Industry’s focus on ‘our people’ heightened by pandemic
Industry’s focus on ‘our people’ heightened by pandemic
30 NOVEMBER 2020 8:31 AM

With hotel staff rosters at bare minimums, hoteliers must stress the human skills required with new recruits, GMs and employment experts say.

LONDON—Hiring and recruitment teams must prioritize finding candidates with the best personal skills, according to sources, who added recent graduates must not be overlooked as many seasoned professionals are exploring new opportunities.

Speaking at a panel titled “Empowering employees and encouraging flexibility” at the online/hybrid conference HOSPACE, Michael Heyward, managing director at business advisory Heyward Hospitality Solutions, said when the industry does turn the corner from the COVID-19 pandemic, companies must have their core workforce ready for whatever the new business environment brings.

“The idea that our people make all the difference, which in normal times is fine and easy to say, is crucial during a pandemic,” Heyward said.

He added “our people” can mean those working from home, those furloughed and even new hires.

Sally Beck, GM of the Royal Lancaster London, said she expects employees will be more picky when choosing their employer.

“They’ll see during these troubled times how employers treat their employees. Flexibility and engagement are needed more now than ever,” she said.

Joanne Taylor-Stagg, GM of The Athenaeum, said 2020 has shown the hotel industry that management and staff need to be able to adapt, take on new roles and succeed with smaller teams.

“The pandemic has forced our roles to change, become more diverse, and (forced us to) do things we have not before or not for years and years. We have had to be more creative, and you need a phenomenal team, your absolute go-to team,” she said.

Taylor-Stagg said one interesting outcome of the crisis is that it “has shown what amazing things can (be achieved) with smaller teams that are more engaged, creative and empowered.”

Thomas Finn, director of recruitment firm Edwards & Finn, said human skills must be reinforced.

“There will be less of the sales element, and more of the human in recruitment. We need to empower the people who are on the market,” he said.

Finn added his firm is maintaining its relationships with companies even if they’re freezing hires or not hiring as often.

“I personally am learning where recruitment sits, that we reach out to firms to say we are here to help, not to say do you have jobs, (but) if you do not have anything now, let me know when you do,” he said.

Beck said her hotel has signed on to a new hospitality industry employment charter, despite much of the industry currently being in a holding pattern on, or reducing, staffing.

“We start by treating teams like adults. I said right from the beginning that it is unlikely we’ll get through (the crisis) without redundancies,” Beck said. She added she also tapped her remaining staff to see what additional skills they have.

Taylor-Stagg said that integrity and honesty are absolutely key.

“Now we have a team that is able to do anything, but we’ve been saying goodbye to wonderful people who did nothing wrong,” she said. “If you said to me, ‘We could run a hotel on the numbers we have now,’ I would have been surprised, and there (are) a lot of good people out there looking for jobs. This is the first time for ages where supply is larger than demand.”

Another focus on recruitment must be on finding fresh faces, Finn said.

“Graduates are terrified, thinking they have nothing to offer,” he said. “(Graduates) do need to get creative, too. Do not tell me how many job offers you’ve applied for. Show the human in you. We are desperately in need of people who will give this industry a boost. We need fantastic people because this industry is fantastic.”

Beck said with so much trepidation in the marketplace, the old acorn as to whether the hotel industry is a valid career will raise its head again.

“I did not go to university, started as a trainee on £50 ($66.18) a week. It can be done, but there has to be a career path and enlightened leadership,” she said. “A charter will contain what we need to do in terms of diversity and sustainability, all things we should be doing as a good employer and will increase our standing in Joe Public’s eyes.”

Panelists said mentoring, coaching and training with a balanced social life must be offered to job candidates.

“Right now, scholarships are not going to happen, so it is about other ways of maintaining engagement,” Taylor-Stagg said.

Legal issues in the UK
Carolyn Brown, partner, head of client legal services at business advisory RSM U.K., underlined some of the recent tweaks to U.K. legislation that have occurred as the country moves through its second lockdown, and furlough and other schemes are extended into 2021.

She said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme now has been extended through 31 March 2021, and claims for furlough payments in November 2020 must be submitted by 14 December. She added that 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked can be claimed up to a cap of £2,500 ($3,340.10) per month.

“The scheme will be reviewed in January,” Brown said. “I dare to hope that now the scheme has been extended, (firms) have a settled position and some clarity.”

She added companies must monitor existing National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage legislation and how it relates to the temporary pandemic schemes.

“Also, (the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service) says that those working from home must get the same wages as they would if they worked in an office, as long as they work the same hours,” she said.

More information on this and other legislative requirements regarding reskilling, hiring and making redundancies can be found at

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