With the festive season just around the corner, many hotels, restaurants and pubs are beginning to make plans for this usually busy period. However, with an estimated shortage of 200,000 workers, many venues will have no choice but to close this Christmas and Boxing Day.
Industry leaders have attributed hospitality’s struggles to the devastating combination of Covid-19 and Brexit, but there is also a wider issue around the culture and perception of these jobs in the UK. Across Europe, in places such as France and Italy, hospitality jobs are well respected and even coveted, with many aspiring to make long and successful careers in this industry.
I believe that more must be done to help UK hospitality workers feel supported and proud of what they do, and encourage more to view hospitality jobs as a valued career path with a plethora of exciting opportunities. Having spent 13 years with Burgh Island, a picturesque Devon hotel that champions career development, I have experienced firsthand how a supportive working environment can encourage hospitality workers to learn, grow and achieve.
To ease the staffing crisis, it’s fundamental that we encourage hospitality staff to see their jobs as a career, rather than a short-term means of making some money. Trained at the ESO Euroschool Hotel Academy, where the ethos encompasses the idea of “lifelong learning”, I have always taken my career in hospitality seriously and viewed it as long-term. But many do not share my view — Currently, the hospitality sector has a staff turnover rate of 30%, double that of the UK average.
However, with the concept of “succession planning”, hospitality can overcome its high turn-over rates. Succession planning is a staff-centric concept that prioritises employee growth within the company, with potential leaders identified and supported in their development so that they can progress into more senior roles.
Likewise, the sector would benefit massively from investment in education, such as training programmes or apprenticeships that present jobs in this sector as careers with infinite potential. These initiatives are a gateway to a career full of unique adventures and opportunities – without my training and career planning, I would not be working at the luxury Burgh Island Hotel on its own tidal island, where I catch a sea tractor to work – I’m sure not many people can say that!
Valuable and relevant training
I strongly believe that continued personal development should not be reserved for office jobs. It is just as important for those working in hospitality to be given opportunities to gain useful and transferable skills. When your employer invests time and money into developing your skills, it makes you feel valued, appreciated and respected. As well as teaching employees new, relevant skills, this also fosters a supportive environment that will attract new recruits and reduce staff turnover.
Moreover, employers should empower workers to develop the skills and knowledge which matter to them most. At the Burgh Island Hotel, where sustainability and eco-friendly practices are an important part of its unique identity, every member of staff is trained in energy awareness. Similarly, in the kitchen, our chefs are specifically trained to work with local and seasonal produce – with 80% of our ingredients sourced from local communities within a 30-mile radius, in keeping with our shared passion for sustainable practices.
Not only are many of the skills taught highly useful to the running of Burgh Island, but they are also readily transferable to other roles and useful in our lives away from work. When employers show this consideration for an employee’s professional development, then they are far more likely to stick around.
Learning from Europe
The situation is reaching a breaking point, with 88% of recruiting businesses admitting labour shortages are their biggest concern. Trade association UKHospitality is calling on the government to create temporary visas for hospitality workers who had to leave the UK following Brexit, and leaders in the sector have written an open letter to the Prime Minister to act on this request.
I don’t believe this is the end of European skills in our hospitality industry but, if visas are provided, it is important that we take the opportunity to learn from our continental neighbours.
I think the UK has a great deal to learn from Europe – there is a reason you don’t see staffing shortages over there quite like you do here. There, people do not fall into hospitality jobs because they felt school was not for them or because they didn’t know what else to do. In Europe working in hospitality comes with a huge amount of pride and respect.With the right approach to long-term recruitment, staff training and fostering supportive environments , we can level up the hospitality sector and put an end to staff shortages – for good.