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Hospitality and leisure: six top tips for attracting talent post-pandemic

Recruitment and retention are top priorities for employers as Covid-19 restrictions loosen and recovery begins. Mentor’s Hannah Butterworth and Katie Baker share their insight on how businesses can attract the right candidates.

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted all sectors, but hospitality and leisure have been hit particularly heavily by restrictions. Many workers within these sectors who were furloughed or made redundant could be likely to retrain or look for work in new industries as a result – meaning businesses will face fresh challenges in attracting talent as they begin to recruit again. Indeed, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in February to April 2021 there were an estimated 657,000 vacancies in the UK, with the accommodation and food services sector seeing the most notable increase in vacant roles. 

Here, Mentor has compiled six tips for hospitality and leisure businesses to improve their employee value proposition and attraction strategies, and help them engage the right candidates.

1. Be open-minded about previous experience

If you made redundancies during the pandemic but are now in a position to recruit, your first port of call could be former postholders whose skills and experience you can be confident in.

However, previous experience doesn’t necessarily need to be sector-specific. Businesses should keep an open mind in considering candidates from other sectors who are able to demonstrate transferable skills. These candidates can bring a wider range of experience that could prove to be a valuable asset to your business, as well as expanding your selection pool. By shortlisting these candidates for interview, you will be able to explore their background further and drill down to their suitability for the position.

2. Include training opportunities in your job advert

As markets continue to shift as a result of the pandemic, the opportunity to develop new and transferable professional skills will be an attractive proposition for candidates looking to improve their future job prospects. Offering such training can also help retain talent within your organisation, as well as improving the overall skill level of your workforce. Businesses should therefore review their training practices to ensure there are sufficient opportunities for learning and skills development – and state these clearly within the job advert to help capture the attention of motivated learners. 

Businesses should keep an open mind in considering candidates from other sectors who are able to demonstrate transferable skills

3. Refine your interview process

Interviews are the best way to get to know candidates better and make a considered decision on who would be successful in a position. It is important to keep in mind that under the Equality Act 2010, potential employees are protected from the moment an application is made. Taking a consistent approach, keeping questions job-specific and ensuring notes are taken at interview are key ways to demonstrate that all candidates are treated fairly. 

The interview is also the candidate’s opportunity to find out if the role is right for them. Encourage an open conversation and be honest about the values, culture and benefits of your business. Promising more or less at this point could impact on the retention of good employees down the line. 

For roles that are more senior or require a complex set of skills, you could consider psychometric testing in addition to the traditional interview process. These tests can provide greater insight into a candidate’s ability, aptitude, personality and decision-making processes. The assessment should be carried out by a trained professional, and there is a variety of providers who can assist in this.

⁠4. Offer flexibility where possible

As a result of the pandemic there has been a shift towards encouraging greater flexibility, both in terms of working hours and time spent in the workplace. While some hospitality and leisure businesses will be restricted in this area, any flexibility you can offer should be clearly included in the job advert to capitalise on candidates looking for these opportunities.

Flexibility should also be factored into the interview process. Depending on your business and the roles you are recruiting for, you might consider holding interviews virtually via a conferencing platform. This can be a great alternative to a phone interview as a way of getting to know a candidate better during the initial stage of the recruitment process. At the same time, offering the opportunity to attend interviews remotely will prevent your selection pool from being restricted by geography, giving you a wider talent base to choose from.

5. Consider hiring an apprentice

Apprenticeships can be a fantastic way of bringing fresh talent into a business – and the government offers support to help you do so. For employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3m, the Apprenticeship Levy will help you offset the cost of an apprenticeship. 

Smaller employers who do not pay the Levy share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with the government, which is called ‘co-investment’. For new apprenticeships starting on or after 1 April 2019 employers pay 5% towards the cost of apprenticeship training, and the government pays the rest up to the funding band maximum. 

Businesses will receive £3,000 for new apprentices of any age who have an employment start date of 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. Employers can find out more information and register for the government’s apprenticeship service at GOV.UK.

6. Put effort into your onboarding process

A successful recruitment process does not end when a candidate is offered a role – the induction or onboarding process is just as crucial. Putting an induction plan in place can help your new starter feel supported as they get to grips with the basics. And setting aside time for them to familiarise themselves with company policies and benefits, and be clear on expected workplace behaviour, can avoid tricky employee relations issues further down the line.

Activities such as sourcing a ‘buddy’ for their first few weeks, who they can shadow or seek support from in the day-to-day tasks of the role, can also be a great way to embed the new starter into the organisation.

If you feel you could benefit from free business tools, resources and guidance, sign up to NatWest MentorDigital and get access to employment law, HR, and health and safety support. You don’t need to bank with NatWest. NatWest Mentor also provides advice for more complex workforce matters, through a subscription service. Mentor’s subscription services incur a cost. 

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