Can Hospitality Survive the Staffing Crisis?

The Message 

As an industry, we are excellent at talking about our issues but not so great on talking about the solutions and we must be careful here.  If we continue to talk the issues but take no action, then we are keeping the problem in existence rather than condemning it to the past.  Phase one of this would be start taking control of the message of what it is to work in hospitality.  Focus on all the good stuff, all the positive things that happen and shout about that from the rooftops.  That needs a united effort from all corners of the industry.  End of!

Leadership Training

Part of the reason we find ourselves with staff shortages is because the industry experienced exceptional growth over a prolonged period of time and we just could not keep pace.  This meant that people could make quick progress but may then have found themselves positions that they were not ready for.  We need to focus more on world class leadership training being more readily available and having exceptional support networks for those that may find themselves temporarily out of their depth whilst they are progressing.  Part of this is to get around the stigma of talking about our problems.  Great leaders will give their teams the forum to go out and fail without fear of repercussion.  Historically, I don’t think we’ve been collectively good enough at this as most businesses have put chasing growth and profit ahead of the learning that comes from failure. 

Grassroots

We must inspire the next generation to choose Hospitality as a career of choice.  Not only that we also must inspire their parents so that their dreams are not deflected.  We have countless inspirational humans in the industry, I would guess that the vast majority would be willing to give some time to this to inspire hearts and minds.

Look after what we already have

It goes without saying, let us not lose any more people through shortcutting and the unnecessary stress that comes with that. This means actively listening, creating inclusive, safe, and respectful places to work. If it means cutting your service times down, then maybe consider that rather than ask the same team to come back and do another 14-hour shift. If we get better at attracting people into the industry but don’t look after them when they come in, we won’t have moved anything forward and will find ourselves in a perpetual hamster wheel of pain.

Get creative in your talent pools

There are a great deal many organisations doing great work in securing new talent pools from forgotten places (Springboard, Only a Pavement Away, The Clink spring to mind).  Support them and look at other areas of society where talent could come from.  Take more risks on who you recruit into your team – Everyone wants to hire the perfect candidate into their team.  It is likely that perfect candidate does not exist, especially in a time where there are shortages.  That means taking more risks.  Consider a “wildcard recruitment” approach. (To learn more, I wrote a blog on this philosophy here.) 

Marketing

Put the same effort and money into marketing and bringing people to work in your business as you spend on marketing to bring guests into your business. You could argue that it’s more important as they stay far longer and if you treat them correctly, they’ll stay for even longer.  And even when they do leave, they’ll be marketing to the world what a wonderful place you are to be.Lea

The dreaded b-word…

I really wanted to get through a post without bringing Brexit up but just like Piers Morgan piping up on issues that really shouldn’t concern him, I just can’t help myself.  But don’t worry, I’m not here to rant.  Not about Brexit at least.

Brexit has played its part.  There is no question.  We now find ourselves with shortages in many areas of many businesses and sectors (Not just hospitality) purely because the pool of people who are willing to work has reduced.  That, I’m afraid, is a cold, hard fact.

But, this is the hand we’ve been dealt so we have to crack on.  We already have industry bodies keeping this on the agenda at government level and if shortages remain in skilled roles, there’s no way that that I can’t see some sort of government intervention to lapse visa requirements on areas of shortage.  This is a tactic used the world over to bridge areas of problem.

This, to me, is necessary for the short-term benefit of the industry but it’s only a sticking plaster, not the over arching solution.  As I mentioned, the problem is a global one so even with lapsed visa restrictions, there’s no guarantee there’s a shiny train of talent inbound.

Which begs the questions, what else can we do?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, there’s not one quick fix to this.  We are all going to have to sort our collective sh!t out to move this forward.  The following is a collection of ideas, and in no particular order.

Call out the bad

Let’s not let malpractice go by without repercussion.  It pains me to hear of stories of bullying and misogyny, especially as that wasn’t my experience when I worked in operations.  But it doesn’t surprise me that it exists.  There’s a famous quote from many different sources “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing”.  We must keep calling out the bad, and that’s going to be painful in the short term.

But let’s also not lambast people if they have done wrong.  Help and educate where possible and if they continue to get it wrong then the likelihood is that this business is not for them, and no one will want to work for, or with, them in any case.  In order to make a sustainable and meaningful change, we need to keep as many people as possible at the table, not alienate.  We’ll need string and measured leaders for this (See above)

Government support

It feels like the industry has made great strides in this through 2020 keeping everyone united behind this common goal.  Keeping that moving forward would be a big win.  The deeper the problem of shortage goes, the more likely we’re to gain opportunities that are government backed.

It’s not all bad

I absolutely know that there are a huge amount of people and businesses out there who are doing really, really great work and so if you are reading this and thinking we already do all of this, we’re an awesome place to work, then I salute you big time.  You’ve got the basics in play, and you are ahead of the game.  Now just ask yourself, what else can we do?  Bring your ideas to the table.  Let’s all discuss it openly and start taking some action.

There are bound to be endless other ideas out there, I most certainly don’t have all the answers and some of you perhaps won’t enjoy reading some of the things that I’ve written here but we’ve all got to start dealing with the problem positively with an action orientated mind.

So, what’s that one thing you can do 1% better?  Start there and see where it takes you.  But at least start.

Thanks for reading.

By Phil Street MIM
Co-Founder & Director of Momentum Recruitment
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