With employee engagement an integral part of hospitality’s recovery from the COVID crisis, a panel session at CGA’s Big Peach 2020 Digital Experience delivered expert advice for optimising team performance. Here are five big HR messages to take into 2021.

1 Hire smart

COVID-related job losses have increased the talent pool available to employers in 2020, and Caterer.com says jobseeker visits doubled during September. “We’ve got an unwanted gift of a skills glut,” said Kathy Dyball, its head of marketing. Matt Snell, CEO of the Gusto restaurant group, said he was getting up to 300 applications for positions at the moment—but while that needs careful management, it hasn’t altered recruitment principles. “There’s an abundance of talent out there… But I don’t think employers’ needs have fundamentally changed. What we were looking for in fantastic team members remains the same.” Selecting the right hires is crucial in a challenging market, said CGA’s client director of food and retail, Fiona Speakman. “Getting the right people in the right jobs is more important than ever before.”

2 Take care on inductions

Time and money spent inducting and training new hires pays off, panellists agreed. “The first 90 days are crucial… The more time you can give people to embed and understand the business, the better they’re going to be,” said Jamie Campbell, chief operating officer at CPL Learning. “We tell our GMs that when they hire someone it is the most important decision they’ll make that week,” added Matt Snell.

3 Focus on wellbeing

In a year of stress and uncertainty for many people, all businesses need to focus on team members’ wellbeing. “The last 12 months have brought it to the fore and shown how important it is,” said Matt Snell. An open door policy and the freedom to ask questions anonymously can help staff feel they are being listened to, he said. CPL Learning has shared wellbeing resources for free, and employers shouldn’t shy from engaging about the subject, said Jamie Campbell. “People need to feel confident having conversations about personal circumstances.” Mental health should also be a focus in recruitment, added Kathy Dyball. “Employers say they’re looking for resilient individuals who look after their own wellbeing, because it’s one of the emotionally intelligent skillsets that people need now.”

4 Sell hospitality as a career

Panellists agreed about the need to update the sector’s image as a place to work, and sell its potential. “The challenge is making sure that people see hospitality as a long term career,” said Jamie Campbell. Examples of those who have risen through the ranks are vital, but they need to be realistic, said Matt Snell. “Hospitality is an amazing career—it’s the ultimate meritocracy. But it’s hard work, and we need to be honest with people about that.”

5 Plan for Brexit

The potential effects of the UK’s transition from the European Union at the end of this year have been overtaken by COVID concerns. But while staff availability is currently high, Brexit could lead to hiring difficulties if freedom of movement is compromised. “The Brexit impact can’t be underestimated. We stopped talking about it for a while, but it’s still coming… Skills shortages will return,” said Kathy Dyball.

To watch the Big Peach 2020 Digital Experience’s people session in full, watch below or click here.



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