The staffing shortage suddenly facing the post-Pandemic UK hospitality industry has taken many by surprise, and we believe that there are several pertinent issues that need to be tackled if the industry to going to bounce back with resilience. Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality estimates that approximately 15% of the pre-Pandemic workforce have not returned to work in hospitality and there is a 10% shortage amounting to a worrying 188,000 shortfall nationwide (as of June 2021). Furthermore it is estimated that approximately one quarter of UK hospitality workers were from overseas pre-March 2020, and many have returned home because of Brexit and/or the Pandemic, and therefore it is perhaps unsurprising that the supply of workers is simply in crisis.
So what can hospitality businesses do to address this issue and ensure the long term prosperity of our beloved industry? Here we outline some of the possible considerations and suggest some solutions.
Faced with such a sharp contraction in workforce – Kate Nicholls estimates that this figure in UK Hospitality is around 660,000 members of staff, the need to attract and retain young people is centre-stage. Hospitality should be a popular destination for 16-18 year olds seeking first part-time job opportunities, enabling them to acquire basic life skills such as customer service, time management and communication skills. A large proportion of this peer group will not have been able to work before because of the Pandemic, and as such this presents a great opportunity to offer short term employment opportunities.
However, it is worth considering the impact of the 18 months of on/off lockdowns – it may be that their social skills are even more limited as a result of self-isolation and lockdowns. Considerations such as these may well need to be factored in with any recruitment drive – make job application processes as easy and un-intimidating as possible? Contact local schools and colleges directly.
Once young people are recruited, maybe consider exposing them to career opportunities within the business, offer them opportunities to experience different aspects of day-to-day operations to potentially pique their interest?
Consider creating packages with added benefits which would be relevant to this age group
Investigate government run programmes such as the Kickstart Scheme (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/kickstart-scheme) for 16-24 year olds and also the catering and hospitality apprenticeship scheme (https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/apprentices/browse-by-interests/catering-hospitality#)
One of the most often quoted negatives about working in hospitality is the lengthy working hours and shift patterns. Why not use the break that the industry has gone through to relook at the way things have traditionally been run eg changing shift patterns/rotas?
Consider “bumping” up overall package offerings with easy to implement added extras eg in-house gym membership, access to online career development opportunities, in-house dining/accommodation discounts etc.
Improve career choice appeal and attractiveness by considering signing up to the “Hoteliers Charter” https://hotelierscharter.org.uk/ which promotes best practice and advocates working in hotels as a great career choice
Another considerable challenge facing the industry has been the fall-out after furlough has ended. Many of the shortages are now believed to be down to workers having tasted working in other sectors and not then returning. Therefore retention of team members is essential. Maybe consider incentivising individuals to come back after furlough for at least 6 months, by which time they will have hopefully become more settled back into the routine of working once more? Focus on engaging with team members now, making them feel included and welcomed. Encourage learning and development to improve employee engagement in three different ways:
Whilst it is a challenging time for all, we firmly believe that those who acknowledge, adapt and address some of these recruitment issues will ultimately prosper and thrive in this post Pandemic, much changed world of hospitality. The door of opportunity is open for all to embrace change and improve working practices and conditions.