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Making Hospitality Work; The Challenge of Recruiting, Post-Covid

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Making Hospitality Work; The Challenge of Recruiting, Post-Covid

Making Hospitality Work; The Challenge of Recruiting, Post-Covid
June 22
10:33 2021

If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything as employers, it’s that our staff are as important – if not more so – than the products or services we are aiming to sell. Since the easing of lockdown and the gradual reopening of the hospitality industry, the chronic staff shortages that had plagued the sector for decades have amplified and become entrenched to the point of permanence. As pubs, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and other businesses are now finding to their detriment, the ever-decreasing talent pool has shrunk even further over the last 12 months. This, of course, is partly down to the Brexit-related departure of many European workers, but it’s also because employees have had the opportunity to reconsider their careers and what they want from life. The image of hospitality as a low-wage, low-skilled profession has dogged the sector for decades and Covid is now proving a catalyst for those who feel they would be better off doing something else for a living.

Catering Scotland examines how the hospitality employment sector has changed since March 2020 and explores what it will take to keep candidates motivated and committed.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of workers who have not returned to work since restrictions began to ease. From research undertaken by employment agencies and job boards throughout the UK, chefs, waiters, managers and kitchen staff have either remained on furlough as they plan their next move, or they appear to have left the trade entirely. Indeed, many have chosen to explore alternative careers in other areas including manufacturing, retail, construction and logistics. As a result, leisure and hospitality businesses are now finding it harder than ever to attract candidates who have spent months pondering what they really want from a job. The formerly tempting allure of flexible hours, sociable working environments and the potential for career progression and a healthy tip jar have, in many cases, been replaced by a need for more tangible benefits, a better-defined pay structure, more consistent hours and a reluctance to work split shifts.

Barony Castle MD, Richard Spanner: ‘Today’s job-seekers are focusing on other priorities including flexible working hours and holiday allowances in addition to better pay’

However, it’s not all bad news. Some companies have used the last year as an opportunity to examine and refine the kind of benefits – material and otherwise – they can offer staff as they return to work. From revised wage and working structures, to attractive pension schemes, discounted product ranges and various in-kind benefits, there is a growing range of incentives designed to entice staff back into the jobs they were forced to leave, and indeed to attract new talent into a rewarding and welcoming employment market.

Once such operator is Barony Castle LLP, the Borders-based hospitality employer who identified early on the need for businesses to actively attract people from other sectors in order to thrive in a challenging market. By targeting job-seekers who themselves were seeking a different outlook and prospects, managing director Richard Spanner hopes to plug the employment gap that expanded so swiftly as the COVID-19 situation unfolded: ‘We realised quite soon after lockdown that although we could take care of our staff thanks to the Government furlough scheme, employers in general were going to be faced with several significant issues once the sector began to reopen,’ he says. ‘Chief among these was the employment conundrum; either the industry would contract to the point that roles and positions no longer existed – therefore precipitating widespread redundancies – or customer demand would be so intense upon reopening that we would not have the resources to fill the required positions.’

Iconic: Barony Castle’s Great Polish Map of Scotland

As it turns out, Barony Castle banked on the latter and began to formulate a package of pre-emptive solutions to ensure the company was in the best position to attract, engage and retain talent once the business was able to trade freely again.

Following its transformation into a four-AA-Star destination and the hotel’s 1536 Restaurant gaining its first AA Rosette, management introduced a new minimum pay structure to recognise and reward the hard work and effort undertaken by the team in order to attain the sought-after awards. Benefits included:

Minimum Pay

  • Employees 19 years of age and under receive between 27% and 80% more than the N.M.W.
  • Workers 20 years and older receive £9.20 per hour (from 3% to 40% more than the N.M.W.)

In real terms, the company’s new pay structure is halfway between the National Minimum Wage and the Real Living Wage, and management intend to close the gap still further in the coming years so that all employees receive the Real Living Wage as a minimum.

However, today’s job-seekers – particularly the younger generation – are focusing on other priorities in addition to better pay. Flexible working hours, holiday allowances, staff perks and other benefits all count for something nowadays and with this in mind, Richard and his HR team introduced a further range of packages to suit hospitality’s more discerning workforce.

Barony Castle LLP now offers employees:

  • No trial shifts
  • Fair tip distribution based on the number of hours worked
  • Pension entitlement after an initial 90-day qualifying period
  • Comprehensive training, qualifications and career progression
  • Free leisure club access
  • 50% discount on beauty treatments
  • 30% discount on food and soft drinks
  • Preferential accommodation rates for family and friends
  • Preferential rates on function rooms
  • WOW points for everyday shopping
  • Medical Cash Plan including 24/7 cover, virtual NHS GP, child cover* and other benefits

And so, after more than a year of uncertainty, insecurity, disruption and disappointment, it has become clear that today’s candidates are becoming more selective, discerning and demanding when it comes to choosing a career. Whereas in the past the sector was sometimes accused of being complacent and even taking employees for granted, there are now so many vacancies needing filled since the lifting of lockdown that employers have had to completely redesign their offering in order to attract the right people for the jobs they need to fill. All around Scotland, hoteliers, restaurateurs and caterers are crying out for enthusiastic, talented young workers with the right approach and attitude. In turn, these workers are all now demanding a better way of working.

Ultimately, the good news for candidates is that there are employers out there – Barony Castle among them – who are willing to reward their workforce with the kind of incentives, remuneration and benefits they deserve.

After all, money may talk, but happiness, a work/life balance and job satisfaction can often shout louder.

*Available following appropriate qualification period

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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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