Never has it been tougher to attract talent to the sector; and I don’t just mean senior talent, management roles etc, but more importantly those troops on the cliff face of service who drive guest experience and make hospitality what it is.
Why is that I hear you cry? Well, I think there are a good handful of contributing factors, and chief amongst them are two unforgivables: complacency and outdated practices.
We’ve had it good in hospitality for a while now haven’t we? Employers could take advantages of their team – pay them peanuts, show no empathy to individual’s circumstances, over-work them, ignore development paths to nurture the talent of tomorrow; and why was that – because there was always someone to take their place. The pipeline was plentiful.
Uh-oh, but what happens when the pipeline has a blockage? Now, we’re in trouble. In life and in business I’ve always worked to the mantra that you develop and build from a position of strength. The strength in this case was the supply of candidates. In some locales you’ll know that if someone left you one day, if you’re onboarding ‘practises’ were such, you could have a replacement in place the next day (let’s not start down that rabbit hole).
And so we got complacent. We became known from the outside looking in as the sector that overworked and underpaid. Too many employers never really developed their people, they just threw them a set of keys when the going got tough and expected them to sink or swim without support or mindfulness around their wellbeing.
Am I being flippant here and using a worst case set of examples? Of course I am. Far be it from me to tar all operators with the same brush. I know first-hand that there are some great people-centric hospitality organisations out there who did it right, who do it right, and it’s no surprise that these employers find themselves in a stronger position today because they invested in their people approach from a position of strength back then.
Fast forward to post-pandemic (is that where we are now?) and the barren landscape we find ourselves trying to nurture back to life. How do we do it? Well we can’t keep rolling out the same old practises we used pre-pandemic. The landscape has changed, the world has changed. Candidates are demanding more (yep ‘demanding’, because the power is with the candidate now) of potential employers – but change is happening too slowly to make a real difference in the here and now.
Just look at traditional recruitment practises for the best example of where we’re not evolving. In the main too may are still ploughing the same recruitment channels as before. Then if you’re lucky and get a bite, a candidate applies; it takes days to get back to them, days again to arrange a 1st interview, days (nah, weeks) to arrange a 2nd interview. Only the ‘lucky’ ones will hear back, the rest discarded without notice, left to hang on, wondering (which is a shocking practise by the way). I say the lucky ones because after all these steps and hurdles candidates are made to jump over it is the employer who is lucky if the candidate is still available after all of this.
The jobs market is moving quickly. The recruitment process needs to match that pace and become more efficient, more dynamic – it needs to change – employers’/recruiter’s approaches need to change. Sadly change in hospitality recruiting is too slow if changing at all (and don’t get me started on recruitment open days; that’s one for another time).
The recruitment piece is only one part of the current problem in attracting talent to the sector, there is much more to be done. To that end it would be ill of me not to mention the sterling work being done by the ‘Hospitality Rising’ campaign. For those who haven’t heard of the Mark McCulloch, Mark is founder of Supersonic Inc and the driving force behind a multi-media campaign to attract top talent into the sector (currently only 1 in 5 see hospitality as a viable career choice) and address the industry’s recruitment crisis. You can find out more about the campaign here.
So what can we do differently to make sure our recruitment and retention practises match the level of evolution and development we put into our food, drinks and ambience? I’ve put together a few bullets as discussion starters:
- Speed – the recruitment market has changed; it’s moving at a pace few could have envisaged 18 months ago. If you are at the stage where you’re ‘urgently’ recruiting is it too much to expect you to get back to a client’s application within 24 hours to show you’re serious about your own process?
- Pace – if a candidate has applied then they’re interested in what’s on the table, move with the pace that a candidate is comfortable with, if that means the faster the better then that’s a win-win for both sides.
- Technology –the BBC recently reported that a global survey showed that 65% of companies have hired a candidate without ever meeting them in person since the start of the pandemic. I’m not suggesting this would work for all roles, but if it works for you, why not? Video call interviews save you taking time out of the business to sit around and wait for a candidate to show; they are more convenient for the candidate, and in my experience those that have a 1st stage video interview are more likely to show for an in-person 2nd interview (if you need a two stage process – ask yourself ‘do you?’) then no-show and wasting your precious time.
- Be courteous – I’m an avid believer in replying to every application, feeding back to every candidate who’s interviewed; if they’ve given you their time to see if they can fill your role, the least you can do is to take them off the hook of hanging on hoping they’ll find out what’s happening with their application. Technology and automation have made this easier to do then ever. Remember, each time you reply you’re making a deposit in the bank of becoming an employer of choice and showing you value your people-process. Candidates talk, particularly in small markets, make sure they’re talking about their experience with you in a positive light. It will pay off in the long run.
- Money talks – don’t low ball, you’ll lose good people before you’ve even started. Pay what the candidate’s worth and save yourself a re-recruit further down the line when someone else offers them market value. On saying that, if you have a figure in mind that you think is fair and in-line with the current market then stick to your guns – the mercenary trade has been rife over the past 12-months, it’s time to put that one to bed.
- Develop – now is the time to have your people pathway and practises in place:
- How can a team member progress to General Manager and beyond? What does that journey look like for them and what are the touch points they need to meet?
- That level of career growth isn’t for every team member so how do you keep those people engaged with you?
- How are you supporting your people? What practises are in place to further you as an employer of choice; what is the added-value of working as part of your team?
- How do you balance your desire for high performance with mindfulness for your team – can a 4-day working week work for you? Do you have a mental health 1st Aider in the business? Do you guarantee them their birthday as a day-off?
The goals of the likes of Hospitality Rising are admirable, it’s the shot in the arm we all need, we all want, to overcome our inability to fill our teams with engaging, skilled people; but raising interest around a career in hospitality can only be the start, it can’t be the end of it. Let’s look in the mirror and ask ourselves what part we played in the sector finding ourselves in the place we are today?
Most importantly, let’s learn from the mistakes of the past; value the recruitment process, value a new way to move forward becoming an employer of choice, a sector of choice in your market, and let’s not be complacent this time around.
Article by Mark Wright of WHAM Consultancy – hospitality and leisure specialist in operations and recruitment