The hospitality sector is the third largest private sector employer in the UK, yet struggles with a continuous decline in staff retention.

Unsociable working hours to low pay and benefits are just some of the factors which mean the rate of staff retention tends to be below the UK average of 85 percent.

© Deputy
© Deputy

A survey from YouGov found 55 percent of employees said more control over their work life and shift patterns would help more workers stay in the hospitality industry.

More flexibility and easier access to change shifts could make all the difference for workers in the fast-paced workforce.

Workforce management software company Deputy, which opened offices in the UK in 2017, believes technology is the solution.

The Australian-based company recently expanded to EMEA following its announcement to become a global business in 2015. Its aim is to make managing employees easier.

“Our goal was always to be able to build a global business, we produced an amazing level of product-market fit and the problem exists everywhere. 60 percent of the working population in the world is actually hourly paid, that’s about two billion people so it’s only natural for us to launch Deputy here in EMEA,” Ashik Ahmed, Deputy's CEO and founder, tells Techworld.

The Deputy platform is designed to reduce the stress of mundane tasks and automate team schedule management, making it easier for workers and managers.

“Deputy as a product, what we do is scheduling, time and attendance, communication and tasking. These problems are universal for any hourly paid worker and the way Deputy goes and solves it in a mobile-first, user-intuitive way allows the product to get really easily adopted,” Ahmed says.

“The key part of what we offer is mobility. Everyone has a smartphone these days and 60 percent of our user base is actually on mobile,” he adds.

Deputy’s platform is a smartphone-based app, which is accessible by every employee to clock in and out and swaps shifts along with auto-scheduling, a new feature that is powered by artificial intelligence for workers to build their own schedules.

“Quite a lot of businesses will be using an iPad app that we have for clock in and out, and of course we made sure it is all GDPR complaint and because it is smartphone accessible, people can have their schedules and do everything they need to change their work lives,” Ahmed says.

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An issue within the hospitality sector is not only the minimal pay but the lack of flexibility and benefits. There are several workers who share experiences of requests for days off being rejected. Deputy says this can be solved with more transparency.

Technology has made life easier for the average consumer in a number of ways, from communicating with friends to shopping online. Ahmed believes the adoption of tech can lead to more flexibility in our working lives, too. 

“At Deputy, we have customers who have five or 10 employees and we have customers who have thousands of employees and seeing these businesses scale is good for the economy and good for the world.

“There’s also all sorts of new economics that are being created as well. There’s a lot of talk about gig economy and I actually call that the instant gratification economy,” he adds.

This instant gratification goes hand in hand with customer satisfaction, according to Ahmed. It is something that consumers now naturally expect.

“At the end of the day, you have to see it from the customer point of view and I will always say that our product and service definitely solve the customer problem better, faster and cheaper than any of the competitor products out there,” he says.

However, transferring from Australia to the UK market is no mean feat. The UK’s economy is about four times the size of Australia’s, and there is plenty of political uncertainty and business risk associated with Brexit.

However Ahmed is not worried about the wider climate. 

“Our business in a sense is not really impacted by Brexit happening or not, because the problems and challenges that happen in the industry will either get magnified or be less problematic with Brexit happening, and Deputy can solve it from either side of the equation," he says. 

“For Deputy, and this is where the name comes from as well, what we want to do is get the best employees back on the floor working with the team. Everything that they have to do from an administrative perspective, they can do straight from their phone,” Ahmed adds.