UK hospitality firms must move from recruitment to retention to survive the post-Brexit battle for talent
I recently had the privilege of speaking alongside Leon Restaurants MD John Upton and Matt Clark from KPMG at the ALMR Spring Conference. The (very apt) theme for the day’s discussions was how we can work together to ‘future proof’ the hospitality industry.
There are many factors involved in achieving this, including the reason I was there - to talk about the transformational potential of technology companies like Yapster. However, it soon became clear that there is one particularly big problem the industry needs to solve to secure its immediate future - preventing a post-Brexit exodus of staff.
The British Hospitality Association’s Ufi Ibrahim has not pulled any punches when talking about the size of this threat, warning that Brexit might push the sector to the cliff edge if businesses fail to do more to protect their existing talent pool.
According to new research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, we are reaching that cliff edge faster than we would like to think. The REC claims that there are already fewer people available to fill new vacancies, with Brexit uncertainty a contributing factor.
This sense of urgency was echoed by many of the ALMR delegates I spoke to. I’m sure at least a few would be prepared to admit that the UK hospitality industry as a whole is guilty of complacency when it comes to talent management and retention. Much like the oil boom, there was an overabundance of available people to fill roles and less commercial incentive to make any significant investment to keep them. Now the well is running dry more much sooner than many of us had expected.
Speaking both personally and from the perspective of a UK employer, I hope that the calls from the BHA and the ALMR for whichever government comes into power to find a way for EU nationals to be able to stay in their UK jobs. But in the meantime we must do all within our own power to present the most compelling offer we can to both existing colleagues and future recruits to reduce the risk of high staff churn.
For hospitality companies this means making the roles they are offering more meaningful. This starts with a greater emphasis on career development to challenge the perception that, for example, a restaurant job is just a stop gap, or worse, a dead end. A logical place to look for inspiration is the luxury end of the industry, where the best chefs, sommeliers and maitre d’s have worked their way up from the bottom to find their skills are now in demand across the world.
Obviously, it’s not possible for everyone to move up, even if they all wanted to. The question then becomes how to give staff in lower-skilled, non-management roles the chance to find a greater sense of purpose and fulfilment in what they do, outside of boosting pay or benefits, which is tough in the current economic climate. This represents a massive challenge, but it’s one the industry must try its best to address.
I believe one option is for companies to start thinking of themselves as communities and look at what their community needs in order to thrive. I’d argue that list should include building trust, respect, allowing for individual expression, and friendly competition. Underpinning all these principles is the need for effective internal communication to regularly remind team members that they’re part of your community and get them to play an active role within it.
In short, with little room to compete on salary, hospitality companies should consider ways they can add more social value as the next best alternative. More than grand gestures, it’s the little things - saying thanks for a job well done, or congratulating a colleague on selling the most specials, that can make all the difference.
Our customers are already finding creative ways to use our mobile messaging platform to make the day-to-day experience more engaging for their teams. If you’d like to hear more of their stories and how social value can help your organisation win the battle for talent, please drop me a line.