Professional Comment

Fresh Thinking Required To Weather The Staffing Crisis

By Antony Woodcock – Co-Founder and CEO – GIG (

There’s little more that can be said on the topic of staffing beyond the fact that many industries, particularly hospitality, are still at crisis point. With shortages leading to around £21bn in lost sales, the problem cuts further than a few busy shifts due to understaffing, and instead has led to businesses limiting their hours or even being forced to close entirely.

It was hoped that post-lockdown, the situation would ease. But with the combination of rising costs and Brexit complications, the picture continued to worsen. There’s no denying that the pandemic saw a haemorrhaging of staff to the sectors which remained open, such as warehousing, so our offer has to be enough to tempt them back.

Attracting the best staff means listening to what they want, and thinking flexibly about what you can offer them. Staff are the beating heart of the industry, and offering them employment opportunities that value and respect their time can pay dividends.

One of the defining features of lockdown working was a greater enthusiasm for flexible working routines. The pandemic gave more workers a taste for more adaptable ways of working, and for many, the typical 9-5 moved further into the distance. This can mean thinking outside the box – how can we attract the demographics we’ve long neglected? Can we make it easier to offer work to busy parents, to offer shorter shifts for people around retirement age who may want shorter-term, less frequent shifts?

In particular, flexible opportunities, not necessarily linked to long-term contracts or experience periods, can be an attractive solution for workers struggling to get “traditional” jobs after long gaps in their CVs, caused by unemployment, health conditions, maternity or other circumstances. This helps open up the job pool to fresh talent who may otherwise feel excluded from the market.

There’s also now a greater opportunity to embrace technology to its full potential – using it to complement staffing, not threaten it. The growth of the Gig economy model has proved popular due to its adoption of digital technologies that make finding shifts a simple task, with little more than the phone in your pocket.

All of this not only attracts staff through the doors, but keeps them there too. It’s no secret that the more we value staff, the better performance can be.

But even if we adopt this greater flexibility, there is also a huge responsibility on our shoulders to promote a more positive picture of our industry – making sure we show off the very best of what hospitality is about. There are plenty of long-term career opportunities available and a wide variety of roles to suit a wide variety of people. It’s our job to shout about it, and practice what we preach too.

Hospitality has long had an image problem: low pay, undervalued staff, and a lack of career progression. But those of us in the sector know that doesn’t have to be the case, and the sooner we can promote that, the sooner we can attract fresh talent.

Just as there has been no single contributor to the current staffing crisis, there is equally no single solution. Fundamentally, it comes down to some fresh thinking, looking beyond the status quo and listening to the things that would allow new recruits to consider hospitality as a viable career, and make our existing workforce feel valued.