Viewpoint: It's time to create some positive PR for the industry

17 March 2022
Viewpoint: It's time to create some positive PR for the industry

As staffing shortages continue to bite, Bill Toner calls on the industry to share stories of working in hospitality to attract newcomers

As we continue on the long road to recovery, either post-Covid or living with Covid, I don't think there can be many hospitality businesses that aren't struggling to find the team members they need to fully restaff their businesses as momentum and volumes build.

We've had the perfect storm of Covid, shutdowns and Brexit, and it's changed the employment landscape for all of us. There is, however, no point in collectively moaning about it. We need to act for the benefit of us all. We need to change public perceptions about working in hospitality and demonstrate that it really is a great industry to work in and we need to constantly up our game as employers.

Arguably, the hospitality sector has had a higher profile with the public over the past two years than most other industries. Occasionally, this has been for bad reasons such as closures and redundancies, but often it has been for positive reasons such as the incredible community-orientated actions that brought people together and helped overcome huge difficulties. We were all very proud to read or hear those stories. And there lies a potential solution – storytelling.

We know that hearing people's stories can change our opinions or help us remember things better. What we need to do is encourage far more people to enter our industry and to push the narrative about the great career opportunities we can offer.

I'm sure all of us know people in the industry who love their flexible-hours jobs, who have built successful businesses from scratch, who are rapidly rising up the ranks, or whose careers have developed through apprenticeships. The list of wonderful examples is likely very long in all our companies and we should be proud of that.

It's so easy to get distracted by negativity, but we must start fighting back by sharing the good news, and that includes reminding our own employees of the benefits of working in hospitality too – the success stories, the flexibility, the training and development opportunities, the team spirit.

So how do we go about doing this? In my opinion, it's all about engagement. We need to connect with people to share these stories with. Those people include our friends and relations, clients, school-leavers, parents and teachers (hospitality is a grade A career!), customers, suppliers – anyone who may pass on some of our stories when they know someone is looking for work or a new career direction.

We can do this directly, but we must also unite behind some of our industry organisations such as UKHospitality, Springboard and the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. We must start to engage more with under-represented groups of our society, too. We welcome all customers into our businesses, so we should seek out and welcome employees from all communities too.

When we hear people talking negatively about our industry, we should push back with our positive stories. We should also recognise that not everyone wants to move up the career ladder into management – some are very happy to do their job to the best of their ability and enjoy going to work and interacting with their colleagues and customers. We need good people at every level in this industry and career growth can be lateral as well as vertical.

What we're talking about here is a great big public relations exercise but it's one we can all play a part in. We have a lot to be proud of, so let's shout it from the rooftops!

Bill Toner is chief executive of CH&Co

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