Brexit upheaval forces hoteliers to hone hiring plans
Brexit upheaval forces hoteliers to hone hiring plans
28 MAY 2019 8:39 AM

As the debacle of Brexit goes from bad to worse, hotel industry recruiters are fine-tuning their best practices to employ and retain the best talent in a landscape of low unemployment, high uncertainty and the coming of a new United Kingdom Prime Minister.

LONDON—Staffing the hotel industry in the United Kingdom hasn’t been easy lately, but now there is no doubt that Brexit continues to add to the hardship, according to sources.

Parliament has yet to gain consensus over this hugely divisive issue of Brexit, and on 24 May, Prime Minister Theresa May announced she will resign on 7 June, and the battle to be her successor could turn ugly.

Amid all this, hotel recruitment specialists must remain focused on best practices and making their workplaces and hotel chains flexible, innovative and courageous, sources said at the recent Hotel Operations Conference.

Panelists at a session titled “Moving beyond Brexit” said wages will go up, even in a landscape where new generations of employees perhaps are focused on more than their salaries. In addition, that old acorn that a job in the hotel industry is a stopgap, not a career, remains.

More education and dialogue are needed, panelists said.

“A lot of this is about conversation,” said Julia Ingall, chief people and culture officer at Ennismore, which owns the Hoxton hotel brand, among others. “Finding out what each generation wants from work, how they work, how they want to learn. Very few employees want to go home thinking they do not care if they are not engaged or not.”

Stefan Wissenbach, founder of Engagement Multiplier, said it’s important to create buy-in among employees.

“Get employees invested in the business,” he said. “As (Ingall) said, most do come to work wanting to be engaged.”

Wissenbach added he worked with GMs—“brave GMs”—that require employees to score their performances and who realize the benefits of such initiatives.

Ingall said Ennismore conducts monthly live chats with its CEO, and when new employees start, conversations begin as early as possible as to “opportunities in education beyond the obvious.”

“There are no ‘onlys,’ that this employee is ‘only’ the receptionist,” Ingall said.

Wissenbach advised against underestimating the potential of your employees.

“There is a lot of insight in your employees, and the questions is how to unlock wisdom and tap into it,” he said. “The problem is (not) employees … who quit and leave but those who ‘quit’ and stay.”

Wissenbach also said guests have a direct role in helping issues of staffing.

“If you engage customers, you have an easier and better business to run,” he said. “This attracts people. The world has finally woken up to this, certainly with millennials who we hear are more ‘me’ than ‘money.’”

Attrition and retention
Joanne Monk, people and development director at LGH Hotels Management, which has 47 properties under management, said she is putting focus in two areas: the skill sets of middle-tier management and overall engagement.

“This is where the greatest attrition lies,” Monk said.

Nikki Kelly, marketing director of hotel industry charity Springboard, said the necessity of having mentoring strategies has increased in importance and that these strategies need to broaden their nets.

“What do you have in play to have employees stay beyond six months?” Kelly said. “There are so many opportunities, but we do not shout about them enough. All we shout about are the long shifts, the unsocial hours.”

Often new recruitment drives just focus on the same pools of labor the last recruitment drives targeted.

“There still are a lot of people who will not travel out of their town or borough, and that is a huge loss of talent,” Kelly said. “Again, it is about having the right conversations.”

Kelly added that outreach programs with different faith groups, employment coaches, workshops, engaging local employment agencies and looking at how to best use funding are all equally useful.

“It is about making the necessary, right connections, and if you only have an online recruitment process, you are looking at a smaller pool of people, the same group of people as last time,” Kelly said.

The effectiveness of word of mouth also cannot be overestimated, panelists said.

Ingall said her firm has a partnership with a homeless shelter, but there are challenges involved such as privacy. Ennismore also has a deposit scheme to help with the hefty cost of housing, especially in London.

“Those first six weeks (of rent and deposits) are just beyond most,” she said. “But this is high-risk as we have to give that money before they join us.”

Wissenbach said measuring success is critical.

“This has to be done in a way that everyone can understand,” he said. “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

“And you have to work with each operator to make sure any program works for them,” Ingall said, referring to hotels with franchisees or third-party operators.

Panelists said when new initiatives are launched, they have to be done so in multiple fronts: digital, written, verbal and face-to-face.

Other issues in staffing are health and wellness in an aging workforce, the increase in the national wage—due to rise by another 5% in the next year—a falling birth rate, the employee-led calls for time off for volunteerism, the fall in the value of the pound sterling and the rise of bias that both might be the result of Brexit.

“We have to push the minimum wage or we will not be able to compete with other sectors,” Ingall said.

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