From education to employment

Call to action: Why the industry must work together to celebrate hospitality as a career of choice  

Learning and development leads at some of the UK’s biggest hospitality chains are calling for more collaboration within their organisations to tackle significant staffing challenges. 

Learning and development leads from across the hospitality industry joined together at the Loving Hospitality 2022 Summit on 1st December to discuss the effect of staffing challenges on operations teams, mental wellbeing of employees and impact on revenue as salary costs rise.  

The event is hosted and run by the UK’s largest apprenticeship provider, Lifetime, which partners with a broad range of leading employers from the hospitality sector.

Pre-pandemic, the hospitality industry provided around £130bn in economic activity annually, employing around 3.2 million people. Yet, the supply and demand issues currently experienced in the industry has seen hospitality vacancies reach 158,000 in the third quarter of 2022. Between August and September 2022 alone it is claimed that 8.3% of the workforce left the sector, the highest level since March 2020.  

The consensus of the Summit was that no individual organisation will meet these challenges on their own and that ‘coherent and collaborative’ working across the industry is required.

The top four staffing challenges discussed were: 

  • Attracting more people into the industry to plug skills gaps and reduce the number of vacancies in the sector 
  • Increasing retention  
  • Identifying and championing industry and organisational supporters
  • Launching more early careers and promoting growth and promotion 

Impact of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are cited as a solution to many staffing challenges as well as meeting DE&I objectives. They provide a direct route into the industry that could have a big impact on retention. On average, 73% of employees are still working for the same employer two years after completing their apprenticeship.

When combined with the 18 months that it takes to complete the apprenticeship, employers are looking at an average length of service of 3.5 years, remarkably higher than the current average staff turnover. 

Apprenticeships have a big impact on talent planning, with 52% of employees that complete an apprenticeship going on to be promoted or given additional responsibilities.  

With social mobility and DE&I an increasing imperative for organisations, apprenticeships are making a notable contribution. Currently 27% of employees working towards an apprenticeship with Lifetime are living in a deprived area. 

Despite these attainments, more work is required at an organisational level to enlist support for apprenticeships as a sustainable recruitment strategy. Currently only 30% of operations teams understand and buy-into their apprenticeship strategy. The main barrier to operation team engagement is other organisational pressures and priorities (cited by 84% of operations teams).  

The task to align apprenticeships to other priorities of the business is weighty but L&D leaders have summarised how this can be improved:

  • Better layered communication to operations teams about the benefits of apprenticeships 
  • Demonstrate ROI of apprenticeship schemes 
  • Celebrate apprenticeship successes within the organisation and champion achievers 
  • Manage expectations of operations teams about apprentices to promote a culture of mentorship and support 
  • Remove misleading language such as ‘off the job training’ which has negative connotations for teams and replace with ‘continual professional development’ 

Dan Sullivan, head of partnerships, hospitality at Lifetime comments,

“It was great to see leaders from the UK’s biggest hospitality chains come together to discuss the important challenges in the industry and unite on remedial measures.  

“Despite the staffing challenges currently being faced by the sector, it’s encouraging that the industry overall is growing. In the Southwest alone there are 50,000 new hotel beds set to launch in 2023/24. Investment in the sector is there, as well as public demand.

“Hospitality provides not only a job, but a career with compelling progression opportunities for all ages. Whilst a perception change may be required from operations teams, collaborative working with measurable targets could see apprenticeships transform the sector and alleviate many industry pain points.” 

Lifetime developed Loving Hospitality as a hospitality partner network in 2018. Collaboration through the network allows Lifetime and its hospitality partners to tackle the key challenges in the industry and embrace new opportunities.

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