Investing in the Future

The Apprenticeship Levy at Hotelympia 2018

“We all have a responsibility to encourage positive change. Some people think this whole scheme is too complicated, but it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. We have to use it to our advantage.” – Rohini Bhattacharya, Head of Apprenticeship Services, Pearson.

As the hospitality sector moves into challenging times, employer brand, culture and talent retention will become all-important. The new apprenticeship scheme will help employers but how is the Apprenticeship Levy affecting the UK hospitality industry? How will it benefit the sector? What does it mean to your business?

We were at Hotelympia 2018 and were delighted to host a group of Levy experts to discuss the challenges and benefits of the scheme. Calvern James, Sales Manager from chaired the session and joining Rohini Bhattacharya were Jon Dawson, Director of Human Resources at Mandarin Oriental, Hayley Connor, Head of People at Brewhouse and Kitchen, Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at People 1st and Paul Mannering, Academy Principal at HIT Training.

The benefits of offering apprenticeships include better employee retention and engagement. Moving forward this is all important. What do you need to know?

  • The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the UK Government to encourage employers to increase apprenticeship numbers.
  • Employers with a pay bill over £3 million are required to pay a levy of 0.5% of their annual pay bill.
  • You can choose in-house or external programmes, and you can either use an external training provider or your in-house team to deliver the training.
  • 20% of your apprenticeship programme should be on the job, away-from-desk training.

If you are a non-levy paying employer, apprenticeships are still relevant to your business.

  • Non-levy paying employers will share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with government – this is called ‘co-investment’. You pay 10%, with the Government paying the balance.

When the scheme began, there had been a take up of 25,000 apprentices in the hospitality industry. This has dropped as the year has progressed. “We’re still in a transitional phase,” Annette Allmark said, “This new system is very different to the old, and companies are still coming to grips with it.” Annette explained that seven new apprenticeship standards have been developed for the hospitality industry. In practise, they form strong and progressive career pathways.

Many employers know that there is a recruitment issue, but Annette believes that the real problem is retention. “Turnover across the industry is around 75% and this costs around £1.1billion annually. This is what makes apprenticeships so important moving forward, it allows us to bring staff in, help them to develop and keep them” she said.

Larger companies will consist of several departments where apprenticeships could be taken on. This could include HR, finance, talent, Learning & Development or diversity. Strategy plays a big part and employers will be dependent on HR departments and L&D to help put these programmes in place.

Rohini Bhattacharya explained, “The pace of change is fast. The Apprenticeship Levy was live before a lot of companies realised it, and they’re still playing catch-up. All departments of your business need to be on board and really need to understand how apprentices can benefit you long-term. This means all departments, HR, L&D, finance and your policy makers. We need to get the message out,” she said.

Paul Mannering agreed, “As people find out more, there will definitely be more uptake. There needs to be strong internal information because The Apprenticeship Levy allows for a much better foundation for hospitality skills, something that is so important.”

Employers could take a leaf from Brewhouse and Kitchen’s book. Planning and knowing exactly what you need to achieve is key. Hayley Connor admits that they “dived straight into the apprenticeship programme as brewer training is a big part of what we do.” She said that the business is very forward thinking and they wanted to create a culture of apprentices. Brewhouse & Kitchen provide their training internally, but many employers use external training providers.

Jon Dawson from Mandarin Oriental feels that choosing the right training provider is crucial. “Your training provider must fit the culture of your company,” he said. “You really have to be on the same page and make sure that your goals are the same.” Using the wrong training provider could undo all your hard work and Jon believes that planning is paramount in any hospitality company’s apprenticeship scheme.

Annette Allmark said as the new apprenticeship scheme grows, the UK hospitality industry must share its experiences in order in learn.
Things to remember:

Understand what your company needs to accomplish

  • Communication with all departments is crucial
  • Have a firm people strategy
  • Choose training providers wisely
  • Company culture = brand loyalty = retention

For comprehensive information on The Apprenticeship Levy, visit

We would like to thank our panel for their time and for sharing their valuable experience. We will be bringing you more industry insight into The Apprenticeship Levy in the coming months.

Scottish Power

As the Scottish hospitality industry continues to grow, how do employers attract top talent?

The hospitality sector in Scotland continues to boom. According to recent research, the industry employs over 217,000 people, that’s 9% of the working population of Scotland with growth outstripping the rest of the UK by a whopping 7%.

It’s an uncertain time for the whole country and the UK hospitality industry is working hard to attract and retain workers from within our own shores. What can employers do to maximise their efforts and continue this strong growth? was delighted to host another fascinating roundtable discussion, again concentrating on ‘Attracting Top Talent’, this time in Scotland’s beautiful second city, Glasgow.

Chaired by Account Director for Scotland, Jonathan Baillie, the session was attended by some of Scotland’s biggest hospitality employers, Crieff Hydro, Tony Macaroni, Auchrannie, Redefine RDL, G&V Royal Mile Hotel, RAD Group, G1 Group, The Fonab Castle Hotel as well as the Hospitality and Events department of the City of Glasgow College.

In this super-competitive market, how can employers maximise the tools at their disposal and create a strong job advertisement? Essential points to include are:

  • Details on the role itself
  • Mention of salary,
  • Detail of exact location,
  • Information on working environment and company culture,
  • Working hours, training a development prospects and benefits.

But there’s more. Some attendees at the round table have started to make changes to the way they attract talent.

  • Some employers are making their ads shorter and to the point and giving a greater focus on the ‘personality’ of the company. This can result with a ‘higher calibre’ of jobseeker applying for roles. More jobseekers are applying using mobile devices. The shorter and sharper your ad, the more likely that jobseekers will contact you.
  • When asked if employers were considering older jobseekers or those returning to work, attendees mentioned that whilst older workers bring an experience not yet achieved by younger generations, it does pose other issues in terms of training and bringing them up to speed with modern company culture. Older jobseekers tend to display ‘staying power’ and employers are more likely to retain these important members of the workforce; something to be valued as Brexit approaches.
  • It was agreed that the Scottish hospitality environment differs greatly from the rest of the UK, and whist there is a greater wiliness to embrace a career within the industry, more needs to be done to convince school leavers and not to mention parents that with dedication, a hospitality career can blossom. This doesn’t only apply to kitchens or front of house, but within all disciplines of the sector: Management, finance, L&D and of course recruitment.

Allowing candidates to choose their own benefits and tailoring them to their personal needs is a strong element of attraction. An interesting point raised was that as benefits packages become more competitive, how do hospitality employers stand out from the crowd?

  • Some companies have organised employee forums, where department heads, together with team members discuss how working life can be improved. These types of initiatives were welcomed, as any problems that may arise can be resolved quickly, and employee needs can be addressed before they become an issue. Benefits can be kept fresh and up-to-date and work/life balance can maintained. The employers at our roundtable have found that this simple, yet effective procedure makes for a much happier workforce and has also, in some instances, increased retention.

Auchrannie on the Isle of Aaran is in a unique situation.

  • The resort comprises of two four-star hotels, thirty five-star self-catering lodges, two leisure clubs and three individually branded restaurants.
    100 of their 170 employees live within the resort and as there is zero unemployment on the island, the number of recruits from the mainland is strictly limited.
  • Auchrannie has recently completed its transition to become Scotland’s latest employee-owned business. An Employee Ownership Trust now holds 100% of the shares of the business on behalf of the employees.

This amazing deal was structured in order to make it affordable to the business without affecting its ability to reward the team and reinvest for the future. It marks the first time a hotel or resort in Scotland has become employee-owned. It has made Auchrannie an even more attractive proposition for jobseekers and it’s a certain triumph for hospitality in Scotland.

We would like to thank all attendees of our first Scottish meeting. has offices in London, Manchester and Glasgow and our teams are always available to offer advice on creation of bespoke ads to enable you to get the talent you need. In addition, we will be conducting more roundtable discussions for hospitality employers in Scotland and we would love to see you. Please contact for information on future events.


Evolution in Hospitality as Evolve scoops two IRP Awards

Recruitment agency, Evolve Hospitality, proudly walked away with not one, but two prestigious accoladesat the IRP Awards last week. The company, founded by Ed Volkes claimed The Best Company to Work For 2017, with Ed Vokes himself winning Business Leader of The Year 2017.

Unmatched in prestige, the IRP Awards are the only recruitment sector awards hosted by the REC. These awards present a unique platform upon which to celebrate the successes of the brightest recruitment professionals and companies within the UK.

Evolve Hospitality was voted the Best Company to Work For (up to 50 staff) by a panel of world-class recruiters. The judges were impressed by ‘the way Evolve’s vision, values and passion are felt throughout the organisation’, and the fact that ‘they’ve never lost an employee to another agency’. Ed Vokes proudly said, “This is fantastic recognition of everyone’s hard work over the last five years.”

Following 11 years in recruitment, Evolve was launched in 2012 by Ed Vokes. The vision was to create a purely hospitality-focused recruitment agency that provided the best staff in the industry, recruited by those within the sector. Since then, the company has grown massively across the UK, making a huge impact within the hospitality industry. Judges commended Ed Vokes on the ‘25% year-on-year’ growth demonstrated by Evolve, and his focus on employing people with experience and knowledge of the sector.’ Unsurprisingly, this is how Ed scooped Business Leader of The Year 2017. Of his win, Ed said, “I am truly humbled and overwhelmed to have received this award. Considering the challenging economic climate of hospitality staffing, this acknowledgement has inspired me to continue to represent hospitality and for Evolve to keep investing in talent and try and help retain people in the industry moving forward.”

Ed congratulated his team on their hard work, and ensured the company would continue ‘evolving’ in the future. He promised that “there are lots more exciting things to come from Evolve.”

Hilton Recruitment Week

Hilton Watford win Hilton Recruitment Week

Now in its second year, Hilton Recruitment Week is an annual recruitment drive for new talent at Hilton hotels in the UK.  With more than 30 Hilton properties opening in the UK in coming years, things are moving fast, and new hotels mean new opportunities. Kay Harriman, senior director, human resources, UK & Ireland, Hilton said, “Recruitment Week was created to help fill vacancies, increase collaboration between our hotels, and encourage our recruiters to share their available roles with as many job seekers as possible.”

More than 50 Hilton hotels hosted events across the country during the Recruitment Week. From career skills sessions, to mixology workshops and cooking masterclasses, they drew in many prospective Team Members resulting in hundreds of direct job offers. The events were designed to attract applicants and also offer them valuable skills and networking opportunities that would assist them in their search for a job. Kay Harriman explained, “Our Recruitment Week also saw a digital drive for new Team Members, with our centralised recruitment team and hiring managers across the country hosting LinkedIn workshops and online CV pushes where recruiters reviewed and shared profiles and CVs on masse.”

Hilton Watford became Hilton’s UK Recruitment Hotel of the Year, offering more roles than any other hotel. As part of their series of events across the five days, Hilton Watford hosted a recruitment open day where applicants got to try their hand at various roles in the hotel. Stephen Cassidy, senior vice president & managing director, UK & Ireland, Hilton presented the hotel team with their award.

Kay Harriman, senior director, human resources, UK & Ireland, Hilton

For many, the hospitality industry is perceived as an industry where candidates cannot fulfil their career ambitions or progress as professionals, but for Kay Harriman it’s quite the opposite. “The hospitality industry has fantastic career progression across a variety of different roles and departments,” she said. “At Hilton, we operate more than 5,000 hotels around the world and the number of opportunities within a business of our size is remarkable. Vertical progression is quicker than in other industries, while the horizontal opportunities to switch discipline or business area, or even to re-specialise, are open and encouraged.”

For those studying on one of Hilton’s apprenticeship or graduate schemes there is the opportunity to experience a number of different departments as part of their study, from fitness and accountancy, to corporate commercial functions and hotel operations.

Kay continued, “The opportunities to travel and work abroad are also unbeatable at a company such as Hilton. We operate in more than 100 countries around the world and it is not uncommon for Team Members to relocate as they progress with us.”

Those seeking careers within the hospitality industry are more savvy than ever. They know what they want and where they want to be. Hilton, like all great hospitality employers are ahead of the game, providing a strong Learning & Development programme. “Through our national and international career progression and training programmes, such as those provided through our very own Hilton University which holds over 2,500 online courses, Team Members are given the resources to achieve their potential. We have an industry leading online performance management system, where Team Members are set clear, agreed objectives upon which they can measure their performance and progress within the business,” said Kay. “We also offer excellent rewards and benefits to Team Members. Last year we launched Go Hilton, our Team Member Travel Program, which allows all Team Members across the world discounted rates at our 5,000 plus hotels. Since its launch nearly a year and a half ago, we have seen more than 3.5 million bookings through this system, which is more than 7,000 room stays a day! Other benefits vary across our hotels and corporate offices, ranging from access to gyms to preferential pricing on a range of leisure activities.”

Synonymous with great customer service and a reputation for being a world class employer, Kay Harriman believes that for those wanting a career in hospitality, Hiton should be their first choice, “We are a business of people serving people and we strive to cultivate a positive and rewarding culture for our Team Members,” she said. “That means supporting their well-being and performance so that they can thrive in all they do and be at their best every day. This year saw the launch of Thrive@Hilton, which enables our Team Members to grow and flourish in Body, Mind and Spirit.”

As part of the initiative, Hilton have launched Thrive Learning courses and the Thrive Sabbatical program, where Team Members are given the opportunity to pursue a dream with full pay and $5,000 spending money for up to four weeks. “Support mechanisms such as Thrive@Hilton and our leading development opportunities have contributed to our ranking as the best hotel company to work for in the UK by Great Place to Work,” Kay explained. “Our Team Members are at the heart of everything we do. They are the Heart of Hilton because their hard work, passion and commitment are at the core of all our success. The Great Place to Work recognitions are a testament to the passion of our Team Members, and the amazing culture we’ve built together, all centred on our company’s mission to be the most hospitable company in the world.”

Hospitality Zone at Skills London wins top accolade

Last week, a collective of hospitality organisations took home the ‘Best New Exhibitor’ award at Skills London; the biggest jobs and careers event for 15 – 24 year olds in the UK. Awarded by Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, the hospitality zone led by elite hospitality apprenticeship provider, Umbrella Training, was described as being interactive, engaging and showcasing careers.

By far the biggest draw within the zone was the creation of a Virtual Reality Hotel; allowing visitors to explore a variety of employers, departments and learn about a range of career and apprenticeship options across the hospitality sector. Representatives from Umbrella Training, The Ritz London, The Dorchester, Red Carnation Hotels, Firmdale Hotels, Hotel Café Royal, The Strand Palace, Hyatt, Landmark London, Marcus Wareing Restaurants, Sarova Hotels and Spaghetti House were on hand to answer any questions and share their experiences of working in this vibrant sector. Over the course of two days, 1200 individuals experienced the VR Hotel; each leaving with their own VR headset where they could continue the activity at home or back at school (

Sam Coulstock FIH, Business Relations Director at Umbrella Training said “It was great to see hospitality represented so brilliantly at Skills London. By bringing together some of the industry’s most well-known brands, we were able to showcase the vast opportunities our sector offers and inspire those visiting with the achievements and stories from some of the teams from our employer partners.

We’re really proud that our zone received such high recognition from the Deputy Mayor, but more importantly we really showcased careers in hospitality and helped change the perceptions of hospitality among young people, parents and teachers.”

Skills London was held on 24th and 25th November at ExCel London. It is London’s biggest jobs and careers event; attracting over 30,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors. It provides visitors with the opportunity to discover careers through interactive, inspirational activities and demonstrations, and helps young people visually bridge the gap between what they enjoy doing and what they could potentially do as a career.

Keeping ahead of the game

Retaining Top Talent

Recruiting good people is always a step forward, losing talent, however, for any reason can feel like two steps back. It can sap your resources, impact your productivity and directly affect your bottom line. Strong retention is always a good attraction tool. Studies have found that satisfied and engaged employees can be great advocates for your employer brand, both to customers and to future candidates which is a priceless asset in a skills-short and increasingly competitive market. Attracting and recruiting the best talent for your hospitality business is only half the battle, finding ways to keep hold of that talent is an ongoing concern and one which needs to be addressed urgently.

Based around research and part of the ‘What Top Talent Wants’ series, we were delighted to host another fascinating roundtable discussion, ‘Retaining Top Talent’, this time held at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge in London. The event was chaired by Sales Manager, Calvern James and attended by HR professionals from great hospitality employers such as The Dorchester Collection, Mitchell’s & Butlers, The Stafford, Mandarin Oriental, Harvey Nichols, Pho, Daylesford Organic and the Dorsett Hotel Group.

One of the first points to be raised was regarding the well-documented skills shortage, particularly concerning chefs. Recruiters continued to be frustrated and new challenges are presenting themselves. There was strong concern around the table regarding the ‘dumbing-down’ of skills-sets, with one  hotel HR Manager explaining that if an agency has asked for a chef-de-partie, the hotel is being sent the equivalent, in skills-terms, of a commis chef and yet they are still expected to pay a chef-de-partie rate. This problem is becoming more prevalent and as a result even more hires are needed to cover the workload. Others around the table are going through similar circumstances and the common knock-on effect of this issue travels down the management tree and is affecting motivation and creating discontent within kitchens and front of house, making retaining the best people increasingly difficult.

The state of the market is allowing younger team members to take unfair advantage of management. They know that employers need them more than the other way around. Some take shifts off without permission, knowing that there will be no repercussions; many foreign workers leave their jobs in the run-up to Christmas only to return and renegotiate a better salary elsewhere in January.

Another issue facing employers is that agencies cannot meet demand. It was noted that there was a time when agencies would be happy for supplied staff to be made permanent providing that the stream was steady. Now, agency fees are so high that this has been made extremely difficult. This also raised the problems experienced with some agency apps. Many can be used as marketing tools to gather information on jobseekers and this can be off-putting to potential hires. These apps can also dilute and even damage employer brands, spoiling the work gone in to creating them, and can again affect retention.

Keeping your employer brand strong takes constant work and making your company’s culture a living thing can go a long way in helping candidates stay with you. There is, however, always room for improvement and hospitality HR teams need to be thinking of new ways to adapt culture to retain staff. For the past 10 years, a leading hotel chain has carried out Employee Engagement surveys based around their concept of the three ‘Cs’, Culture, Career & Communication and their actions around those areas. Each hotel within the group is charged with developing an action plan for their own property, thus enabling the group as a whole to further staff engagement and thereby, retention. The group is quick to respond to the concerns of employees, offering greater flexibility and work/life balance. Within three years, their turnover has reduced from 153% to 70%. It was agreed around the table that it can be seen as if hospitality companies are missing a trick, they are locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. Many companies are eager to showcase their culture to employees, but slower to grow it to retain their top talent.

Some hospitality companies are looking toward other industries for inspiration. One such initiative being adopted is taken from an approach used by airlines where flight crew with contracted hours select their own shift patterns using an online system. This empowers the team to organise the rotas for the week ensuring all hours are covered whist also offering them the flexibility they require.

Rewards and Benefits can also play a big part in your company retaining talent. Team members from a large event management company are given branded poker chips as a reward for a job well done. If anybody gets five chips or more within a six month period, they can win prizes like televisions, headphones and trips abroad. It encourages team members to make the extra effort at work, but also goes a long way in enhancing retention. Many restaurants offer employees an allowance for meals as well as team days out and sports days. We are seeing more well-being programmes being offered by employers, proving very popular and adding to company culture.

It was another fascinating discussion. Things for hospitality employers to remember are to be true to your employer brand. Candidates are increasingly looking for a positive work/life balance, strong career opportunities and the chance of development and training. In our research, 41% of jobseekers say that career development would make them stay with an employer, so it’s good to see that 77% of employers offer learning and development at all levels of their businesses. Good management is always important, but staying ahead of the game is crucial, be proactive, not reactive. Frequent performance reviews and constructive feedback can always be beneficial to your employee retention.

If you would like to attend one our future roundtable discussion, please contact We would love to see you there.

An Ambassador Class Service


Philip Atkinson – Ambassador to The Industry – People Awards

“I have faced many challenges and obstacles throughout my career, learning from my mistakes, but each one of them has only strengthened me to make me the person I am today.” – Philip Atkinson

With over 30 years’ experience, Philip Atkinson, Senior Community Food Service Manager at Durham University Catering understands that the hospitality industry revolves around people, not only your valued customers, but the people you work with every day. The people you train and develop, the people who make your teams the best they can possibly be.

“My first role was actually at Durham University whilst studying at college,” Philip recalled, “I was studying catering but secured the role at the university in the pot wash, which then led to gaining experience in food preparation and food service.”  The role introduced him to mass catering but also to dealing with, and meeting clients at a face-to-face level, conversing, interacting and learning how to give a great experience.  “I tried to use what I learned at college within the role and take away what I was picking up back into my academic work,” he said.

After leaving college, Philip gained a permanent role with Trusthouse Forte Hotels and also Moathouse Hotels, where he spent more than five years working across each department, gaining the necessary experience through trainee management programmes.

Philip later transferred back to Durham University, and he found that he had a job on his hands. “I had to inspire team members within a sector who had a legacy of low standards, unskilled staff and low productivity.” Philip explains, “There was a lingering perception of University catering staff being ‘dinner ladies’ and Durham historically struggled to attract high calibre talent. I led the development of a recruitment video to provide visual insight into ‘what we actually do’, with the thinking that ‘a picture can paint a thousand words’”. The video also helps applicants understand Durham University Catering’s purpose, its strategy and their core values before deciding whether to join the team. This is an approach has been shared widely and adopted by other University departments and north-east catering organisations facing similar challenges.

Philip’s innovative thinking led him to consider changes to recruitment in the department. “I believed that shortlisting certain catering job applications based on qualifications and standard of English was unfitting,” he said. “So to increase the amount of talent at interview stage, I removed the written application shortlisting process for entry level vacancies. Instead, all applicants are invited to an interview stage, where the formal panel style interview was replaced with a ‘speed dating’ style interviews, where positive behaviour is scored using standardised questions and simple work related tasks.” Again, after proving highly effective this new recruitment approach was shared widely, and is now adopted throughout the University and Visit England’s award winning Beamish Museum.

Philip initiated a strong Learning & Development programme within the University Catering Department. “We have a transparent career path document. I have coached over 33 team members within the previous four years, helping them to achieve promotion.

The Durham University Catering induction programme commences with ‘Passionately Delivering Outstanding Experiences’, an interactive classroom based induction, delivered by the department’s senior management team along with Philip himself and thanks to his operational and industry knowledge, he has the ability to clearly deliver the department’s strategic objectives, and empower their new team members. “I am University Catering’s training champion,” says Philip. “I’m focused on strengthening skills.” Following the department’s success, Philip has been seconded by the wider University training team who are responsible for over 4,000 contracted staff, to assist with the development of a facility-wide customer care training programme.

30 years is a long time in the business and Philip Atkinson has seen standards rise across the board. “’Considering our ‘customers’ are predominately students, their expectations and demands are now at a very high level. They require value for money, flexibility, nutritional value and quality.  They are very knowledgeable therefore we need to deliver exceptional products and service.”

Philip Atkinson has shaped and improved the University and the north-east catering sector in a quest for excellence and has genuinely made Durham University Catering and the industry a better place to work. In doing so, he has won the coveted Ambassador to The Industry award at the 2017 People Awards, a singular honour and one of which he is immensely proud. “I was extremely honoured to receive the Ambassador to the Industry Award as was my line manager who nominated me. The recognition received from colleagues at Durham University was monumental, which included the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University, the Director of Accommodation and Commercial Services and the Director of HR. The news even filtered to my previous line manager who is Operations Manager at Strathclyde University.

“I am earnestly grateful for the recognition I have received for my work.  I am a thorough professional and I know what I’m aiming for and that is always having the customer at the forefront of any task.

“Winning this award would not have been possible without the inspiration I have received from my line manager, colleagues within the department, colleagues from other departments including HR, Procurement, Sales and external suppliers all for whom I have the deepest respect, and from whom I have derived the strength to challenge myself and perform better at each stage.”

As for the future, Philip Atkinson said, “I plan to stay committed to the organisation, delivering a high and progressive service, ensuring our students receive and maintain the most outstanding experience during their time studying at Durham University. Alongside student service we must make sure that the University remains at the pinnacle of commercial food service within the northeast.”

We congratulate Philip and his team and wish them every success for the future.


We’re not Recruiters – We’re Career Architects


Industry leaders gather to discuss Recruiting Top Talent

The UK Hospitality industry employs nearly 4.5 million people, making it the fourth largest sector in the country. Over the last five years, 1 in 5 new jobs in the UK has been within the hospitality industry with a further 100,000 due to be created by the end of the decade. Hospitality employers are facing increasing recruitment challenges, and the long standing skills gap and labour shortage is a key reason.

Whilst there is undoubtedly a lack of labour, there are still plenty of skilled workers in the market, and many more who have the potential to deliver at a high level. But the workforce has changed. Top talent is more demanding than ever and securing the candidates you want to hire means a new, agile approach.

In the latest in a series of fascinating discussions based around research, a group of influential hospitality employers were invited to a employer roundtable on ‘Recruiting Top Talent’. The attendees openly shared their experience, innovative approaches, challenges and top tips as they debated the recruitment methods of the present and the future.

The session, chaired by Sales Director, Neil Pattison, began with concerns regarding candidate drop-off between interview and job offer. Martyn Ball, HR Director at Ascott International Management noted that despite efforts to speed up the interview process, candidates were calling a week before their start date and stating that they had another, more attractive job offer. “Entry level workers seem to like to have options,” he said. “Previously a candidate wouldn’t dream of letting you down, now they seem to be applying for several jobs at once and picking the best option for them.”

This example illustrates why responding to candidates in a timely fashion is now crucial. According to research, the majority of employers are taking up to two weeks between advertising a role and holding the first round of interviews. This needs to change industry-wide if employers are to avoid losing out on the best candidates. Talent won’t wait. It was also agreed that, apart from shortening the interview process, methods of trialling candidates had to be abridged, or eliminated altogether. Many found that the length of trial days was an off-putting part of getting the job especially when experience has already been outlined on CVs and during interviews

Another change noted by several participants is that entry level candidates are bold, and know (or think they know) their value. Many, even at this early stage in their careers, aren’t afraid of negotiating up on salaries and benefits. Jose Ruiz, HR Director at The London EDITION said that younger members of the workforce often want to change jobs every nine to ten months, and are not prepared to stay in the same position for more than a year. People want constant progression in their lives and again, employers have to respond. Some employers are creating processes that anticipate these issues. There is more flexibility in salary discussions, benefits are being tailored to the candidate and development programmes are being offered specifically for candidates who want their career to progress in a particular direction.

Not only are salary and benefits changing, some HR departments are manoeuvring their whole approach in order to win the fight for great candidates. Instead of making the recruitment process about the company, they are individualising employment offers and making the job fit around the person. As Jose Ruiz says, “We’re no longer recruiters, we’re career architects.” More emphasis is being placed on the applicant to discover what the employer can do for them. It’s about thinking like the candidate you want to hire. Georgina Stephens, Head of HR at Ceviche UK said, “You tweak your offer so that you win their heart as well as their mind.”

For some employers, the way to keep candidates engaged is via “gamification”; almost turning the recruitment process into a challenge with the job offer as a prize to be won. Although a popular recruitment method in other sectors, ‘gamification’ is only now beginning to be seen in hospitality. Candidates can sometimes feel ‘lost’ during the recruitment process, unsure of what stage they are at or whether the job is worth their time. In an environment where candidates may have applied for multiple roles, or be up against many other candidates, regular and memorable communications from the employer can help keep great candidates interested in your role. In one approach, applicants are sent evolving communications with a graphic illustration of the recruitment process, showing them the stage they are currently at and what’s next. It’s a novel approach, but some employers have witnessed significantly increased engagement as a result. After all, if you’ve invested in attracting candidates, it pays to keep them interested.

Candidate engagement isn’t easy. It was agreed that keeping candidates engaged from application, through to interview and on-boarding requires thought and skill. Jose Ruiz noted, “In hospitality, it can be very much hit and miss. Some people have an amazing experience, others can have an awful experience. The way they are welcomed, on-boarding, the three month trial, there are so many things that we are not getting correct.” This is perhaps why a focus on employer brand and emphasising company culture has come to the fore in recent years. In order to make this work, listening to your people is important. Discovering just what your company culture is will help in finding your voice when speaking to applicants and thus creating strong engagement.

Understanding how your future workforce is applying for your vacancies is crucial. Optimising ads for mobile, shortening the application-to-interview process, perceiving the needs of the candidate and their personal goals is of the utmost importance if recruitment numbers in hospitality and the sector as a whole are to grow. Get in touch now for the full findings of our research.

We thank all who took part in our roundtable. If you would like to participate in future discussions, please contact

Fresh ideas at Hotelymipa 2018

It was a night of huge celebration for our winners and with the afterglow of the 2017 People Awards still in full effect, it’s important to remember that such a wonderful evening would never have been possible without the sterling support and commitment of our amazing sponsors.

Sponsoring the Emerging Talent Initiative category was Fresh Montgomery, producers of Hotelympia 2018. Ross Carter, Portfolio Director of Fresh Montgomery said, “Schemes like People Awards seek to shine a light on best practice and employer initiatives that work hard to boost productivity and safeguard retention.”

The Emerging Talent Initiative category was won by Q Hotels who took employee engagement to another level with a new and all-encompassing approach. With a strong focus on relationship building with schools, European colleges, and UK Universities together with their Management Development Programme, apprenticeships and a solid social network strategy, Q Hotels garnered fantastic results. This year alone, the company has presented 64 in-school careers support days, have welcomed 135 school work experience placements and have reduced their temporary staff costs by over £400,000. “This really is something to celebrate,” said Ross. “Hotelympia is proud to support these Awards and we applaud the deserved winner of our category, Q Hotels.”

Hotelympia continues to grow year on year and will return to London in 2018. The show began life over 80 years ago under the guise of the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show, before being rebranded as Hotelympia which is a nod to its original home of Olympia in West London,” explains Ross Carter.

Finally outgrowing its roots, the show moved to a new permanent home at London’s ExCeL in 2004, and today stands as the largest and most vital event in the UK hospitality calendar.

“Despite its rich heritage, the show has never once rested on its laurels, mirroring the vibrant industry that it serves, to stay relevant and always ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and insight,” Ross continued.

The ethos of the 2018 show will be no different, yet there are going to be some exciting new future-focused elements, tackling hot-button issues and championing future industry stars, which will sit perfectly alongside returning features, to help Hotelympia maintain its position at the head of the pack.

Whist the show will stay true to its remit, Ross is excited by upcoming changes and its growth. “The show has a new organising team at the helm and we are currently working with a steering committee of influential figures from the world of hospitality to ensure that its content and themes are exactly on point and this will benefit all of our exhibitors and visitors.”

The sheer scale of the show means that it comprehensively covers every element of the hospitality business, showcasing the very latest products and launches in Food & Drink; Catering Equipment; Technology; Interiors & Tableware and sustainability-focused waste-works, from some of the most respected companies in the game. “We also pride ourselves on consistently attracting top level speakers,” said Ross. “From the up-and-coming to those who have seen and done it all. They all impart their wisdom and share insight and experiences, and they all offer visitors inspiration to take back to their own place of work.”

There are certainly pressing recruitment issues facing the hospitality industry right now, among them; a well-documented skills shortage, Brexit and a negative perception of careers within the sector with one recent report suggesting that only 17% of parents regard hospitality as a positive career choice. “It’s clear that we are suffering from an image problem,” Ross commented. “Those of us who work daily in hospitality know different, of course, but there is definitely a job of work to be done to change such ideas.

“Hotelympia is a big show and, as such, won’t shy away from the big issues,” Ross continued. “That means subjects like recruitment, skills, women, the gender pay gap, productivity, retention and apprenticeships, will be tacked head-on, helping to lift some of the fog surrounding each of these issues and demonstrate that the industry can offer young people a viable and successful career.”

Hotelympia has a long history of welcoming and nurturing the next generation of chefs, designers, restaurateurs and publicans. Ross Carter says that this will continue in earnest through existing elements like Salon Culinaire, with the same ethos permeating into new standalone features that will help inspire and inform. People Awards and Fresh Montgomery have enjoyed a long a fruitful relationship. We thank them for their continued support and for their work as a vital part of the UK hospitality industry. Hotelympia 2018 takes place at the ExCel Centre, London from the 5 -8 March 2018.

Hospitality employers adapt to a changing People Awards 2017

With some of the best restaurants and hotels in the world, the UK Hospitality sector boasts amazing standards and quality of service. The industry is one of the UK’s biggest employers, providing jobs to seven percent of the working population and – despite an approaching Brexit – business continues to be strong.

It’s a fast paced, ever-changing business with candidates becoming more decisive in what they want from their employers. Applicants are negotiating their own salaries, selecting their benefits and shaping the career path that’s right for them. In addition, the well-documented skills shortage is still being felt across the country and, when Brexit is factored in, hospitality companies have work doubly hard to stay connected and relevant to this new brand of candidate whist still being able to recruit the right people for the job, develop their skills and retain valuable experience. Employers need to utilise inventive methods to attract the talent they so desperately need amidst high competition.

The finest of these initiatives in hospitality recruitment, retention and development were celebrated on October 5th, at the glittering People Awards. Comedienne, Katherine Ryan hosted the ceremony at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge which was attended by 500 industry professionals.

Best practice by employers garners best results: the winners of these prestigious awards demonstrated determination and an unrivalled understanding of their industry and their workforce.

After its success last year with In-House Recruitment, this year the National Theatre won the Candidate Experience award. Considering that 55% of The National Theatre’s commercial workforce is casual, their current retention rate of 70% is quite an accomplishment. National Theatre has taken a creative and innovative approach to recruitment in recent years and they pride themselves on an open and inclusive policy. They have achieved much success with their focus on ‘Audience Experience’. Their candidate training programme allows staff to engage in several roles across the commercial department making for a more varied and exciting working environment and the National Theatre’s internal promotion rate is an inspiring 75%.

Living by their watchword, ‘Seva’, Indian street food restaurant, Dishoom won two awards, Rewards & Benefits and Launch Campaign. Leaving London for the first time, Dishoom opened their new restaurant in Edinburgh this year. It was a massive gamble for this young company to venture to what could have been a difficult location in a much smaller market. They designed a PR campaign announcing new jobs for the city, they also reviewed all recruitment adverts to ensure the pitch was exactly right for Scotland. They also set up dedicated Edinburgh recruitment channels and hired a local marketing manager. In a wonderful move, unsuccessful applicants were invited back for breakfast on the company, reinforcing their employer brand. Dishoom received 1,200 applications and hired 100 new team members. Their employee turnover this year has been an amazing 30%. Dishoom’s Rewards & Benefits entry also impressed the judges. Dishoom are delighted to offer their team members £150 a month to spend on food and drink with family and friends at their restaurants. There are frequent team days out, lunches, theatre trips and parties. Dishoom has introduced healthcare benefits which covers day-to-day healthcare costs. In team surveys, 90% of management teams said that they were proud to work for the company and management turnover has fallen to below 15%.

Totally revolutionising their recruitment strategy, YO! Sushi now puts brand values and its candidates at the centre of their processes. In doing so, it walked away last night with the award for Leadership in Recruitment, Retention and Development. In an extremely strong showing, YO! developed a brand new candidate platform which showcases just what it’s like to work at YO! Its website now features live career opportunities and stories from YO! Icons, giving a real taste of the company. Their Brand values, Respectful, Unconventional, Colourful and Confident have been brought to the digital fore and are front and centre in online applications. Time to hire management roles has fallen from eight to just five weeks and the volume of live opportunities has fallen from a monthly average of 15 to under 10.

This year saw the introduction of a new award focusing on Diversity, which was won by Compass Group. Compass Group launched the ‘Women in Food’ programme in 2016 to enable women not just to secure jobs within hospitality, but to thrive and succeed in leadership team positions with a goal of equal numbers of male and female chefs within the organisation. ‘Women in Food’ concentrates on three areas of development: focus on female chefs; developing women in leadership positions; and a strong emphasis on supporting Mums returning to work. Within the first year of the programme, Compass Group has achieved a result of 36% female chefs, 49% attending talent development programmes and 42% of women on the company’s chef apprenticeship programme versus a target of 50%.  A hugely impressive result.

The climax of the 2017 People Awards ceremony was certainly the presentation of the very special Ambassador to the Industry Award to Philip Atkinson, Senior Community Food Service Manager at Durham University Catering Department. With a distinguished 30 year career in hospitality, Philip invigorated his brand in what could traditionally be seen as an “unglamorous” career choice. He has completely re-imagined his department to attract, engage and excite candidates from all backgrounds. He has achieved impressive results across retention and development as well as fantastic outreach and sustainability programmes. Philip is undoubtedly a much loved and respected leader, a true Ambassador to the industry, fully deserving this award in recognition for his achievements.

These and many other amazing initiatives are testament to the dedication that hospitality employers have to their businesses and importantly, their employees. Over the coming months, we’ll be talking to each of our amazing winners and taking a close look at their work. People Awards are the perfect opportunity for employers to not only celebrate their teams and their hard work but to share with each other what they have learned, enabling this amazing industry to grow.

The 2017 People Awards wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable help of its sponsors, Headline Sponsor, Octane HR Solutions, Hotelympia 2018, Admiral Recruitment, Core Recruitment, Off to Work, Detail 2 Leisure Recruitment, People Bank, Talent Hive and Good & Co. People Awards 2017

Winners in full

Ambassador to the Industry sponsored by Octane HR Solutions

Philip Atkinson – Durham University Catering Department


Candidate Experience sponsored by Off to Work

National Theatre


Diversity sponsored by Admiral Recruitment

Compass Group


Emerging Talent Initiative sponsored by Fresh Montgomery, producers of Hotelympia 2018

Q Hotels


Employee Engagement Programme sponsored by Good & Co.

LEON Restaurants Ltd.


Employer Brand Campaign sponsored Catering Scotland

Devonshire Hotels and Restaurants


HR Team sponsored by Talent Hive

Dorchester Hotel Ltd.


In-House Recruitment Team sponsored by Admiral Recruitment



Learning & Development Initiative sponsored by The Springboard Charity

Brewhouse and Kitchen


Launch Campaign sponsored by Detail 2 Leisure



Leadership in Recruitment, Retention & Development sponsored by COREcruitment

YO! Sushi


On-Boarding Programme sponsored by Peoplebank

LEON Restaurants Ltd.


Rewards & Benefits sponsored by James Hallam




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