Job vacancies in the hospitality sector are at an all-time high and the long-awaited recovery has been hampered by unprecedented skills and labour shortages. The impact of the pandemic, exacerbated by the implications of Brexit, has meant that around one in ten hospitality workers have left the industry in the past year. The Caterer estimates that this equates to around 92,000 workers. As has now become painfully apparent, many of those who left are not looking to return. Furthermore, staff retention within the industry has been severely impacted. Retention in the hospitality industry, pre-pandemic, was only around 70% according to a YouGov poll – this has now decreased even further.

Is it really all that surprising that these workers no longer want to work in the industry? Wages remain low and the perception in the UK is that hospitality is certainly not a career of choice. Between low salaries, unsociable working hours and highly pressurised working environments, it was clearly demonstrated in March of 2020 just how fickle job security in the sector could be. Critically, many workers left the industry because they perceived there to be minimal growth opportunities for them. It is evident that more action needs to be taken to combat the challenges that have been glaringly brought to light by the current socio-economic conditions.

Moreover, attracting skilled workers has become nigh on impossible and combined with an increase in staff turnover, this has further amplified the challenges facing hospitality businesses. A study by Big Hospitality stated poor retention in the industry itself costs the sector £275m per year. The cost of training hours was not included in this study, which makes one wonder what a more holistic figure may be.

There is good news though. While there is a skills shortage, upskilling seems to be a buzzword and a study by Deloitte uncovered that many professionals, even when they are about to bake their seventh banana bread in a lockdown, are still fully invested in their own professional development. A quarter of millennials and 27% of Gen Zs reported they learned new skills and improved their working capability during this period. The government has also been working closely with the sector and has implemented initiatives to support training the domestic workforce, while moving away from being reliant upon foreign labour. Cynical references to the impact of Brexit aside, the Kickstart Scheme is a great example of this and businesses should heed the advice of the government to invest in the development of their teams.

The solution for improvement

It would not be fair to provide such a stark picture of the industry without providing some suggestions as to how the situation might be improved. While investing in staff training will not solve all of the myriad issues currently facing hospitality businesses, it will go a long way in assuaging the current crisis. HOSPA presents its top four reasons for committing to the professional development of any team working in hospitality.

1. Implementing a formal training strategy to increase retention for career development opportunities: A recent industry study highlighted that one of the most common reasons why people leave hospitality is because they perceive there to be limited opportunities for career progression. Moreover, being flexible and enabling career development are two of the CIPD’s top five tips for improving retention in your business. Employers should, therefore, look to maximise opportunities that allow their teams to develop their skills. An online professional develop course, for example, would enable a team to expand their growth, while providing the flexibility to maintain their current work and personal commitments.

2. Upskilling to stand out from the competition and avoid recruiting: With the increase in turnover, those businesses that have been successful in their recruitment are encountering a situation where they have a multitude of new starters that need to be trained vigorously as quickly as possible. Not only will a robust commitment to training ensure that these new starters receive the support they need, however, this gives an edge over the competition when attracting talent. Some of the most common interview questions by candidates are ‘what sort of training will I receive’, and ‘what progression is there within the company?’

3. Job security: The pandemic has made job security one of the most important considerations for both prospective and current employees. Gaining trust is of the utmost importance. By committing to development, the company is sending a signal to the team that it cares about its well-being, and it is also fully dedicated to longer-term growth. A company is unlikely to devote resources to a talent it does not envisage working with in the longer term and this is also likely to tie in the most capable employees to the business for the duration of the training. Formal, on the job, training gives employees a clear indication of how long the company expects them to be in the role for and keeps them engaged.

4. Change the perception of the industry: Many would agree that the perception of the hospitality industry in the UK needs a revamp. By supporting the training of teams and facilitating their growth, companies are assisting to eliminate one of the main reasons people leave the industry. As Gavin Smith, director at Pizza Pilgrims highlighted, “we have a wonderful industry that offers the opportunity to build a career and it’s important that we are elevating this message as a collective industry”. With more formalised training this helps to bring hospitality on par with other industries, and also improves the credibility of hospitality as a career of choice.

Professional development programmes

With all the discussion about the benefits of investing in team growth, it would be a pertinent time to discuss HOSPA Professional Development Programmes. HOSPA is a non-profit educational organisation that delivers professional development programmes in revenue management, financial management and asset management. Each certificate or diploma can be studied independently depending on requirements and study is completed in the learner’s own time. This allows the team to continue developing without putting aside their personal and work commitments.

Additionally, within the industry many employees at entry level progress very quickly, but they may not have the necessary skills, such as finance management, despite being promoted to a finance role. The programmes are specific to hospitality and are incredibly useful for those who would like to improve.

The needs of the hospitality industry

Working with HOSPA ensures that your teams are kept fully up-to-date with industry trends and developments. It understands the complexity of hospitality operations. That is why learning is completed at the pace of the learner and our content is complementary to what is required in daily roles. HOPSA’s programmes are endorsed by the Institute of Hospitality and successful completion of its Professional Diploma in Strategic Hospitality Finance Management provides exemptions from further professional study with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

It also fully appreciates that not everybody wants to progress and to be promoted. Nonetheless, these same individuals do want the opportunity to feel like they are still learning and developing. Its finance certificates are excellent examples of this, where – within its cohorts – it has finance professionals that do not want to progress, but desire more formal training and skills.

Each learner is allocated a tutor who is an industry professional and expert in their subject matter, and all assignments are work based. Its applied revenue management project is an excellent example and delivers very tangible gains for the business, as well as the professional development of the whole team.

In 2021, HOSPA also launched its asset management programme, which is designed to assist those within the industry to gain a deeper understanding of hospitality asset management. The programme follows the life of an asset to achieving operational stabilisation and successful divestment, and meets the needs of those wishing to specialise in this increasingly indispensable role. In the current context of the challenges facing the industry, it seems like a no brainer for businesses to be investing in the professional development of their teams.