The hospitality industry is facing significant challenges with hiring, especially seasonal workers. Brexit and the pandemic have reshaped the recruitment market landscape. According to recently published figures, vacancy levels are 83% higher in this industry this year compared to March to May of 2019. As reported by The Caterer, job vacancies rose to 171,000 between February and April 2022. This was 6,000 higher than from January to March. The unemployment rate is very low – in June, it was estimated at 3.8%. This means that at the same time that there are many thousands of vacancies, there are very few people in the job marketplace looking for work.
Yet, even pre-pandemic, companies competed for the same talent ahead of the holiday season. Understanding how to get ahead and access the talent first is critical.
The hospitality industry in the UK has been hard-hit by both Brexit and the pandemic back to back. Figures show that in 2019, EU workers comprised 42% of the hospitality sector workforce, but as of late 2021, that had dropped to 32%. Restaurants are finding the situation particularly challenging, as are pubs. Traditionally, hospitality has relied on foreign-born, younger workers, particularly in seasonal roles. This is no longer as feasible as it was just a couple of years ago. This has meant labour prices have risen as well. At the same time, government analysis suggests that the food and accommodation sector was among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Hit with a multitude of restrictions, those that have survived are reported to generally be in a precarious position, with low-profit margins and significantly more debt than pre-pandemic.
Efforts are underway to try and get the UK Government to ease up the point-based immigration system so that companies can hire seasonal workers from abroad. Nothing is changing quickly; however, companies need to find strategies that work in addressing the problem. Learn how to get access to talent first through careful planning to attract the right job seekers.
Getting into the heads of job seekers and understanding what it is they want is critical to hiring success at the current time. One factor hospitality workers focus on is flexibility, and evidence suggests that people in this sector want "more flexible rotas." Indeed, according to a recent survey of hospitality workers, unsociable hours cause staff shortages (cited by 54% of respondents). Meanwhile, greater job flexibility was cited as a major contributor to higher job satisfaction. Employers in this sector need to pinpoint ways to offer this flexibility to bring workers into this field.
Looking at ways to attract job seekers that want seasonal work is likely to be the best way to secure candidates. Think about the sorts of perks that seasonal workers might like and consider this alongside what can feasibly be offered. For example, hotel businesses with a restaurant might offer cheap or free food as a good option. This won’t cost much, but it might tip the balance in hiring staff.
People want to be treated well, even if they only work with a company for one season. Think about improving onboarding for seasonal workers, so they feel more part of the wider team. These may “just” be seasonal workers, but ultimately, they represent the company and reflect the brand. Companies can consider ways to be more inclusive of seasonal workers. For example, updating the employer brand and EVP to include seasonal workers reflects a more inclusive culture that will feel welcoming. Companies can do this by updating their recruitment advertising to show that seasonal workers are valued.
Tip: Although some employees might only be seasonal workers, all teammates should be treated as integral team members and included in all company practices, especially advertising efforts. This can ultimately be better for engagement, culture, and employer brand.
Now, more than ever, it is important to get information about the business to job seekers earlier in the year. This helps raise awareness of the employer brand before other companies are out there, situating it in candidates' minds ahead of time. It also allows hospitality sector players to nurture audiences for longer, showcasing benefits ahead of the competition. If companies have advertised early and consistently for those looking for seasonal work, they will be at the front of the target market's minds.
The common problem is that many companies rely on the same tired old job advertisements year-in, year-out to attract candidates. Getting ahead of competitors can be boosted by refreshing advertisements and bringing them up to date, targeted specifically at the sought labour market.
Hiring professionals could consider a social media campaign to showcase the organisation and the benefits of working there. Another option, or perhaps as part of the same campaign, companies might create employee-generated videos and publish them before the season. This can help would-be seasonal workers get a better feel for what it is like to work at the company and be more compelling for them.
An integral component in the success of any seasonal work hiring operation is likely to be the candidate capture and candidate nurture processes. In candidate capture, this needs to consider what information the individual will benefit from and when. Mapping out the journey to understand the messaging needed to draw candidates into the business is needed
Attracting candidates is one thing, but nurturing them is also essential to keep them keen. Hiring professionals should consider the amount of effort they are asking candidates to put in. Remember, the more the candidate needs to do, the harder it is to convert them. Companies should also look at other ways to nurture candidates. For example, telling them about the benefits of working with the firm is important, but so too is “selling” the town where they will be working. Often, seasonal workers may come from elsewhere and may not be aware of all the possible opportunities and benefits.
Planning is critical to success in hiring sufficient seasonal talent to meet business needs at the current time. The plan must start early and be creative to compete with the sea of companies out there also chasing the same labour.
The plan should consider ways to streamline the recruitment and onboarding process. It should reflect an updated recruitment strategy for this year’s candidate-driven market. Drawn out timelines from start to finish of the application for seasonal work could lead to competitors snatching potential applicants away. Look for ways technology can be used, such as texting, to keep candidates engaged from the start and through their journey. Hiring professionals should ensure that job seekers will not be held up during the recruitment process. This includes everything from the initial application to interviews - and even the onboarding process.
Combatting hiring issues depends on using the right strategies to hire hospitality workers ahead of competitors. One way to do this is to specifically target those naturally seeking seasonal work and understand the ideal audience for the open vacancies. For example, school leavers may be looking to earn cash before going to university in September, while university students are also a good bet. Once these people are employed one year, giving them preferential treatment for coming back the next can be a good way of retaining them, making it easier to fill roles next year too. A benefit about these candidates is that they will not need training on their return either. Another great option is for retirees who might want seasonal work rather than a full schedule year-round.
Hiring professionals can also consider using employee referral systems. Seasonal workers are likely to know other people who are also looking for seasonal work. Incentivising encourages employees to refer friends and acquaintances and can help bring in more people with a similar mindset and attitude to people already in place. Groups such as students are likely to find this sort of incentive particularly attractive.
To improve the retention of seasonal workers, look at ways they can be retained throughout the season. Companies should not assume that all staff will stay for the entire season, so being proactive about this is helpful. Possibilities that can help with this might include a bonus or incentive for seasonal employees that work well throughout the season. This approach will help address the issue of staff shortages later on. A good understanding of job seekers and what they are looking for allows companies to develop incentives that will work for them. One way to better comprehend this could be by conducting employee sentiment surveys, ensuring seasonal staff is included. This helps get underneath their motivations, providing important input on what they seek from the role.
Attracting and retaining seasonal workers can be a real challenge, especially following Brexit. With the right strategy, plan, and incentives, hiring professionals can gain access to the best talent ahead of the crowd.
If you need help attracting seasonal workers, we'd be delighted to help!