Monday, December 11, 2023

Don’t let the labour gap be hospitality’s party pooper this Christmas

Chris Grimes, sales director at Matrix looks at ways the sector can find the 250,000 workers it needs to satisfy the seasonal surge and make hay while the snow falls.

With the festive season rapidly approaching and people streaming back to pubs, restaurants and party venues as the pandemic threat subsides, things are finally looking up for the beleagured hospitality industry. The sector is hoping bumper sales over Christmas and New Year will boost revenues to pre-Covid levels, and even beyond. However, as we all know, there’s always a pesky party pooper desperate to spoil everyone’s fun. And in this case, it’s the labour crisis.

It’s no secret that hospitality companies have been struggling to fill vacancies post Brexit. And this situation has been made worse by the need to lay off temporary staff during the pandemic – roles which many businesses have found it tough to replenish.

Of course, pubs and restaurants traditionally staff up in the run up to Christmas to make the most of the increased demand and crucially maintain customer service levels. The dilemma this year is how they find the 250,000 seasonal workers they need, according to UKHospitality, in a shrinking talent pool depleted by over a million EU-born workers departing the UK. Failure to do so could seriously undermine their efforts to kick start the recovery, which are already being challenged by inflation-fuelled price hikes.


Total flexibility

Addressing the problem, Youngs, which runs 200 pub and hotels in London and the South of England, has rolled out a “total” flexible working policy to fuel its recruitment drive. This opens the door to glass collectors, for example, who just want occasional days, and mums keen to work between school drop-off and pick-up, and maybe a few hours in the evening, to earn extra during tough times.

This shift in policy by Youngs has not only helped the business bridge the labour gap short term, but the flexible approach also means the business is holding onto its newfound recruits. It makes sense for other hospitality companies to follow suit and could hold the key to bolstering staff numbers for the festive season.


Going neutral

The problem then arises of how to recruit flexible workers as quickly as possible. One way of implementing this policy is taking the neutral vendor route, particularly when temporary staff are needed at short notice to satisfy a seasonal surge. When time is of the essence, trawling through preferred supplier lists of recruiters can be frustrating and costly, with chosen suppliers frequently difficult to manage, adding further stress to an already fraught period. This can result in recruitment managers making the risky move of going off-contract.

Adopting a neutral vendor approach delivers access to a large pre-approved supply chain of diverse recruitment agencies to widen the candidate pool when hospitality businesses need it most, quickly and easily accessible – and verified for compliance – through an independent single point of contact.


Age on your side

Broadening the target demographic could also open the door to a deeper labour pool. Many over-50s have not returned to work after the Covid lockdowns, put off not only by a long commute, and the increased risk of infection this brings, but also tired of the rigidity of a five-day week. The prospect of local flexible jobs could well entice them back into the workplace, while their wider experience and confidence dealing with people can help enhance the customer experience.

The best Christmas present companies in the hospitality sector can give themselves this year is to broaden their recruitment horizons, like Youngs. It’s time to open up to flexible and even hybrid working practices, where appropriate, and consider a wider age group, while looking at new methods of improving the speed, cost effectiveness, security and compliance of the recruitment process. Happy recruiting!

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