Despite unemployment being on the rise - particularly among school leavers and graduates - recruitment within the hospitality industry is still relatively stagnant and we need to ask ourselves why.
There is an old-fashioned perception that jobs in hospitality involve long and unsociable hours and low pay and we need to re-educate potential team members - especially students - that the work can be interesting, varied, fun and fulfilling.
To do this, we need to invest time and effort in giving prospective employees first-hand experience of the industry. Students from the Lambeth Summer Schools programme who recently visited the hotel were agog with the security team's celebrity tales and loved trying their hand at cake-making, a variety of tasks in housekeeping and cocktail-mixing. If nothing else, they left with a better idea of the various career paths available within the industry.
We are also participating in a 48-week placement plan for international students who gain experience in a variety of disciplines. All of the students get to attend departmental meetings, business planning sessions and spend a week with the general manager.
In addition, we need to tap into other recruitment streams, such as local job centres, catering colleges and government and industry bodies such as Springboard. We also need to encompass all demographics, such as older workers who have taken voluntary redundancy and might be considering a career change, as well as looking after our existing team.
It's time to re-invest in our business and take a long-term approach to recruitment and staffing. Incentives don't have to be costly to be successful; our most popular initiatives range from a weekly after-work football match to a monthly themed staff lunch and a "Passion Player" of the month scheme, whereby the winner receives a health check with the hotel's personal trainer, a bottle of champagne and a complimentary stay in any UK Park Plaza Hotel.
We have an Employee Consultative Committee, but also hold regular "Communication Meetings" where the whole team put their views across on what is going well in the business and what we could do better.
Staff want - and should - feel appreciated. It's simple: We take care of our team and they will take care of our guests.