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Hospitality - Solutions to the Staffing Crisis

The Ask Arena webinars discuss the challenges that are still facing the hospitality sector despite consumer confidence starting to return as lockdown restrictions are lifted. One of the key challenges is staff shortages – both front and back of house within the hospitality sector and a major shortage of HGV drivers in the supply chain disrupting the delivery of food and drink supplies.  So how can the industry work together to help solve this crisis?

‘Hospitality – Solutions to the Staffing Crisis, hosted by Arena Committee member and industry expert Ann Elliott, explored this critical issue. Ann was joined by an expert panel of industry and HR leaders - Caroline Marais, Group Director of Human Resources, Edwardian Hotels;  Andrew Bush, Chief People Officer, Greene King Plc; Chris Gamm, CEO, Springboard and Jamie Campbell, Director, CPL Learning. Scroll down to read the review of the fascinating discussion...


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Event Review

By Lorraine Wood, Director, Arena

The conversation about staff shortages and recruitment challenges within the hospitality industry is nothing new. In fact, as Chris Gamm, the CEO of Springboard, said in our latest Ask Arena webinar, Springboard was set up 31 years ago because there were not enough staff coming into hospitality. I guess that puts the length of the issue into context.

But as we head towards ‘Freedom Day’, on the 19th July, and hospitality businesses prepare to reopen and rebuild, it seems that we are at crisis point and many parts of the industry are struggling to recruit.

‘Hospitality – Solutions to the Staffing Crisis’ brought together key industry and HR leaders to explore why we have a staffing crisis, what different businesses are experiencing, the potential solutions, and how we can work together to make hospitality a career of choice.

A huge thank you to Arena committee member and industry expert, Ann Elliott, for expertly hosting the discussion and to our panellists Andrew Bush, Chief People Officer, Greene King Plc, Caroline Marais, Group Director of Human Resources, Edwardian Hotels London, Chris Gamm, CEO, Springboard and Jamie Campbell, Director, CPL Learning, which is part of the event sponsor Access Hospitality, for giving their time and expertise in what was a fascinating conversation.

If you were unable to join us, a recording of the event is available here.

This is an issue that impacts us all, so do take the time to have a listen, but in the meantime, here are my top take outs from the discussion.

From the series of thought-provoking questions put to the panel by Ann, here are the themes and points that stood out to me as common threads relating to the crisis:

The perfect storm: The existing skills shortage plus Brexit, plus Covid-19, plus furlough, plus a lack of young talent coming into the industry all put together, has created our crisis situation.

Furlough: We’ve not seen the full impact of furlough yet – we’ll know more in the next few months. But quite a number of people are choosing not to come back from furlough as, for example, they may have returned to their home countries or taken jobs in other industries.

Interesting things are happening in recruitment: Entrepreneurial employers are thinking differently about attracting staff and coming up with innovative recruitment initiatives.

Money talks: If you pay the higher salary you win. It shouldn’t be like that but after more than a year of redundancy, furlough and no regular salary, people have to take care of themselves and their finances and build their personal funds up again.

Competition is a reality:  Everyone is fighting to recruit from the same talent pool – and it’s a pool that’s shrinking rather than growing. The competitiveness is real – an example of companies advertising in the toilets of their competitor was given!

Broaden the talent pool: The pool is currently fixed in terms of the traditional profile of people we recruit, especially in pubs. But there are huge swathes of people that do not regard pubs as places to socialise let alone work, as it’s still a very white and male environment. We have to look at making it more attractive to other groups. Inclusivity and diversity are becoming a commercial imperative as well as a cultural and reputational one.

Support roles are a recruitment challenge: Particularly roles that are not sector specific, such as IT, as other industries are more appealing and stable.

Lifestyle re-evaluation: A period of no work has magnified the long hours that are often synonymous with hospitality. Some people have decided they want to change their work/life balance and are looking elsewhere.

We need to bring back the fun: There’s not been much of this lately! Hospitality has turned into a compliance arena and that’s not why people chose to work in our industry.

Flexibility is a must: Flexibility in the workplace is one of the biggest benefits you can offer someone nowadays. Employers need to be more adaptable to people’s personal circumstances going forward.

Look after current workforce: Their hard work and loyalty has to be rewarded. It’s not just about ‘new’ recruits.

Showcase progression pathways and opportunities: Seeing a clear pathway for progression gives hope and opportunity and a reason to stay in our industry. The mentality around training needs to change to be more open and front footed. People cannot engage as much with a business if they don’t see a future, opportunity and potential.

Look beyond perfection: Don’t limit your pool to only people with experience and proven skills. Seek out those with the right attitude that can be developed and finetuned. We need to engage all sorts of different people. Those who have overcome barriers to get into employment will stay longer as they are more loyal and engaged.

Culture: The role of culture in a company is much, much more dominant. The last year has been the most difficult period to show the true depth of a company’s culture, but the most important time to show who you are as a business and how you treat your people. Continued focus on wellbeing (physical, mental and financial) as well as progression is a must.

There are pressures yet to come: the furlough plaster has yet to be ripped off and self-isolation as a result of test and trace is going to compound staffing issues.

The CEO of Springboard, the industry charity that supports people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life with barriers into employment in hospitality, Chris, described a strange scenario where there are plenty of unemployed people in the UK and many jobs in hospitality to go into… but something, somewhere is not joining up.

He explained that through its Springboard to 2022 initiative, its role as a gateway for Kick Start and its initiatives that promote hospitality in schools and colleges, the charity is working hard in partnership with industry businesses to support young people into training and employment in hospitality and to nurture future talent. He said: “An almighty effort from the industry is needed to get young people interested and excited.”

When asked how we make hospitality a career of choice, the collective response was:

  • Sell the benefits: Focus on skills, creativity, flexibility and opportunities.
  • Shout louder about the progression: hospitality is genuinely the most social mobile sector.
  • Change early perception: engage colleges and schools to show the progression pathways and careers.
  • Preach to the unconverted.
  • Sort out the fundamentals around working patterns and life balance.
  • Show the fun side of hospitality!

The session ended with questions from the audience, covering topics such as working in collaboration to tackle the industry issue as an industry, how an increase in wages and benefits will create a reduction in operations and services, experienced candidates vs personality and attitude, and industry role models to appeal to young people.