Reviewing hospitality recruitment, retention and training strategies

chefs in kitchen

In the UK, for the first time since 1974, there are more job vacancies than there are people officially classified as ‘out of work’.

In May, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 171,000 vacancies across the hospitality sector. A joint survey by UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and the British Beer and Pub Association, found that the shortage of workers has pushed 45% of operators to cut trading hours or capacity in order to cope. One in three businesses in the sector are now closing one or more days a week due to the availability of skilled staff.

The recruitment challenges are particularly acute in Fine Dining Restaurants and Upscale Hotels. 76% of operators reported seeking experienced Chefs and 81% reported seeking Front of House staff.  Many employers are currently banking on the goodwill of their existing employees to keep their doors open, with Chefs typically being asked to work 40-plus hour weeks.

In Asia Pacific, Recruitment and Executive Search ACI’s annual survey, produced in January 2022, sampled over 800 travel, tourism and hospitality professionals across the region to provide an insight into the prevailing job market. They reported optimism amongst HR and hiring managers, with 45 per cent of such respondents expecting new headcounts in 2022 – levels not seen since pre-pandemic. However, HR managers were also expecting a tougher time when they came to recruit. They reported being most concerned with a lack of qualified candidates and challenges finding the right talent; plus, high competition between employers, thus driving up salaries and increasing salary spend.

Katrina Craig, CEO Hotel Solutions Partnership comments; “We know from our clients that the situation is very similar across Europe and the US as well”.

“As a result, operators are working harder and being more creative in their recruitment approach – reviewing salary and benefits packages, investing in employer branding and PR; some are even resorting to paying signing-on bonuses. It’s also very important to focus on retention strategies too, as it is existing employees currently coping with under staffing and this can have a damaging impact on morale. One of our responses is working with partners to assist in the recruitment of skilled personnel from overseas. It is possible and we can navigate the red tape on recruiters’ behalf.”

Founded in a post-pandemic hospitality landscape, London Rock Partners, is a provider of a full range of service hospitality solutions, finely attuned to the current needs and wants of hoteliers.

CCO, Clare Anna says; “Supporting our clients with recruitment challenges is one of the services we offer.  We know that it’s the team that make a great hotel and our focus is on supporting them to find the right talent for the right roles and nurturing internal development. The industry finds itself in an unprecedented position in terms of labour shortages – attracting and retaining talent in our industry has never been as important as it is now”.

Sophie Kent, director of training and recruitment at London Rock Partners is a CIPD qualified HR Manager with over 30 years’ experience within the Hospitality sector, she explains; “The hotels we manage are experiencing recruitment issues especially in front of house and in the kitchen.  The lack of talent in the market is a challenge, as is the fact that the salary bracket has increased significantly for key roles, and rightly so, but you have to review the full benefits package. The market has become incredibly competitive – the benefits and package can now outweigh the salary in some cases”.

Sophie adds; “The pandemic made people value their own time more than ever and ensuring we provide the right environment for a good work life balance is the key to retaining talent. Increasingly, we are looking at developing talent from within, enhancing our training programmes and ensuring that junior team members understand the career opportunities open to them within the hospitality sector.

“It’s also about giving senior roles autonomy to make decisions and ensure they understand their impact on the business. Plus, reviewing the hours and shift patterns to accommodate life outside of work and ensuring that people really feel valued. We now really engage with the whole hotel team on new ideas and consequently, the results are better.”

CCO, Clare Anna adds; “The days of people relocating for the right role are gone, and sourcing local talent is really tough, especially in the regions, hence why London Rock Partners is now sourcing talent from outside of the UK. We have recently acquired a licence from the Home Office to bring skilled workers in from abroad and this is providing us with a great pool of talent especially in the kitchens and front of house.”

It’s critical for hospitality and hotel operators to be able to plan ahead, manage demand, and ensure they have the optimum number of staff across each and every shift.

The initial challenge is to recruit the right type of talent and be able to attract them to your business. But it is clear longer term, operators need Further Education and Higher Education Institutions to provide young people with relevant skills. Plus, we all need to build hospitality’s image as a sector in which young people aspire to work and build careers.

Launched at the end of May 2022, UKHospitality ‘The UK’s Hospitality Work Force Strategy: Fixing the Crisis’ examines all aspects of the industry’s labour needs including recruitment, skills training, and people’s working lives. The strategy is based on a partnership approach with industry bodies, training and employment stakeholders and Government, and embraces the whole of the United Kingdom.

Full of good intentions, and here’s hoping it will achieve its purpose, but it will be a while before the industry starts to benefit from this grass roots approach and operators need to review their own recruitment, retention and skills training strategies to address the current situation and for a longer-term solution.