Hospitality’s big problem: Shallow talent pools

The hospitality sector is facing a growing crisis. With Brexit bringing uncertainty and attitudes towards work changing, restaurants, caterers and event spaces are all feeling the effects of shallow talent pools.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, 70% of business leaders surveyed in a recent report believe the existing talent pool in the UK is shrinking while the competition for talent is increasing. The result is a market where everyone is chasing the same talent, making it increasingly difficult to find skilled staff within hospitality.

The concern for businesses in the industry is the potential need to lower standards in order to fill empty roles. While this may be an acceptable compromise for some, the expectation of service within luxury hospitality means that hiring substandard staff isn’t a viable option. 

The changing face of work

To succeed in this challenging environment, businesses in the hospitality sector have been trying to change the way they hire in order to find the best talent. They are introducing initiatives such as referral schemes and looking in unorthodox places such as Facebook or even local community groups to find staff. This isn’t a sustainable solution.

Instead of lowering standards, the industry needs to understand the changing face of the workforce in order to recruit and retain the best talent. Employees are no longer only motivated by pay; finding work that fits around their lifestyle has become equally, if not more important. The desire to progress quickly and take on more responsibility is also diminishing as many people choose to avoid the pressure that comes with moving up the ladder.

A more long term solution is looking at flexible working, which has grown in popularity with 30 percent of companies now hiring temporary labour across all job levels, according to the SIA Talent Study 2019. Previously, temporary staff had a stigma of being of lower quality as they tended to be people looking to fill gaps in work. Thanks to a change in mindset though, people are now making genuine careers from working flexibly.

Building the right culture

Finding staff is half the battle with overcoming shallow talent pools but it’s just as important to hold onto talent, whether that concerns flexible or permanent staff. From talking to Coople clients, culture is one of the biggest factors in retaining the best people. The key to keeping staff content at work is making them feel valued and empowered – something that luxury hospitality is working on.

For example, during the 2018 Caterer People Awards Hilton won the award for the best Emerging Talent Initiative. Hilton’s program, called ELEVATOR, is a career development plan for graduates in order to prepare them for a hotel GM position over the course of 5-8 years. It offers accelerated development into a management position followed by a fast track, structured career path with on-going training to help them make the most of their potential. A clearly laid out career path has sometimes been forgotten in luxury hospitality, so it is positive to see brands taking on the responsibility to ensure better a better future for employees.

Ultimately, the luxury hospitality industry needs to create a culture where all staff feel that employers, venues and managers are invested in their happiness, wellbeing and development. Shallow talent pools are a huge challenge for luxury hospitality, a sector that simply cannot afford to compromise on quality. But by changing mind-sets and understanding this new approach to working, the sector can still deliver great customer experiences.

By Rinaldo Olivari, CEO at Coople