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Why investing in professional development attracts more talent and increases retention

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 1 in 10 hospitality workers have left the industry in the last year. 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.

Why? 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 most certainly not a career of choice. Between low salaries, unsociable working hours and highly pressured working environments, it was clearly demonstrated in March of last year 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. Evidently, 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 £275 million per year. It should be noted that the cost of training hours were not included in this study, which makes one wonder what a more holistic figure may be.

At entry level one only needs to mention the word “housekeeping” to a hotel manager to understand how desperate the situation in some hotels has now become. Salaries of £14 to £15 an hour for Room Attendants which were initially met with incredulity, are now received by responses of resigned necessity. With the increased guest focus on hygiene this is tangibly understandable, however, with the additional complexity of restructuring one needs to be mindful that there are many in new positions, who may not necessarily have the skills to exceed in their newly appointed role. Revenue management especially, is a specialization that springs to mind.

There is good news though. It is not just doom and gloom. Whilst there is a skills shortage, upskilling seems to be a buzzword at the moment and a study by Deloitte uncovered that many professionals, even when they are about to bake their 7th 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 improve 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, whilst 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 absolutely heed the advice of the government to invest more in the development of their teams. Upskilling has been defined as to implement “training that improves an employee’s existing skillset, allowing them to progress in their current role and bring added value to a company.” As a recent report from McKinsey & Company concluded; businesses that undertake upskilling in the aftermath of the pandemic are likely to emerge much stronger from the crisis.


It would not be fair to provide such a stark picture of the industry without providing some suggestions as to how we can improve the situation. Whilst investing in staff training will not solve all of the issues currently facing hospitality businesses, it will go a long way in assuaging the current crisis.

Here are our top four reasons for committing to the professional development of your team.

  1. Implementing a formal training strategy to increases retention as it provides opportunities for career development

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 your team to expand their growth, whilst providing the flexibility to maintain their current work and personal commitments. Very topical in the current discussions surrounding staff wellbeing.

In fact, the first pledge of Sally Beck’s progressive Hotelier’s Charter is to “Commit to developing team members through training”. If Sally, Hotelier of the Year 2019, The Master Innholders, UKHospitality, St Julian’s Scholars and The Institute of Hospitality are advocating for the development of your team, a wise person would do well to head their advice.

  1. Upskilling allows one to stand out from the competition and avoid the requirement to recruiting altogether

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 you an edge over your 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?”

  1. 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 you are sending a signal to your team that you care about their wellbeing, and you are also fully dedicated to their longer term growth. A company is unlikely to devote resources to a talent they do not envisage working with in the longer term and this is also likely to tie in your most capable employees to your business for the duration of the training. Formal, on the job, training gives them a clear indication of how long you expect them to be in the role for and keeps them engaged.

  1. Change the perception of the industry

Most would agree that the perception of the hospitality industry in the UK needs a revamp. By supporting the training of your teams and facilitating their growth you 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 formalized training this helps to bring hospitality on par with other industries and improves the credibility of hospitality as a career of choice.


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