In the first of a two-part series on how hospitality businesses can stand out from the crowd when it comes to attracting staff, Sapience HR Founder Sue Hook discusses how to shake up your recruitment procedures to get better results.

The hospitality sector is facing yet another crisis – chronic staff shortages which threaten to derail the anticipated bounce-back. Here, Cornwall-based HR expert Sue Hook offers some useful advice for businesses on how they can stand out from the crowd in an employee’s market.

Potential recruits are hot property in hospitality right now!

To some extent the recruitment challenges now facing the hospitality sector were predicted, but the scale of the problem was always going to be an unknown quantity until businesses opened again. Now that most pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels are operational once more – albeit with reduced capacity – there has been a frenzied call for staff across the sector, but the pool of potential recruits seems to have all but dried up.

Some restaurants here in Cornwall have already been forced to limit their hours of operation in order to give existing staff a break. In these extreme circumstances that is a sensible strategy; earlier this year we warned about the prospect of burn-out and poor mental health affecting hospitality workers returning to busy settings, with the added complication of COVID safe working practices.

The hospitality workplace has changed immensely in the last 18 months

Lack of staff is a problem which is affecting hospitality hotspots from New York to Paris, and our home patch of Cornwall is no exception. Both Brexit and the upheaval to lives and livelihoods caused by the pandemic have been cited as contributing factors here in the South West but, as one chef told us this week, the problem of finding affordable housing isn’t helping either.

So, what can businesses do to a) recruit more effectively and b) make their offer stand out from the crowd? Let’s cut straight to the chase with some tips on both.

Shake up your recruitment procedures

If you’re simply recruiting in the same way you always have done and not getting results, perhaps it’s time to start thinking outside the box…

  • Focus on personality profiles rather than experience. We’re not saying that hospitality workers are unskilled – far from it! But, for many positions those skills are less about experience than having good people skills. Job descriptions should emphasise things like strong communication skills, the ability to multitask, and being a team player over experience on paper.
  • Streamline recruitment and harvest every lead. Some businesses panic and scatter themselves too thinly when it comes to recruiting, turning the admin task of filling vacancies into a nightmare. Have a clear process where every potential recruit is funnelled through the system, sees the same info and applies in the same straightforward way. Every application should land in the same virtual or physical pile, with the criteria for interview already agreed in advance.
  • Be creative in how you select your new staff. Think about supplementing the usual interview with trial periods, initial sifting via telephone interviews, role play with difficult customers. There is lots which can be done at the selection stage which helps you identify the best fit for your businesses and lets candidates know the type of business you are.
  • Think like a marketeer: Consider who you’re targeting and how to reach them creatively. While most employers now focus more on social media than traditional advertising, it’s still worth thinking carefully about where your audience might be and how to cut through the noise. Whatever your strategy is, if it isn’t yielding results then press reset; simply increasing the money you spend on advertising and recruitment agencies may not get you any further.
  • Design roles differently. Consider merging or splitting roles to make them more attractive to recruits. Make it clear that you’re open to job shares or part-time working. You can take it a step further too, for example if you need front of house staff and a social media content creator, then why not split the role? Perhaps clever recruitment could help you attract a chef who also wants to pursue food photography, or a housekeeper who wants to learn the ropes of HR?
  • Finally, to help you in the future, treat candidates with respect and communicate effectively. How many jobs have you applied for and never heard back? It’s dispiriting and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and makes it unlikely that the same person will apply to join your business again – even years later and for a different role. Even if you receive hundreds of applications it’s not hard to create a spreadsheet and group people to receive the appropriate email accordingly.

We hope that helps some of the hard pressed hospitality businesses around fill those vacancies. As always, if you need tailored support and advice from a HR expert, please give us a call here at Sapience HR – we’ll be happy to help.   

In the second blog in this series we’ll be looking at how businesses can make their offer of employment stand out from the crowd, helping you attract the best recruits.