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 Caterer.com research, a group of influential hospitality employers were invited to a Caterer.com 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 Caterer.com 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 Caterer.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org