Learning & Development: integral to recruitment strategy

For leading employers, a strong Learning and Development (L&D) programme is a key part of their recruitment strategy. An engaged and better skilled workforce benefits not only the employer but also the employee, resulting in higher retention rates and a more fluent customer service. A good L&D programme can also provide attraction for top talent searching for the right ‘fit’ with an employer.

Caterer.com invited leading thinkers and practitioners in hospitality Learning and Development to the Sky Garden at London’s famed Walkie Talkie building on October 5th to discuss what L&D means to them and their businesses, how to use L&D as part of the recruitment process and how to create an L&D offering that best engages and retains employees.

“Learning & Development needs to be in the DNA of the business,” began Helen Fahy from The Doyle Collection. A notion generally agreed with, but how programmes are implemented and understood by all staff, from management down differs from employer to employer.

“For me, L&D is about the process and ability to support people to have the right skills and behaviours to deliver what the business is trying to deliver,” James Appleton from Mitchells and Butlers offered. “A lot of L&D needs ‘future-proofing’ and that relies on a clear business strategy.” Sridhar Pathigari from The Arts Club agreed, “I look at the different perspectives of the management and the shareholders. I align the training programmes to what they want. That includes future planning.”

However, what benefits employer must also benefit employee. Over the years, candidates have become more savvy regarding their options. Staff know where they want to be and where they see themselves, and as Anne Dewison (Aramark) observes, “There’s no longer a queue of people waiting to come in,” So it’s important to integrate Learning & Development into the hiring process if top talent are to be attracted to a role.

How that training is implemented is an equally important consideration, as Adam Kirkaldy said, “Training and coaching needs to be an everyday transaction between management and supervisors and their staff.”

“Are you waiting for somebody who is ready to step into the role, or are you willing to teach them in the role?” James Appleton asked. “There’s a big divide there. If you promote somebody, do you give them the tools they need to do that job beforehand, with the danger that when they take on the role they get bored? This is when recruitment fuses with L&D.”

Engaging existing staff can also sometimes be a challenge. Within some companies, training is viewed as something that ‘must’ be done, rather than something that staff are willing to do. The Doyle Collection created a programme called ‘The Passport’. Described as ‘a self-directed learning tool’, ‘The Passport’ turned training into a problem-solving game, a treasure hunt, as Helen Fahy describes, “It invoked fun and enthusiasm. There was more engagement. It also branded our L&D offering.” Sridhar Pathigari from The Arts Club talked about the way he piqued the interest his staff. He hand-picked key influencers from different departments and invited them to a training day – he sold the session as being an exclusive invitation. “Be there at 4pm,” he told them, “late comers will not be admitted.” Only six out of ten invitees arrived at the correct time. When the remaining four turned up late, they were asked to leave. This course of action intrigued Sridhar’s staff, making them wonder what this new scheme was all about and making them want to be a part of it. It made the people who did turn up feel special. “They actually went back to the floor and said, ‘You know what? We’re special!” When Sridhar opened up another 20-place training programme, 40 employees signed up within 24 hours.

Praising the good work of employees is a practise all attendees considered paramount. “You need to find people doing things really well, and celebrate it.” Helen Fahy said, “If you see me doing something really well, you’re going to try and emulate that, whether it’s for the gold star or the kudos.” Gurjit Sandhu from Jumeirah noted, “There are great recognition schemes in place to reinforce behaviours that will drive success. But it’s about keeping the schemes at the forefront of managers minds so that they utilise them more.” Helen Fahy added, “Behaviour breeds behaviour. We always do a shout out to people for doing a great job, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. We take that as a win on the L&D side of things. There is always something behind a good job that relates to L&D. Whether is behaviour or a skill, it’s all development.”

It was agreed that further discussion of topics relating to Learning & Development would be beneficial to all parties, and it’s hoped to reconvene at a later date.

The Learning & Development round table discussion was hosted by Neil Pattison, Sales Director of Caterer.com and was attended by Adam Kirkaldy, L&D Manager, Corbin & King, Alice Lilley, HR Officer, GBK, Anne Dewison, L&D Manager, Aramark Northern Europe, Calvern James, Sale Manager, caterer.com, Daniel Solomon, Recruitment Manager UK, Melia White House, Gurjit Sandhu, Regional Director of Talent, Learning & Development – Europe, Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, Helen Fahy, Head of Quality & Culture, The Doyle Collection, James Appleton, Head of Retail Recruitment, Mitchell’s and Butler’s, Jessica Sullivan, Product Specialist, Totaljobs Group and Sridhar Pathigari, Learning & Development Manager, The Arts Club.

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