Hospitality, like many sectors, is facing a skills shortage. And it looks like the recruitment challenge is set to grow, with a recent report commissioned by BHA and KPMG suggesting hospitality and tourism will be most affected by potential restrictions to EU migration.
With 28 years’ experience in hospitality and HR, Moira Laird, human resources director at Valor Hospitality Europe, explains how the company is transforming the way it attracts young talent, and why, with Brexit approaching, a collaborative approach across the sector is vital.
Dispelling myths and attracting the right people
For some time now, the hospitality skills shortage has been subject to much debate across the sector. There are many factors that have contributed to the situation, but I believe a key one is the false impression that many have of employment in hospitality. The sector, which I have enjoyed working in for more than two decades, has such as wide variety of roles to suit almost every skill set and this is a key message we must get across to our younger generations.
Going forward, we must attract more young people to hospitality, and the first step is improving the image of the sector. That’s why we’re committing to schemes that focus on educating people about the real hospitality industry and the diverse roles and great careers that are available within it.
One such scheme that we’re supporting will see each of our 17 hotels partner with local schools, with our chefs and restaurant managers giving lessons to primary school pupils on food and nutrition, getting them excited about cooking, but also offering an insight into the hospitality sector. Educating at a younger age will help to dispel long-held myths about the limited roles available in the industry and get children inspired by our talented chefs and managers, encouraging more to consider a career in hotels, F&B and tourism.
Establishing a strong talent pool
Of course, working with schools and opening up hospitality to more children will help to improve the talent pool of the future, but the skills challenge also requires immediate action.
We recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a Government-backed initiative set up to encourage businesses to recognise that skills of military personnel are transferable to a wide variety of roles. We’re working with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), to actively promote job vacancies at each of our 17 hotels, and within our central team, to the Armed Forces.
By committing to the Armed Forces Covenant, and our ongoing apprenticeship scheme, we’re engaging with people from a number of different sources and backgrounds to ensure that we, and the industry, have a strong and diverse talent pool.
Valor also runs an apprenticeship programme, with 32 trainees currently employed across the business as we speak. Last year, we trained 52 young people who are now set-up to pursue careers in the sector.
While misconceptions of the industry have no doubt hampered recruitment, I believe there is opportunity for attraction in learning and development and the way we deliver it.
Young people seek action over classroom learning; they’d rather get stuck into the job and take on responsibilities immediately. As such, we’ve had to adapt and change the way we deliver training, educating new recruits ‘on the job’ and immersing them in their roles from the get-go. Not only does this help us to attract the very best candidates, it also helps to develop skills and fill the roles that the industry desperately needs much quicker.
Taking on the challenge together
Since I entered the world of HR, a lot has changed. Not only in technology and training, but also in the way HR itself is perceived. Once a ‘fluffy’ nice to have, it is now perceived as a vital commercial business partner, particularly in our service industry. Ensuring both a consistent talent supply and staff retention of trained and skilled personnel is vital in business, particularly in today’s market.
Though HR has a primary role to play in the skills challenge, the issue must be recognised by all departments, organisations and businesses working in hospitality and beyond.
The recent establishment of UKHospitality is a major step forward for the industry. Having a trade body representing us that will be at the forefront of issues is both encouraging and motivating. Organisations and businesses across the industry have been doing great work on various issues, but for too long this work has been far too disparate.
As a sector, we’d be far stronger if we came together to tackle the biggest issues we face, and I truly believe that UKHospitality will encourage collaboration. The recruitment challenge is only going to get tougher, but we’re fully committed to working together and making a difference.