People and the Hospitality Industry - A Perfect Storm?

There is much being talked about in the media about the lack of staff wishing to work in hospitality and the apparent surplus of job seekers. So, what might be happening in the hospitality industry?

The recent heatwave and relaxation of some Covid-19 restrictions has provided the hospitality industry with some hope this summer. Travel restrictions abroad and additional costs of testing and isolation as well as additional cash in customers pockets from reduced activity generally, has fuelled the demand for UK holidays this year. Hospitality venues in the South West are experiencing full capacity until at least November with few beds available, whilst London is struggling to fill capacity.

This surge in demand is welcomed to aid hospitality’s recovery, but some challenges are now emerging. This makes the management of this demand quite tricky. There are simply not enough people coming forward to fill seasonal work vacancies. The limited movement of highly qualified staff is an additional issue. The end of furlough planned for September 2021, whilst potentially easing the challenge in the near future, has also caused further unintended consequences. It is estimated that the vacancy rate is 10% in the South West alone. Some in the industry have described the current situation as a ‘perfect storm’.

So, what are the issues that have impacted upon the recruitment of hospitality staff?

Three million people are currently on furlough in the UK. Some unintended consequences of this financial support have impacted the labour market in several ways.
- Additional forms of employment accompanying furlough may have reduced dependency on seasonal work.
- New employment may not guarantee furlough during further lockdowns, potentially increasing unwillingness to move career.
- There may be concerns amongst potential employees regarding the lack of security, financial sustainability, and uncertainty about further Covid-19 lockdowns.
- With furlough being extended until September 2021, this may discourage individuals from returning to work, changing career, or finding seasonal employment until then.

Post-Covid Culture Shift
- Individuals may be reassessing their priorities resulting in a shift in how they consider their work-life balance; long and unsociable hours might no longer be attractive to some.
- Furlough may well have changed potential employees’ views going forward, with many not returning to their previous roles.
- There may be some legacy concerns regarding infections in the workplace which could dissuade individuals from returning to work.
- Some potential employees may still be acting as carers for family and friends.

- Loss of international workers who have chosen to return and stay in their home nations, with varying and different Covid-19 restrictions, will probably make it more challenging to travel.
- It is becoming an increasingly complex process to sponsor international staff for a 3-year visa. It can cost organisations £8000, combined with quarantine expenses and additional paperwork.
- The lack of European workers this year indicates the dependency on such workers and perhaps suggests that UK nationals are simply not attracted to a career in hospitality more generally.

Local complications
- The local employment pool may not be sufficient to satisfy employers’ recruitment demands.
- Further issues such as housing availability might render it challenging for outsiders to justify employment in the area.

So, what are the implications for the hospitality sector and what might be some solutions?
Staff shortages pose a significant challenge to an already fragile industry and if not managed effectively may limit the hospitality sector’s capacity to capitalise on summer business.

Short term solutions may include:

- Perhaps firstly ensure you are engaging and communicating well with your employees, understanding, and protecting them.
- Increasing salaries and offering competitive bonuses has resulted in some success.
- Consider offering alternative incentives e.g., sponsorship of driving lessons, education, more flexible working hours etc.

Extend your reach
- Consider recruiting from areas with less demand for hospitality services.
- Maybe look at encouraging individuals to come to a beautiful part of the world to work to enable the ‘surf season’ to potentially become the new ‘ski season’, if additional incentives, such as accommodation, can be offered.

- Reducing service hours may help reduce employee burnout and enable a high standard of service to be maintained.
- Consider promoting self-catering, requiring less staff, and providing more flexibility and security for families who wish to isolate, this could potentially represent a shift in the future dynamic of hospitality.
- Maybe a review of all processes might provide an opportunity to improve guest support but at the same time minimising employee activity.

Agility & Flexibility
- Consider flexible working apps such as ‘Stint’, which might enable businesses to match their staffing to daily demand and employees to work around their own schedule.

Long term solutions may include:

- Longer term solutions might be to focus more specifically on the needs and values of your target employees.
- It might be more sustainable to match up with local universities, colleges and apprenticeships that could provide a routine and regular pool of young people.
- Consider additional training and development programmes to encourage engagement, investment into upskilling and supporting staff development, which could boost loyalty whilst closing the skills gap.
- One other issue might be to consider creating a bank of potential employees to increase adaptability and resilience.

- Consider digitisation of back-office processes to help increase staff productivity, job satisfaction and efficiency.
- Maybe a real hard look at your organisational structure could help optimise capabilities and potentially reduce the volume of staff needed.

Tamar HR recognises these challenges and is supporting clients with both specific recruitment and emerging Covid-19 related employment shortages. Get in touch with our team to discuss any of the issues mentioned and find out more about how Tamar HR could support your business.

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