Worker Shortages: What H&L Sector Employers Can Do to Win at Recruitment in 2022

By Simon Armstrong, senior manager in the Hospitality & Leisure sector at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP. (www.menzies.co.uk)

Following the forced lockdowns and other restrictions, the biggest problem the pandemic has caused for the hospitality & leisure sector undoubtedly lies in recruitment.According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 300,000 workers have left the sector since March 2020, leaving critical gaps that are proving hard to fill.What can employers do to attract and recruit workers successfully in 2022?

To address worker shortages, employers in the sector should consider ways to improve employee engagement with the business’ culture, brand, and ethos. Business performance in the sector is directly linked to the performance of individual employees, so it is important to keep the workforce engaged and well-motivated.

With many employees opting to leave the industry to try their hand at new careers during the pandemic, the employment pool has contracted significantly.To attract candidates for vacant positions, employers must focus on promoting the benefits of a career in hospitality.There have been some recent pushes within the industry to better promote how rewarding the hospitality sector can be as a vocation.As an example,Tom Kerridge has produced videos featuring long-serving staff from his restaurant group to improve how the industry is perceived in respect of long-term career prospects.

They must also look for ways to motivate and incentivise employees and communicate this effectively as part of the recruitment process. For example, what benefits can employees expect to receive? Are there any long- term rewards on offer? Is there an opportunity for career progression? And will sufficient training be provided?

As well as focusing on staff engagement, employers should take steps to find out what candidates are looking for, whether that’s regular hours, improved pay and benefits, access to cafeteria-style rewards and incentives or wellbeing programmes.To gain a better understanding of what staff want, they should seek feedback from current and potential employees.This should ideally be obtained during real-time conversations, which provide

vital insights and tailored input, rather than an annual survey with tick box responses. Harnessing the power of this feedback data is key, as this will enable the human resources team to identify any gaps in employee experience, which may need to be addressed.

Employers should also focus on perfecting the application process, whether this is managed through their own website or using an external platform. User-friendly apps such as Indeed-flex, for example, allow candidates to apply quickly and easily, using their smartphone. Using this type of software also encourages employers to provide clear and accessible information. Making the recruitment process as streamlined as possible and providing candidates with all the information they need about the role on offer will encourage applications and create a positive first impression of the business.

When a hire has been made, sufficient training and a warm onboarding process will help to get employees off to a good start. Pairing this with a simple work schedule and systems that allow workers to track pay, taxes and pension will help settle employees into their new role and make them feel part of the company. Employers should also make sure each worker has a clear idea of the career path open to them, with a plan for their individual growth and development.This plan should set out transparent goals and objectives, backed by a timetable of regular 121s and reviews to help keep them on track.

Intense competition for skilled workers, coupled with uncertainty about the potential for further pandemic- related disruption, means employers in the sector may need to find creative approaches to filling vacancies.

Temporary staffing agencies may be an option, and apprenticeships that offer workers with a real opportunity for career progression can also be an attractive option. Employers should also consider hosting recruitment days, as these can help to show workers what a job in the sector would be like, while creating an opportunity for them to meet existing staff and have a look behind the scenes. Existing staff could also be incentivised to introduce candidates and share social media posts about jobs on offer.

In summary, whilst the sector is in the midst of a staffing crisis, there are many tactics that employers can use to attract and recruit employees. By increasing engagement, understanding what employees are looking for, and making the most of available platforms and resources, they can succeed at recruitment and strengthen staff loyalty in the process.