Some years ago, in a hotel in Whitfield on the outskirts of Kent, a General Manager interviewed a young, inexperienced man who wanted to work in a hotel.
The young man was nervous as his careers education at school hadn’t prepared him for the interview, and he knew little of the hospitality industry.
Politely, the GM asked a simple question, “why should I give you a job in my hotel?”
The young man answered, “I haven’t any experience, but if you give me a chance then I will try my best.”
The GM, Ian, sat back in his chair and replied, “OK, I’ll give you a chance to work in my restaurant for three months. If you work hard, then we can have another conversation and see what opportunities there might be for you, how does that sound?”
The young man sat there, pleased that he had a job, albeit on a trial basis, and contemplated how he could apply himself to repay the opportunity of being given a chance.
It is unarguable to say that the hospitality industry is experiencing a people and skills shortage; a situation that is more often than not attributed to a number of factors including, quite rightly, the uncertainty caused by the current political climate and a perceived, and outdated, impression of our industry as poorly paid with no progression and antisocial hours. All very concerning for an industry that is the third largest employer in the UK, contributing in excess of £130 billion per annum in turnover.
In an industry where more than 25% of all chefs are from outside the UK, likewise upwards of 40% of all housekeeping and front of house staff, options to counter this involve ‘growing our own talent’, moving away from traditional recruitment models and, essentially, casting our net wider when filling our businesses recruitment needs.
In terms of recruitment and development my role as a General Manager is one that safeguards the evolution of my award winning team and business by attracting, recruiting and developing new talent whilst retaining and developing existing talent. This is essentially a long-term balancing act.
We hear more and more often about the need for inclusivity, equality and diversity in the work place, which confuses me because shouldn’t this just be the norm; after all we are hospitality professionals, we operate diverse businesses every day. We lead the trend, set the example and share our best practices not just within our own industry but within many other industries as well. In any industry this would be a positive step, in our industry it’s an essential one.
As an example, my team ranges from 15 to over 70 years of age with a near 50/50 gender split made up of numerous nationalities including; British, Scottish, German, African, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Slovakian, Hungarian, Albanian, Croatian, Romanian, Turkish, Kurdish, Filipino and Chinese.
Inclusivity in the workplace is not limited to age, ability, disability, gender, etc, it’s about making sure your workplace and industry is open to all including those lacking experience.
I’ve never agreed that personal circumstance should be a barrier to inclusion and opportunity within our industry because any individual, irrespective of background or circumstance, can (must) have an equal opportunity to be a part of our team verses a recruitment practice that prioritises hard skills over enthusiasm.
In point it has been my experience that businesses that attract and retain talent, prioritising a recruitment strategy based around enthusiasm rather than immediate experience become ‘employment goals’ for our future team members and enjoy higher staff retention and staff engagement than businesses taking a more CV led approach. Certainly, this is the established norm in my business and something my team and I are proud of.
During Christmas of 2018 I arranged a meeting with a charity called the Shaw Trust (a charity which helps disabled and disadvantaged people into employment and independent living in the UK) with a view of bringing in to our business people with a range of either hidden or visible disabilities.
The plan was simple, we take groups of people irrespective of disability, industry experience or age, we provide two weeks of class room based customer service training with one of our training partners and then two weeks practical work experience.
As I write, I am proud to say that in less than four months 25 people have come through our doors. I have hired one, with potentially a second recruitment about to be made. Now realistically this was never going to be an initiative that provided jobs to everyone, but it was one that made a difference to the individuals in terms of self-confidence, development and essentially showing people that as a business, as an industry, we care.
At the very heart of hospitality is the need to be hospitable. In our own businesses we meet, greet and look after thousands of people every year. This doesn’t just extend to those who employ our services but to our teams, which from entry level up are the future generations of our industry, which as every employer is aware of is our legacy to our industry.
Ultimately though, does it work? Does the impact of inclusive recruiting practice outweigh the cost in time and effort of developing, essentially, blank slates joining our businesses?
Yes. Yes, it does.
For my business the benefits of this approach to careers education and recruitment have been as follows:
Staff retention rate 87% over the last 12 months (as of April 2019).
Staff retention rate 84% over the last 36 months.
Essentially, as we show a commitment to our team, they show a commitment to our business. They become more than a team, they become a family. It really is that simple. In the past 3 years 6 members of the team have re-joined us within 3 months of leaving.
I learnt that a long time ago when a hotel General Manager called Ian took a risk and hired me. His approach to inclusively and diversity (in a time where we didn’t really speak about either) has stayed with me ever since and has formed my attitude to recruitment since I have enjoyed the privileged position of being an employer.
We are hospitality professionals, let’s be hospitable to all, our own and our industry’s future is dependent on it. Given the opportunity hospitality will thrive.
Robert Richardson FIH, GENERAL MANAGER, The Grand, Folkestone