8 Causes of Employee Turnover in Hospitality

Causes of Employee Turnover in Hospitality

The hospitality industry is one of the largest employers in the world, covering many different segments and employment sectors. From food and beverage establishments such as quick service restaurants and fine dining, cafes, bars and more to travel and tourism, the hospitality industry is booming.

But even though it is an ever-growing sector, the hospitality industry faces its own unique workforce challenges.

Employee turnover in the hospitality industry is extremely high. In fact, the hotel and motel industry alone experiences an employee turnover rate of 73.8%––exponentially higher than the annual average of 10-15%.

In such a consumer-facing industry, having employees constantly coming and going can make it difficult to meet customer expectations. It can also be costly to find, hire, and train new employees.

Unfortunately, because hospitality often relies on part-time employees and seasonal workers, it can be difficult to find people who want to stick around for the long run.

In order to first understand how to keep employees around, you must first understand why they’re leaving. Here are 8 of the biggest causes of employee turnover in hospitality.

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1. Unclear job expectations

Not knowing what they will or should be doing at work can be a serious source of stress for many employees. If job expectations aren’t clearly communicated, workers may decide it’s time to find a job that is more fulfilling.

Employees may also become unhappy if they feel like the job they’re doing doesn’t align with what they think they’ve been hired for. This disconnect could push hospitality employees to find a job somewhere else.

During the recruitment process, it can be tempting to only show the positives of a job or try and spruce up the description to sound more appealing. While this may convince a few people to come on board, they probably won’t stick around long.

Make job expectations clear through the entire hiring and training process. Be upfront about both the positives and the negatives of the job, and make sure employees know exactly what they should be doing during each shift.

Check in with employees often to see if they have any questions or if any expectations are unclear. Be sure each employee knows who they should connect with if they have concerns or need help with their responsibilities.

Job Expectations Mismanagement

…what can lead to early turnover. Make sure to show your candidates what the job they’re applying for is about.

2. Disconnect with managers

In some industries, a successful manager only needs to oversee processes or systems. It doesn’t matter if they’re able to connect with the employees under them. However, most hospitality positions are people-focused––including managerial positions.

When managers are unable to properly communicate with their staff, it can push employees to quit. Unfortunately, one bad manager can have serious consequences on the job satisfaction of your best employees and can be one of the causes of employee turnover in hospitality.

Managers of hotel staff, food servers, quick service restaurant employees and other service workers need to be able to manage both processes and humans. They need to know how to handle conflict, delegate orders, and communicate openly with both their team and customers.

Make sure managers are properly trained for overseeing people. Don’t just assume that because someone was a great employee, they’re capable of taking on more responsibility and being leaders. Instead, have clear expectations for your hospitality managers.

Encourage two-way feedback between managers and employees. Look for opportunities to improve the overall dynamic of the workplace and push for continuous training for employees of all levels.

3. Mismatch between jobs and employees

Hospitality is a common job for young people to enter into. Unfortunately, it isn’t the right fit for everyone––and they might discover that after they’ve been hired.

Not everyone is well-equipped to deal with the customer-facing demands that often come with hospitality jobs, whether it’s in QSR, upscale restaurants, or hotels. If a new hire’s position doesn’t match their personality, they may find that they’re unhappy with the role and ultimately leave.

In some instances, you can train people to develop the skills they need to be successful at their job. However, it is more important that you look for the right personality characteristics during the hiring process.

Set clear personality traits each new hire should have. Look for certain characteristics while you’re hiring, including multitasking and stress tolerance. If a candidate doesn’t possess the traits needed to be successful at the job, they’re likely not the right person to hire.

Take advantage of personality questionnaires and job simulations during the interview process. Incorporating these additional tests before making a hire can help you ensure you’re putting the right candidates in your open positions.

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4. Lack of flexibility

Employees in the hospitality industry rarely work a set schedule, and that’s a big benefit for many of them. The flexibility that comes with the job is a big drawing point for many people who want some wiggle room in their schedule.

Unfortunately, this flexibility can also sometimes mean employees don’t know what to expect each week. If they’re unsure what their hours might be, the job may actually end up causing additional stress.

Employees don’t want to wait until the last minute to get their schedules. They also want to have some say in days they have off, times they’re unable to work, and if they’re expected to work long or overtime hours.

Be clear about your scheduling system. Keep a routine of when schedules will be released and when employees should expect to know what days they work. Let employees know ahead of time their expected hours and give fair warning if they might be asked to work additional or longer hours.

You should also give a structure to requesting time off or a process to follow if the employee is sick the day of a shift. Having these systems in place ahead of time can give your employees comfort in knowing their needs are taken care of.

5. Toxic or unhealthy work environment

The hospitality industry often calls for high-pressure work environments that can leave even calm and collected employees feeling stressed out. Not everyone can handle this kind of environment, causing high levels of turnover.

However, this isn’t the only reason the work environment may become toxic or unhealthy. In fact, 63% of hospitality workers said they’ve experienced sexual harassment on the job. This is reason enough to make anyone want to leave. Furthermore, 9% of employees report that they are currently bullied at their workplace.

It’s important to create a work environment that your employees will actually want to be a part of. Establish clear policies that employees can follow in the event that something happens, and ensure they’re safe and protected if they choose to speak up.

Proactively create a positive work environment for all employees. Don’t stop developing a strong culture just because employees are happy and healthy. Always look for new ways to improve the workplace for your employees.

Frequently check in with employees at all levels to see how they feel about your current work environment. Ask for feedback or ideas on how you can improve and look for realistic ways you can implement them into your day-to-day operations.

Workplace Stress

Excessive stress at work is one of the leading causes of employee turnover in hospitality.

6. Inefficient communication

Communication is key, regardless of industry. However, in the hospitality industry, it’s especially crucial that needs and expectations are clearly communicated between higher management and their staff.

When executives and team leaders don’t properly fill in employees on new regulations or processes, they can feel disengaged and unmotivated. If these customer-facing employees aren’t giving their best, it can reflect badly on the organization as a whole.

You always want to have a clear line of communication across all levels. It’s also important to ensure that the communication pathway is a two-way street. Staff should also be free to give feedback or voice concerns to upper management.

Give each and every employee a voice––but also an opportunity to listen. Encourage employees of all levels to speak up when they feel like there is something to discuss, but also to listen to others when they have something to contribute.

This can be challenging for larger organizations that may not have an easy way to facilitate communication between all employees. In this event, turn to an app for internal communication that can help employees share thoughts and ideas with others.

7. Lack of recognition

The hospitality industry demands hard work and often long, irregular hours, regardless of your position. Unfortunately, many employees don’t feel like their investment is noticed by upper management and executives.

When employees are constantly giving a job their all and feeling like their hard work is ignored, it can lead to burnout. They may also start to believe that it doesn’t matter how hard they work and instead of trying to give more, they’ll start giving less.

If employees cut corners, it is often the customers who suffer. When customers’ needs and expectations aren’t met, they may choose to go to a competitor.

Look for new ways to recognize your employees for their tasks. In some cases, even small acknowledgments can go a long way. A simple thank you or recognition during a meeting can leave an employee feeling good about the work they’ve done.

For larger accomplishments, monetary rewards or extra time off can encourage employees to keep up the good work. Develop a recognition system that motivates employees to continue to work harder.

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8. Minimal growth opportunities

One of the biggest causes of employee turnover in the hospitality industry is the seeming lack of growth opportunities. While many individuals start out in hospitality when they’re young, not many of them choose to stay in the industry throughout their career.

Whenever someone enters a new job, advancement is going to be on their mind––and hospitality is no exception. Unfortunately, many hospitality organizations only look at their employees as part-time or seasonal workers.

When employees feel as if they’re viewed as a short-term employee by management, they won’t want to stick around. If they don’t feel like the organization is invested in their growth, they won’t be invested in the company either.

Develop a growth plan for all employees, even if they are only hired seasonally or at a young age. Have a clear path to higher positions and make sure employees know what they need to accomplish in order to get there.

You should also look to hire internally when you have open positions. While you will also want to recruit outside of your internal base of employees, let qualified candidates already within your organization know that you have an open position they might be interested in.

For example, an American quick service restaurant In-N-Out Burger frequently appears on Best Places to Work lists and one of the reasons for that is their mission to promote from within. They are dedicated to providing training and development to all their employees and it pays off – their employee turnover rate is 4-6X lower than the QSR industry average.


The hospitality industry is a complicated one to navigate because it encompasses so many different areas and sectors. However, regardless of the sector you operate in, when you choose to invest in your employees and create a work environment that they’re excited to be a part of, they’ll be more likely to stick around.

Get more selective about the candidates you hire during the recruitment and interview process and maintain communication as they enter training. Be clear about expectations and remain available if new hires have any questions or concerns.

Finally, encourage employees at all levels to speak up and contribute to the overall work environment. Be sure to check in on management just as often as new hires and create a recognition plan that encourages your hospitality workers to continue to give their all.

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Erica Hayton writes about recruitment, marketing, and technology for B2B SaaS companies.
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