Viewpoint: stop searching – there's a better way to find your next candidate
It's daunting trying to recruit a workforce, so turn over the tricky parts to technology to lighten the load, says Sebastian Sepierre
As far as buzzphrases go, ‘recruitment, retention, reward' might not stand out quite as much as some other famous three-word mantras, but the need to find and keep the right staff is one of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality sector right now.
The shortage of workers has been a challenge across the UK for some time. It's why the current chancellor Jeremy Hunt used the recent budget as a way to try to tempt early retirees back into employment. This is, indeed, a potentially fruitful area of recruitment for hospitality, with life experience and skills a valuable addition to any team.
This new labour shortage is also why the government continues to explore ways of making it easier for people to come from overseas to work in the sector. Whatever comes of these options it will require a huge amount of effort by hospitality leaders to fill the high number of vacancies, particularly with further pressure in the form of rising wages and from other sectors also looking for staff.
The latest Business Leaders' Survey from CGA by NielsenIQ and Fourth shows that 9% of hospitality roles are currently vacant and open for application. With a churn rate of 16% – that's the proportion of staff leaving the business in the last three months – managers are faced with a never-ending cycle of job adverts and interviews, and that's before you even get to that all important retention element.
It's enough to make any manager bang their head on their laptop or tablet in utter frustration at a continual process that can take far too much time away from leading their teams and businesses towards new and more profitable directions. But it is within those devices where solutions to labour shortages can be found. The impact technology has had on hospitality in the past couple of decades is evident at almost every step on the customer journey. More often than not, potential guests will check out your business online before visiting, book a table using one of their devices, order and pay using a smartphone and, hopefully, conclude their experience by leaving a five-star review or by singing your praises on social media.
Technology is everywhere you look in hospitality, playing a vital supporting role. I say supportive because, in the vast majority of outlets, face-to-face interaction and the experience within the venue will always be the essential ingredient to success.
Technology fulfils a similar function in the recruitment and retention process. In reality, you are only going to truly know about a candidate's personality and suitability for a role during the interview stage and when they develop with you as part of the team. Face-to-face interaction and chemistry remain essential. However, there are a plethora of ways that technology can now support this process. For a start, there are products that enable you to plan and track the entire recruitment process, uploading and sharing documentation with candidates and taking them through screening to interview and, if successful, all the way to onboarding. It means your process is efficient, consistent, easy to manage and repeat.
Once staff are part of the team, technology can make them feel at home, learn about the business and find the answers to questions they may have. In the Business Leaders' Survey, 57% said cultivating the right working culture has been effective in improving retention. Again, this happens both inside the physical bricks and mortar of your buildings and in the digital space.
Tech platforms bring people and businesses closer together by information sharing and providing a consistent space for two-way dialogue, from housing your company policy documents to sending alerts about changes to rotas and monitoring tasks on easy to navigate dashboards.
All of this should lead to more stable and well-performing teams. It is much needed, with only 33% of leaders saying they feel confident about their ability to recruit, and 47% feeling confident about their business prospects over the next 12 months.
Well-crafted technology solutions are there to support you and give you confidence. They should make running the business smoother and, ultimately, more profitable.
Sebastian Sepierre is the managing director EMEA at Fourth