business omwan sitting on chair in line of empty chairs, waiting for an interview. concept for recruitment and retention challenges

There are particularly acute recruitment and retention challenges for leisure and tourism employers. We are in a candidate driven job market and there is pressure on the sector to meet anticipated customer demand in the busy summer months.

A new study from Barclays Corporate Banking released on 16 June 2022 reports what many employers in this sector will have seen: there is a pent-up demand for socialising, holidays and experiences.

However, potential growth and opportunities could be detrimentally affected by increasing business costs and challenges for recruitment and retention.

Over nine in ten (94%) of hospitality and leisure businesses are finding it difficult to recruit, in particular, with vacancies for cleaning staff (20%), front of house (18%) and delivery staff (16%) running high. Recruitment difficulties stretch to back of house roles too, with 17% of businesses finding it hard to source for finance positions and 16% for senior management positions.

What steps can an employer take to stand out from the crowd and be an employer of choice?

Here are some points we have been advising on recently.

Recruitment and retention tips

Bringing recruits into the UK

Some employers are looking to address their recruitment and retention challenges by bringing staff from abroad to the UK. The most common way is sponsorship under a skilled worker visa. See our recent article on this for hospitality and hotelier employers.

We still have a strict immigration system and it now includes European nationals. But, in some ways our new system has made sponsoring migrant staff easier. For example, the salary threshold has decreased to £25,600 (or the going rate for a particular job). The skill and salary requirements mean this isn’t a silver bullet solution for all vacancies, but there is certainly scope for recruitment into the sector here.

If you want bring someone to the UK as an employer, you will need to apply for a sponsorship licence and this can take a couple of months. Our Immigration Team can advise on this and even make the application for you.

Cash can be king

According to the recent Barclays report almost one in five employers have increased staff pay. Senior managers are receiving the biggest salary bump with an average increase of 7.7%, which amounts to £2,014 for a full time employee. This is followed by housekeeping staff (7.4% / £1,642), bar staff (7.3% / £1,145) and finance staff (7.3% / £1,936). Kitchen staff will receive an average increase of 6.9%, which is equivalent to a boost of £1,196 for a full-timer.

Salaries and bonuses are still the main part of the remuneration package. It is reported that 22% of hospitality and leisure operators are introducing bonuses.

We are finding employers are asking us to help them be more inventive and personalised in their approach. For example, pay increases and bonus schemes are more strategic, in line with an employee’s particular contribution, the business’s financial performance and needs. Payment of bonuses can be well timed by savvy employers to help retain seasonal staff. Staff expectations can include tips and troncs, which should be HMRC compliant.

But, ongoing remuneration increases may not be realistic or sustainable, so what else can employers do to recruit and retain?

Flexibility and hybrid working

Apparently 23% of hotel and leisure operators are introducing permanent flexible working arrangements to recruit and retain staff. This won’t be appropriate for all positions in the sector, but worth taking into account. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, staff are not only concerned about balancing finances, but also their wellbeing (and that of their family). With lots of people now used to working from home, we are finding employees want to keep doing that and/or have flexible working hours or shifts.

We have been advising employers on how to manage this alongside with meeting their business needs. That can mean encouraging staff back to work and being more flexible on a longer term basis. See our article on managing hybrid working in the workplace, which can be very appealing to existing staff and new recruits.

Widening the recruitment pool

Other steps you can take are to widen your recruitment pool. It is easier than ever for staff to work from home or on a hybrid basis. You can recruit younger staff using available funding, for example on apprenticeships and grow your own talent pool. Apprenticeships can also be used for older staff, including in your current workforce. Consider appealing to those outside your usual applicant demographic, for example, could you attract older staff back to work. Is accommodation a factor – can you provide this, including developing existing property, as part of your offered package so that staff can live onsite or nearby.

Upskilling staff and career development

Staff are often more likely to stay with your business if they see you are interested in investing in them and there is a career path with development opportunities. Employers in the sector are increasingly offering personal development programmes. This could be a way to avoid high staff turnover. If you are able to invest in your staff by way of upskilling them this could increase employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Employee benefits

It’s worth considering non-cash benefits as employees may be interested in what else you can offer them, which can sometimes be tax efficient for you or them. For example, increased pension contributions or free meals. More employers are offering the chance to buy extra holiday and Employee Assistance Programmes with access to counselling on a broad range of issues.

Culture and values

Employees are being more discerning about the organisations they choose to work for. Are you seen as an ethical employer and how are they going to be treated by you if they join your workforce?

We are advising on more value driven staff policies, including on the menopause.  A more value driven approach on environmental and social issues can appeal to employees.

Sustainability is becoming a concern for employers and their staff, and we have seen this in changing travel policies and policies on electric vehicles.

Employers who operate effective CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programmes can help create a stronger bond between the organisation and employees, boost morale and by keeping it local boost their profile and help employees and employers feel more connected.

Communication and engagement

Don’t overlook the importance of good, clear communication. This includes that staff need to understand what you are offering, what they need to do to get it and what it means in their pay packet.

Be committed to honest communication and employee engagement. Employees don’t expect their bosses to never make the wrong decisions or to tell them everything that is going on, but they do want to be kept informed of the big picture.

Employee engagement is more important than ever and can deliver massive business benefits, such as:

• Increased productivity, efficiency and innovation;
• Reduction in costs of turnover and hiring; and
• Increased reach of positive ‘word-of-mouth’ or social media marketing within your wider customer community.

Our team is experienced in helping employers to set up employment contracts of all types, including apprentices, and would be happy to help you.

If you would like to discuss recruitment and retention, please get in touch.