The secret ingredient: how team cohesion can transform hospitality

Lynda Greeves

In today’s turbulent climate, strong team cohesion is essential, yet building a strong team is no easy feat. With vacancies for staff higher than ever, how can hospitality companies go about building teams and team cohesion?

In today’s turbulent climate, strong team cohesion is essential for productivity and engagement. Cohesive teams tend to work in a more joined-up way where everyone understands their role and the contribution they make, embraces their strengths and weaknesses, and are committed to the team’s goals as well as the wider objectives of the business. When cohesive teams work well together there is usually a strong sense of ‘we’ – the feeling of belonging to something bigger.

However, building a strong team is no easy feat, and with vacancies for skilled staff now 48% higher than pre-pandemic levels (source: Hospitality & Catering News), finding and keeping the right people is still a huge issue for the hospitality industry. As such, it is likely that the sector will be heading into another busy summer season understaffed, which will have significant knock-on impacts for consumers and business profitability. With 83% of businesses in hospitality and manufacturing admitting they are struggling with recruiting staff; it is a challenge that is not going away any time soon, which makes it even more important to ensure that the teams you do have are working together in the best possible way. This was a point Hospitality Action Chairman, William Baxter CBE, raised passionately in his episode of our ‘Recipes for Success’ podcast, attributing his business success to the teams he’s recruited over his career.

What does it take to create strong teams?

Nurturing a cohesive team relies on happy, productive staff who are able to complete their day-to-day tasks with minimal disruption. Despite this, it has become clear that unnecessary complexity via time-consuming manual process coupled with outdated technology is getting in the way. In a 2022 survey of UK hospitality staff, commissioned by Zupa, we found that 99% of staff say that multiple aspects of their day-to-day job are being overlooked due to outdated processes meaning that teams are often working in a haphazard and disjointed way, as well as being under-resourced. The knock-on effect of this is poor team cohesion that negatively impacts staff happiness and productivity, with 44% highlighting this as a major issue.

Innovation is paramount to success in hospitality, as is the recognition that technology can help to create positive change within the dynamics of the team. Automating processes brings significant benefits to businesses that are buckling under the burden of lack of staff and bandwidth. If people are freed up to get on with their job, without the added pressure of reams of paperwork or completing long-winded admin duties, they can work more productively and more cohesively together, sharing their knowledge and skills as well as best practices, helping both their personal and professional growth.

The virtuous circles of team cohesion

Cohesive teams create essential support systems where team members can rely on each other for assistance, encouragement and motivation when faced with challenges or setbacks, helping them stay resilient and able to overcome obstacles. Likewise, teams celebrating their combined achievements together can boost morale. You will often find that cohesive teams are quick to make decisions and resolve conflicts, they are more likely to take personal accountability for their actions and will have a high level of trust for those around them. They also thrive on having clear lines of open and honest communication and rely on having strategic goals in place that they can strive for. Most importantly, cohesive team are usually loyal, happy and they celebrate success.

Much work has been done regarding the impacts on team dynamics (the degree of closeness an individual feels within at team) and company culture, including HR challenges such as staff turnover and inadequate training. Yet, it is astounding that many businesses still fail to make the connection between team performance and outdated manual processes, even though these time-consuming tasks are having a significant impact on how teams operate together. These, too, impact staff retention and result in workers being over-stretched and under-resourced. These impacts on team dynamics are affecting people on the ground in this sector every day, and if businesses continue to ignore the need for critical change as well as effective engagement programmes that allow staff to grow in confidence and teams to innovate, they run the risk of creating a self-perpetuating cycle that will ultimately impact revenue, customer relationships and future business survival.

In summary, team cohesion is vital as it leverages the collective strength, skills and capabilities of individuals for the wider business goals, fostering innovation and creating a positive and productive environment. When people have the time and space to collaborate and share ideas, they can generate more creative solutions, explore different approaches, and identify opportunities that an individual working alone may not see. Hospitality businesses have to focus on retention, team cohesion and improvement of customer service, but that can’t happen until the right changes are made that help teams to operate in a more unified way. To succeed companies need to invest in people as well as remove the outdated processes that continue to create barriers for teams across the sector, giving them back the time they need to work more efficiently together.


Zupa insight reports: Contract catering report - Zupa Restaurant report - Zupa