How to combat the looming UK staffing crisis

empty chairs - recruitment problems concept
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The UK faces a staffing crisis and as companies continue to make common mistakes in recruitment, it’s time to consider what can be done to attract new people and retain current employees.

Multiple sectors across the UK are facing staffing crises, which are anticipated to heighten post-Brexit. The hospitality industry for example, which is the fourth biggest employer in the UK faces a lack of people to fill the vacancies.

In 2018 alone, there have been up to 375,000 positions which needed to be filled and in restaurants and bars in particular, it stands at more than 125,000 vacant positions. It’s also predicted we will lose one million workers in the next decade if EU migration is limited.

As our reliance on European workers may be forced to end, it’s more important than ever for businesses across all sectors to future proof and ensure there are people to fill the roles.

Currently between 12% and 24% of hospitality staff in the UK are EU nationals but according to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) definitions, hospitality workers would be categorised as ‘low-skilled’, meaning they wouldn’t be prioritised for jobs in the UK.

This could have serious implications on the industry’s ability to fill roles and will undoubtedly lead to further testing and uncertain times.

As our reliance on European workers may be forced to end, it’s more important than ever for businesses across all sectors to future proof and ensure there are people to fill the roles.

Without staff, businesses will simply grind to a halt. Over the years, we’ve worked with thousands of employers and helped them attract new people through training programmes. However, we often see the same common recruitment mistakes happening time and time again:

Distinguishing your offer

The way a business advertises a role is absolutely key to attracting not only people, but the right people. With a crowded marketplace and everyone vying for candidates, distinguishing your position from others is vital.

Look at the language used in your job advertisements and ensure it reflects that of those you’re trying to target.

A job vacancy can stand out from the rest if it shows qualities that people might want from a job. For example, a pub could advertise a barman position by talking up the flexibility and social aspects of the job: “We're looking for a sociable beer fan to work flexible hours in our team of hospitality professionals, we'll help you develop to be the best you can be.”

Look at the language used in your job advertisements and ensure it reflects that of those you’re trying to target.

Showcase a career, not just a job

Attracting the younger generation is key to ensuring businesses are fuelling their workforce from the bottom up – remember, this next generation of workers is looking for a future.

They want to be able to visualise a pathway that will enable them to climb the ladder and enjoy a successful career; not just a job that pays the bills. If this pathway isn’t made clear then businesses are at real risk of losing out on potential candidates.

Less than a quarter (22%) of 16-21-year-olds in the UK say they would consider a career in hospitality. However, one in five respondents (19%) admitted they weren’t aware a career in hospitality could lead to roles that span design, engineering, finance, HR, law and marketing; and more than a quarter (26%) thought working in a hotel mainly entailed dealing with difficult guests.

Attracting the younger generation is key to ensuring businesses are fuelling their workforce from the bottom up.

This is a classic example of how career pathways and varied opportunities have not been made clear. Young adults are therefore being put off a role that could lead to a long, successful and enjoyable career. 

Don’t talk your industry down

Many industries in the UK battle against stigma and misconceptions that, all too often, are outdated and untrue. The fact is that businesses need to find a way to cut through the noise, challenge outdated perceptions and showcase the modern reality of the job.

For example, the hospitality industry pays as well as other sectors but so often all you hear is that it is minimum wage and unsociable hours.

This is reflected in figures from Best Western’s Career Index which show just 17% of parents view a career in hospitality in a positive light and one third would actively discourage their children from working in the sector.

We need to find a way to pass the ‘parent test’ and the way to do that is to shout about what a career in the hospitality industry can bring.

Not only is the pay at least as good as many other sectors, but much of the trade is learned whilst on the job, meaning people are acquiring skills that help them become more employable in the future.

Learning and development

For many of the younger generation foreseeing a future in a role is so important. This includes a clear career pathway, opportunities for progression, feeling ‘part of it’, a coaching and mentoring environment with transparency and competition that they can get stuck into.

One way forward-thinking businesses can look to tackle this is by upskilling current staff and investing in high-quality training via apprenticeships.

Many businesses invest in this already – but are they shouting about it? I was judging a recent award and we saw lots of excellent staff development programmes but only one in five of the employers we met actually mentioned them in their recruitment. What a waste!

Talking about learning and development opportunities will naturally attract career driven candidates who want to grow, learn new skills and carve out a successful career for themselves. This is especially prevalent with the current skills shortages many sectors are facing at the moment.

One way forward-thinking businesses can look to tackle this is by upskilling current staff and investing in high-quality training via apprenticeships.

Projections suggest a total of 1.3 million additional employees will be needed across the hospitality and tourism sector by 2024. While apprenticeships aren’t the sole solution to fill this widening hole in the workforce, they are certainly one of the most effective methods available to businesses.

Apprenticeships are available for most roles in the hospitality industry, for people of all ages, and range from level 2 right through to degree level. What’s more, they don’t rely on previous qualifications, so if the apprentice has a degree in an unrelated subject they can still be eligible for an apprenticeship.

The future

With Brexit on the horizon and uncertainty for many businesses, now is the time to make the most of recruitment opportunities and get a strong workforce in place.

Standing out against competitors by ensuring job roles are enticing and that long-term career opportunities are being clearly communicated will play a vital part in the future success of businesses.

About Caragh Seymour

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