Recruitment difficulties are nothing new to the hospitality industry, but with the uncertainty Brexit has created, many operators have stepped up efforts to improve retention and entice new workers into the industry. Janie Manzoori-Stamford asks how this is happening
London-based Just Hospitality has seen a fall in the number of eligible applicants applying for positions – with chef roles particularly hard to fill.
The foodservice operator, which featured in The Caterer’s 30 Best Places to Work in Hospitality 2018 list, is focusing its recruitment drives on referrals.
“One of the pillars of our recruitment strategy is to hire based on cultural fit,” explains managing director Dean Kennett. “Using our existing team to refer friends and family members helps us find talent that aligns with our culture and values.”
The scheme also aims to reward and motivate staff. Once a referral has passed probation, the referee receives £100 or more depending on the role. “Not only that, they get to work with family and friends, which makes work life more fun and helps continue to build our culture,” Kennett adds.
The company, which has just more than 100 employees and operates at 12 sites as well as events, is also tackling the current labour shortage through what it terms socially inclusive recruitment.
For the last four years, Just Hospitality has worked with Highshore School in Camberwell, London, a secondary school and charity that provides education for students with special educational needs. It provides work experience for students and hired its first student from the school last year.
Red Carnation Hotels
Red Carnation Hotels has cultivated a reputation for career opportunities: it has 80 separate training courses available to the company’s 2,500 staff, including foundation, technical and development skills.
But managing director Jonathan Raggett (right) doesn’t expect people to take his word for it. When the company attends careers fairs to showcase its management programme, for example, he sends staff and past graduates to do the talking.
“We have managers in very senior roles who started out on the programme and we send them back to their college or university to talk about it,” Raggett explains. “It’s about real people saying ‘this is what it’s like – it’s not perfect, but if you come to Red Carnation you have to work really hard and, if you do, you will get rewards and promotions’. To have them saying that is really powerful.”
This year the company has also launched its degree apprenticeship programme, run in partnership with Pearson College London. The course gives student-apprentices on-the-job experience of working in the hospitality sector, while concurrently studying for an honours degree. It is one of the newest ways in which Red Carnation is seeking to bring talent into the business from a shrinking recruitment pool.
From its outset, BaxterStorey aimed to be an employer of choice, offering staff training and development programmes that enable them to see a clear progression path alongside opportunities for skills development.
Among its various training initiatives is its Chef Academy, which has had more than 300 graduates since launching in 2003, its Barista Academy, Leadership Academy, Advanced Management Journey, Momentum graduate programme and a Service Academy.
“You have to make sure you’re giving people the right opportunities, that you’re recognising the good work that they do. These things are important to people,” says Alastair Storey, chairman and chief executive of BaxterStorey’s parent company WSH.
Since the appointment of talent manager Amy Primrose six months ago, BaxterStorey has embraced every opportunity to reach out to what it describes as a more ‘youthful’ audience, to showcase not just BaxterStorey as an employer but hospitality as an industry to embrace.
According to people director Maureen Sandbach, this is part of the company’s commitment to “train from the bottom and grow our own talent for the future”.
It is also why, during the recent National Apprenticeship Week, the caterer has begun sharing social media posts such as ‘A Day in the Life of a BaxterStorey Apprentice’ on the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook.
Being named Best Employer at the 2018 Catey awards unfortunately does not make a company immune to the staffing crisis that is gripping the sector. And with plans to grow to more than 10,000 rooms by 2022 – the hotel management company currently has 2,819 suites and rooms open or in development – maintaining a steady pipeline of talent is vital.
But with a number of recruitment initiatives already on the go, as well as an impressive 98% staff retention, Cycas Hospitality is working hard to attract and keep staff with the perfect cultural fit. For co-founder John Wagner, it’s all about personality. “Lots of people say you hire for personality and you teach the skills, but we’ve always done it,” he said.
Many join the company with no hospitality background, says Wagner, including a large proportion of the over-50s who make up about 10% of the company’s workforce, having made hospitality their second career. So why did Cycas set its sights on recruiting ‘seniors’?
“A few folks came to work for us that we really liked and we realised that what they had in common was their grey hair,” explains Wagner. “We’re working with a group that specialises in going after just that kind of employee because, frankly, they’re very reliable. They’re dedicated to their job and they’re some of the friendliest, most gregarious and engaging employees we have.”
Corbin & King
Corbin & King is working hard to retain its EU staff – 67% of the total workforce – as well as looking towards new labour sources for its seven-strong restaurant group.
Managing director Zuleika Fennell (right) says: “On the morning of the referendum, we wrote to all EU staff saying we would move heaven and earth to make sure their futures were protected.”
She explained that the company writes to staff following every announcement and has pledged to assist them as they apply for settled status.
The company has also identified several opportunities to expand its employment pool closer to home.
Fennell explains: “We’ve been looking at a number of initiatives. The first was looking across our workforce and noticing that people were going off to have families and not coming back, because childcare costs are so high and working hours were tricky to balance.”
Corbin & King increased flexibility with more part-time roles and the opportunity for parents to fit their work around school runs, as well as introducing a return to work programme. The over-50s are another demographic the restaurant group is targeting, alongside a continued effort to promote the industry to school and college pupils.
The company is also ensuring it is appealing and remains visible to workers displaced by the difficulties being experienced by the restaurant industry, as well as those from other industries who may find their roles are moved overseas post-Brexit.