three or more years of their life at, prospective students similarly seek quality – high rankings in the league tables and TEF, good NSS scores, high levels of student satisfaction and committed, highly qualified academics. A quality university is needed to turn out a top-notch, highly qualified and work-ready graduate.

The Recipe

Even quality ingredients can’t ensure a perfect bake if the recipe is wrong. One too many eggs or not enough baking powder and the cake’s a flop.

The same balance needs to be considered within the course that a student selects. The onus is on academics to create a balanced mix of exciting learning content, activities, guest lecturers, trips and course materials to ensure that students learn exactly what they need to know. Miss out a vital ingredient and students will struggle to achieve success in their assessments.

The Temperature

Too hot an oven and your cake will burn. Too cool an oven and your cake won’t rise. Getting the temperature right is as important as having the correct recipe.

Lifelong friendships are made at university, so a good balance between studying and fun is needed. The correct work-play balance creates an environment in which students flourish – without the fun some students struggle with the pressure of study and can be tempted to drop out. Too much fun and grades may suffer. A good university seeks to provide exactly the right balance between social and study. Student Unions, personal tutors, pastoral care and student guidance teams are all there to support students in getting it right.

Decorations

Jam and cream fillings, a sprinkle of icing sugar here, a coating of chocolate there and your cake is more than a cake, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s those finishing touches that make your cake the one that everyone wants to take a bite out of.

Similarly, a degree is not enough. Employers are inundated with graduate applications for advertised vacancies, and applications that stand out are those where the candidate has more than just a degree. Work experience, success in student competitions, self-awareness, confidence, professional presentation, global awareness…these are many of the added extras that lead an employer to choose YOU over other applicants.

Staffordshire University has a recipe for success. A university that has risen to within the top 50 universities in the league tables, been awarded a gold in the TEF, achieved one of the highest graduate employability rates in the UK and provided a supportive and fun environment in which students flourish.

Would you like a taste of our recipe? Come and visit us at one of our Open Days to find out for yourself – we can promise you a delicious time.

Undergraduate courses

Postgraduate courses

8 Trends To Keep Your Eyes On In 2018

1. Instagram Stories Drive Upcoming Instagram Trends

Instagram Stories is a big deal and they’re not going away. Daily viewers of Instagram Stories surpassed daily SnapChat viewers just one year after launch, and the growth isn’t stopping.

Instagram Stories was likely the biggest single change in the Instagram UX, and its marketing implications are huge.

A huge deal with Instagram Stories is this: accounts with over 10,000 followers can now add a link within the feature. Considering the fact that the only other place you can put a link on Instagram is just the one buried on your profile page, this is a huge deal, as it multiplies buying or inquiry opportunities by orders of magnitude.

Instagram Stories in particular will be relevant from a marketing perspective because, compared to other transitory video platforms, Instagram metrics are eminently trackable.

A final note on Instagram Stories: Their foundation is social media engagement gold. Video drastically outperforms all other forms of content on every test.

2. Influencer Marketing Makes Major Contributions to Social Media Engagement

Influencer marketing is big business — a billion dollar industry by some counts. There is an exhaustive list of micro-celebrities who earn six figure incomes. And this isn’t a fluke. Influencer marketing is uniquely keyed to exploit certain facts about a growing number of buyers.
As Millennials advance their careers, and Generation Z starts theirs, an enormous population’s purchasing power is increasing swiftly. These two groups — who, combined, literally comprise most of the world’s population — are uniquely influenced by this marketing method.

3. Generation Z to Decide Social Media Trends

We’ve mentioned Generation Z in both of the previous topics for good reason.

RetailDive had this to say about Generation Z and their associated social media trends:

“Gen Z is two- to three times more likely to be influenced by social media than by sales or discounts — the only generation to value social media over price when it comes to making purchase decisions…”

Furthermore, 81% report watching at least one hour of online video per day, or more, according to a study by Fluent, covered by AdWeek. Combine these facts and realize that droves of Generation Z will graduate college and/or start careers next year, and you start to see the powder keg.

4. Messaging Platforms Make Companies Accessible

 

What do you know about WeChat? They’re a wee little Chinese messaging company . . . errr, one that’s looking to cross 1 billion users this quarter. WeChat and WhatsApp are absolutely ubiquitous across either ocean, reaching across many different functions to dominate social media, direct messaging, and even purchasing and commerce.

Every year more and more buyers are Millennials and Gen Z, and fewer and fewer are older. In case you’re not aware of these people’s overwhelming preferences when it comes to talking to a company, we’ll illustrate in their native language:

top-social-media-trends-20185. Live Streaming Explodes

Live streaming isn’t about live streaming. At least not in the way we’re going to be talking about it. You’re going to see a lot more of it in 2018, and the people who do it well will be fully with the times and accelerating. Its prevalence will increase because it works.

But there’s something more at work here.

It’s actually about technology. We get better phones every year. Does that mean that we’re running the same apps better? Sometimes. But once the technological baseline of the average user has clearly moved up a notch, it becomes about making more robust apps that do more and fully take advantage of that new technology.

The smartphones of today are better than what we used to have by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, our data speeds are better, and are poised to make yet another insane leap in the next few years when 5G becomes the standard.

Live streaming is a medium or implementation of social technology that’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of hardware improvements for the next several years. The resolution of an image the size of a phone screen can only get so good before you have to zoom in to see a difference.

But better video processing across the board means all devices involved can handle more streaming at a better quality across more channels at the same time. This is such a huge change that it’s possibly unclear that anyone is even capable of fully understanding the ramifications.

6. Twitter is Going to Change

And they themselves might not even know how just yet.

Twitter has been slowly circling the drain, in some respects, for a long time now. 2017 pulled no punches with the social network, either. Twitter needs to make some big changes to stay relevant, as its growth is the slowest of all the major social media platforms.

7. Online Hangouts Become the Norm

Online hangouts go hand-in-hand with the live streaming trend, and with Generation Z. Consider Houseparty — an app for multiple friends to essentially FaceTime with each other in a group setting.

Houseparty made quite a wave in 2017 with rapid growth, and hit its stride well enough to inspire copycats, including perhaps an effort on the way coming from (no surprise here) Facebook.

The online hangouts trend is also going to intersect with VR. Sure, everyone promised everything this year with VR and AR, and all that ultimately came of it was two weeks of Pokemon GO.

But this year actually has the potential to be different. Many promising programs have another year of beta testing still left under their belts, but the technologies are improving in exciting ways. Once again, Facebook is at the epicentre, with Facebook Spaces.

8. Social Platforms See More Hardcore Moderation

The last year or so has forced the hand of several tech and social media titans to intervene and play a more active role in content moderation. Those manoeuvres, in retrospect, felt more like damage control than any sort of final solution.

We’re likely going to see companies revisit this in a more significant or longer-lasting way, and definitely more proactive than reactive.

As leveraging social media outlets for marketing first took flight, some were dubious of their staying power. The years since have changed sceptic’s into believers, and what’s on the forefront will clearly and easily amplify the channels’ relevance even further.

2018 is here… but were you prepared?

2018 social media trends predict that time on social media platforms will increase. This means you will need to improve your online presence in the year to come.

 

By Richard Holland – MSc Digital Marketing Student

 

Contact –

Linkedin- Richard Holland

Instagram – Ricardo J

Brand –

Instagram – Ricco London

Twitter – Ricco London

Facebook – Ricco London

New book co-authored by Prof Iraj Hashi – Spanish Sociedades Laborales—Activating the Unemployed

Spanish Sociedades Laborales—Activating the Unemployed- A Potential New EU Active Labour Market Policy Instrument by Jens Lowitzsch, Sophie Dunsch,  Iraj Hashi

 

This book investigates the potential of the Spanish Sociedades Laborales (SLs) as an instrument of active labour market policy for re-turning the unemployed to the labour market. SLs are  mostly small and micro enterprises and a qualified form of the conventional corporation, majority-owned by their permanent employees. Unemployed persons can capitalise their unemployment benefits as a lump sum to start a new SL or to recapitalise an existing SL by joining it. This makes SLs similar to start-up subsidies for the unemployed, an established instrument of active labour market policy across the EU. This book examines the function and success of existing SLs and explores the transferability of the scheme to other EU Member States.

It tackles two widely discussed policy issues at both the EU level as well as the national level: firstly, the reactivation of the unemployed into work, and secondly the encouragement of employee co-ownership in the context of the economic reform agenda, in particular with regard to corporate governance, regional economic stimuli and distributive justice.

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-54870-8

New project: Adoption of Sustainable Accounting Practices for Reporting

A new project to help small and medium business report on their sustainability has just started.  The overall aim of the project is to provide the necessary training and tools for SMEs to adopt sustainable accounting and reporting practices in a cost-effective way.

The project is led by Dr Souad Moufty of the Business School and is funded under the EU ERASMUS Plus Strategic Partnership Programme. Dr Aisha Abuelmaati and Prof Jon Fairburn will also be working on the project.

The project will first carry out a needs analysis in the six partner countries to establish a knowledge gap framework. This consultation will launch early in 2018.

The partnership will then produce a training course, and online training tool and a trainers guide. These will be supported both by the ECVET skills framework and by an achievements recognition framework.

Project Lead

Dr Souad Moufty e: souad.moufty@staffs.ac.uk

Tel + 44 1782 294257

Partners

Staffordshire University, Business School –

Business School PAR, Croatia 

CIVIC Computing, Scotland

Eurocrea Merchant , Italy 

FGUGREM, Spain  

Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bulgaria

AKNOW, Greece

Adoption of Sustainable Accounting Practices for Reporting -Report Asap

Funded under #ERASMUS PLUS and will run until Sept 2019.

Why do women still earn less than men?

In the nearly fifty years since the passing of the Equal Pay Act the gender pay gap in the UK has proved to be stubbornly resilient. What has changed is the way economists try to explain its existence and persistence. Fifty years ago economists used to explain differences in wages predominantly in terms of differences in experience, education and training, what collectively they termed ‘human capital’. Whilst they recognised that luck, nepotism and discrimination may be important, differences in human capital were thought to be the dominant determinant of wage differentials. It was, however, recognised that female workers were typically crowded into a narrower range of occupations and industries than males. Moreover, whilst glass-ceilings constrained many female employees’ ability to move up the job-ladder, it was also evident that employers tended to place a low premium on caring skills, which traditionally have been more associated with female workers.

More recently economists have established the importance of non-cognitive productivity-related characteristics, such as motivation, resilience and initiative, in explaining differences in wages. In terms of explaining the gender pay gap this opens up three intriguing possibilities. It may be that females are, on average, less endowed with those productivity-augmenting characteristics. This may be the result of nature or nurture and here the findings that single-sex schooling may be related to lower gender pay gaps is of interest. An alternative hypothesis is that females may have, on average, different preferences, placing a lower relative value on the monetary benefits from working. A third possibility is that employers do not reward males and females similarly for a given non-cognitive characteristic. Behaviour which is seen by employers as positive when undertaken by males, such a providing leadership in group discussion, may be viewed as indicative of a poor team-player when evident in a female employee.

If we are serious as a society about eliminating the 18 per cent gender pay gap then it may be time to pay less attention to altering the behaviour of female workers and spend more time creating more male homemakers.

Nick Adnett, Professor in Staffordshire Business School

The Importance of Employability Skills – Get Ready for Employability Challenge!

Without a doubt, one of the main challenges for students today is that different employers look for different sets of employability skills. However, it can be difficult for students to think about their employability skills whilst at university given busy schedules and pressure to meet assignment deadlines.

At Staffordshire University we take employability promise seriously. We want all of our students to graduate with the right employability skills and experience to enable them to follow their chosen career path. We promise our students to equip them with relevant employment skills and we deliver on our promise. We are proud about the fact that 97% of our graduates are in employment after graduating. When it comes to employability of our graduates, we are proud to be No. 1* in England for graduate employability. To achieve this, we work in partnership with many industry-leading organisations to help them tap into our home-grown graduate talent as well as helping students develop their employability skills through various initiatives and practices such as mentoring and work-shadowing. Global Entrepreneurial Week (GEW) event held at Staffordshire University every year plays the key role in equipping graduates with relevant work-related skills.

At Staffordshire University, we are committed to helping students maximise their employability and ultimately finding their dream graduate job, by offering a range of career-related events. In particular, GEW is an annual event at Staffordshire University that brings together a range of industry leading employers on campus during which students can meet and network with employers to find out about employment opportunities. Organised specifically for students, GEW and FutureFest event is designed to inform students about the future world-of-work. The Staffordshire University is committed to helping students maximise their employability, therefore the program is centred on topics that can help students succeed in every step of their career development process.

However, whilst we are committed to bringing leading business experts to share their expertise with students, there is also an expectation from students to actively participate in this event in order to get the most out of this unique opportunity for their career development. How to make the most out of this event? Network, network, network. Forward thinking students always have their CVs on hand to give out to potential employers. If you have never written a CV, you could get a professional help from the Career Office, who would assist you in writing a professionally looking CV, highlighting your transferable skills, and any work experience you have to date.

GEW and FutureFest event will provide students with an excellent opportunity to meet employers, discuss job opportunities, better understand career opportunities across various industries, get industry insights from recruiters, network with Industry leaders or simply get inspired. So, if you’re looking for your dream job or just looking to further enhance your employability skills, come along to GEW and FutureFest event held at Staffordshire University on November 13. We look forward to active participation of students in GEW and FutureFest 2017!

Dr Katerina Thomas, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School

www.staffs.ac.uk

 

*Joint with Bishop Grosseteste University, excluding specialist institutions. Source: DLHE 2017

So you’ve graduated – now what?

5 top tips for new graduates from Senior Lecturer Angela Lawrence

Three years of study have come to an end, exams are over, the university board has sat, results announced and graduation is looming. It can be a worrying and scary time for many graduates as the intensity of those final assessments has been all-consuming for weeks and months. All of a sudden everything is over. There’s quite a gap in your life that you need to fill and you may be floundering and wondering what’s next. If you were smart, you began applying for graduate jobs at the beginning of the year, but even so, you may not yet have bagged the job of your dreams.

Here are a few tips to help you to stay focused on securing the graduate employment that you deserve:

  1. It’s a numbers game

Statistics suggest that 39 graduates apply for every advertised graduate position. So you are up against around 38 ex-students who are applying for the same jobs as you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while and you feel like you spend half of every week filling in applications – it’s a numbers game, the more jobs you apply for the better chance you will have of securing the role that’s right for you. Keep believing in yourself and keep on searching through the jobs sites; sooner or later your time will come.

  1. Perseverance is key

Don’t give up – NEVER give up! You have worked hard to earn your degree and you deserve to get a graduate position. Okay, you may have to accept a job that is less than what you want in the first instance, to make ends meet, but do not stop seeking out and applying for graduate positions.  It took three years to get your degree so it may take three months or more to secure that job that you are after.

  1. Keep in work

Work, work, work…and keep working! You may only be working part-time, working to help out a family member’s business or working as a volunteer, but you must keep working. Having that evidence on your CV that you have a strong working ethic speaks volumes to potential employers. Furthermore, you are probably practising a multitude of transferable skills, whatever the role. Skills that employers want to hear about, such as good timekeeping, the ability to work independently or as part of a team, the ability to be trusted, accuracy and attention to detail.

  1. Ask for feedback

If you have applied for a job and had no response within indicated timescales, then ring the company up and ask them if they have shortlisted applications yet. If they have and you are not on the list, ask them if they would mind telling you what the criteria for shortlisting was, so that you know for next time. If you actually got to an assessment board or had an interview, but were not successful in being offered the job, you must ask for feedback. It may simply be that another candidate had more relevant experience, or it may be that you find out it was something that you were lacking, that you could work on before your next interview. It may be the way you interviewed, possibly nerves were showing. So practise makes perfect and you now have that knowledge to help you to prepare yourself better for your next interview.

  1. Network

The saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This is never more true than in the game of job hunting. It is stated that ninety-three percent of recruiters use LinkedIn for recruitment. So if you haven’t got a professional LinkedIn profile, you’re missing a trick. Join your alumni LinkedIn group and network with alumni who know only too well how hard it is to find that all-important break in the job hunting market. But offline networking can be equally important. Check out the local networking opportunities with your local Chamber of Commerce, and seek out recruitment fairs in your local area or in the region in which you would like to work.

A final tip for Staffordshire University graduates – don’t forget that you have access to our online careers portal, eCoach following graduation. Our Careers Network services are available to you for as long as you need them. Your lecturers and personal tutors will be happy to provide you with references, so good luck and we know you’ll do us proud!

Seasonality pressures and the tourism industry

During the high season, service inconsistency and reduced levels of customer satisfaction can be experienced.

Getting the right products in the right place at the right time is crucial in the holiday season. Holiday stress can be felt by the accommodation industry as the holiday season places pressure on getting it right where a large proportion of revenue is earned in a very short time.

The tourism industry is characterised by tight capacity in the high season, affected by competition from favourable commissions and loyalty discounts offered to customers by the large chains, rising fuel prices, rising import prices in general, a shortage of quality seasonal workers and currently inflation rising above earnings growth. All of these factors place pressure on profitability and sustainability.

During the seasons, the industry is impacted by competition from favourable commissions and loyalty discounts offered to customers by the large quality standardised chains such as Marriott, Starwood and Intercontinental.  These large scale providers agree commissions with popular travel websites such as Expedia to favourably promote their services. In addition, the large scale accommodation providers retain customers by the use of attractive loyalty schemes across the world. This competition can make it difficult for Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) to survive.

However, it is believed that SMEs have better scope for creativity and have a special identity where there is no need for standardisation of brand guidelines that lack local relevance. Customers are savvy and are often willing to shop around for a unique experience.  Knowledge of and adoption of the role of points of local interest in tourism can provide a personal experience. Additional extras that do not focus on price such as local excursions, local food and drink, complimentary services such as spa facilities and free wi fi can help to satisfy customers and retain them.  In order to combat fierce competition from the large scale accommodation providers, a number of SMEs have joined forces with consortiums like for example the Leading Hotels of the World and the Small Luxury Hotels of the World groups to benefit from marketing economies of scale where search engine optimisation plays a role in sustainability of bookings.

Brexit has heightened the problem of obtaining quality seasonal workers as the number of people entering employment in the UK faces decline. This in turn puts pressure on the demand for higher wages and sinks into profit margins. The fall in the value of the pound following the announcement of Brexit is a factor which has led to inflationary pressures due to increased import prices and we now face a situation where price rises are above earnings growth; thus resulting in a turbulent business environment.

So, how can capacity challenges be met during the holiday season and during such an uneasy economic period?

  • Forecast key events and seasonal events and how to resource them.
  • Start online promotions early as this will attract customers in advance, create positive cash flow, enable the business to invest and enable the business to accurately anticipate demand.
  • Recruit staff with the ability to multi task as this will lower overall staff costs and enable customer needs to be more effectively met during the peak season.
  • Invest in staff by training them so waste is keep to a minimum, cost savings are made and customers remain satisfied. Encourage staff to take holiday during the low season.
  • Invest in facilities so that customers are not disappointed by out of date or poorly maintained provision. Refurbish in the low season when there is less demand on resources and during the low season take idle accommodation out of use to conserve.
  • Make use of lean production management principles to include developing long term strategies with suppliers. Just In Time (JIT) techniques gained momentum in businesses over the past decade based on having close relationships with suppliers where supplies are delivered at the moment they are needed, reducing waste and adding value.  Reducing the levels of stock can prevent waste if items are not needed or if tastes change. It also helps cash flow and limits the cost of warehousing and insurance.

Unneeded staff, unneeded processing steps, non-value adding activity should be removed to ensure maximum efficiency. In advocating lean production principles, a focus on quality and continuous improvement is needed; increased responsibility in employee roles in involving staff in decision making is integral.  If products are quality assured before reaching the customer by dedicated employees, then customer satisfaction should be fulfilled. Employees can also be encouraged to take a full part in evaluating the need for improvement whilst tasks are completed.

  • Be energy efficient – see energy training module: www.smartourproject.eu
  • Make use of market segmentation with identification of niche markets including markets with local relevance to maximise revenue where concentration on the needs of such a market can bring competitive gains. Promoting the benefits of low season which include promotional pricing, reduced congestion and quieter relaxation to target markets such as the older generation or empty nesters that are not limited to taking a break during school holidays can be beneficial in controlling demand.
  • Concentration on customer relationship marketing by actively listening to customers, closely meeting their needs and taking action where there is customer dissatisfaction should lead to repeat business.

Coping with seasonal fluctuations in demand presents challenging decision making. Smartour has been developed to provide an insight into these challenges with training modules and an opportunity to share in developing sustainable tourism:  www.smartourproject.eu

By Vicki Disley, Newcastle under Lyme College

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online and covers this topic if you want to learn more 

Useful links

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/ and links to our online training tool and events across England and Italy

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject/

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The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.