Investing in skills

Related tags Greene king Personal licence Skill Recruitment

Managed-house operators are nurturing talented staff to make sure they keep their best people. Graham Ridout finds out more The trend towards a more...

Managed-house operators are nurturing talented staff to make sure they keep their best people. Graham Ridout finds out more

The trend towards a more highly skilled workforce is nowhere more evident than in the managed-house sector. Most big players are putting talented members of staff on diploma or degree courses to lay foundations for the future.

Additionally, managed-house operators are nurturing the skills of existing employees and encouraging them to make a career in hospitality. At JD Wetherspoon's (JDW), for example, 70% of shift managers have risen through the ranks. While at Mitchells & Butlers, the internal succession rate is between 70% and 80% within the 2,000-strong estate. 

JDW head of personnel and training Mandy Ferries says employees wanting to become shift managers have to take a modular course involving three sets of skills: people management, marketing and standards, and finance.

She adds: "Most of our pubs have high food sales, so managers learn to use catering equipment and spend six weeks in the kitchen."

Employees can also undertake distance learning by completing work sheets. Keener employees can go for a diploma in licensed retail management via a course run at Nottingham Trent University. It involves eight, two-day courses and Ferries says that about 100 employees undertake the course every year.

JDW also selects the most promising of its 19,000 employees for a degree course at the university. Ferries adds: "The number on the course depends on demand. This year we've had 10 graduating."

Although JDW does not run a graduate

entry scheme as such, Ferries says a

significant number of employees have opted to pursue a career with the company after working as students.

She does not reveal the amount spent on training each year, but says: "It is a significant sum, and we fund everything. Nobody has to pay and everyone receives their normal wages while training. We run about 1,000 courses per year and our shift managers will probably attend six or seven every year."

Placement time at Greene King

Greene King's Pub Retail Placement scheme aims to attract high-calibre students into the industry. It says the structured programme will give people the opportunity to maximise their potential and transfer what they learn into the workplace.

Students who complete the 48-week programme successfully will be appointed as deputy managers at one of the company's 750 managed houses or hotels.

Candidates start their first week's training at the company's head office, in Bury

St Edmunds, in Suffolk, before being seconded to a pub for training, overseen by a trainer-manager.

Apart from gaining hands-on experience, newcomers undertake off-the-job training modules leading to recognised industry qualifications, including becoming a personal licence holder and passing the entry requirements to become a deputy manager.

They also undertake a business-related project as part of their final dissertation and receive feedback from an assigned recruitment and training mentor.

The candidates learn about company procedures and support packages, such as purchasing, finance, and employment law. They will also spend time at Greene King's other branded outlets and hotels, while being paid £14,000 per annum.

The first two candidates have already begun their training. A Greene King spokesman says the programme is still at the pilot stage and will be re-assessed at the end of the 48-week term.

M&B aims at graduates

If one statistic indicates that M&B takes training and career progression seriously, it's the number of employees going for their personal licence. Last year, over 3,000 received their National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (NCPLH).

M&B runs two graduate recruitment schemes: the Corporate Graduate programme and Vocational Graduate programme, which fast-track people to a management role in one of their pubs. About 30 students are on the one-year placement programme, which has twice been voted the best student placement scheme for a large company in the Springboard UK awards.

M&B has more than 20 brands and formats in its estate. "This means our company can offer its employees a huge range of opportunities, from bar staff to kitchen manager, " says M&B Pubs & Bars division HR manager Liz Phillips.

"Different types of people clearly want different experiences, and people can join us at all levels."

The company uses a combination of assessment centres, internal development centres, recruitment advertising, interviewing and on-the-job evaluation to recruit potential managers and assistant managers, to ensure they have the right personalities.

However, as Phillips explains: "A large proportion of our employee base is made up of those who work part-time to suit their personal lives and give them flexibility. In these cases, it's the managers of local sites who will recruit keen individuals. Many retail employees do decide that this is the industry for them and they can go on to have successful careers with us."

Formal training programmes include a series of structured steps, including on and off-the-job training. 

Spirit's academic route

Spirit Group, Punch's 900-strong managed-house arm, has created a learning and development centre in Northampton to educate its managers and trainee managers.

Attendees of the Spirit Academy undertake a series of courses each lasting up to a week, and the content varies from food hygiene to the perfect serve as well as sharpening their business, management, and leadership skills.

The venue has a range of facilities including modern lecture rooms fitted with electronic whiteboards, a training bar and cellar, an IT suite and a training kitchen.

About a dozen candidates are trained at a time. Between courses, they return to their pubs to put into practice what they have learned. After completing each training level they also prepare and implement an action plan, which is assessed by their business development manager.

Depending on their level of experience, managers should be able to finish their training in about six months.

The first batch of attendees have recently "graduated" from the academy and Spirit intends to put about 180 through the programme over the coming year.

Head of retail training David Mayes says: "This level of investment in our people marks a new era for Spirit in terms of giving our managers the skills to become professional retailers.

"The courses have gone so well that we're looking to expand our retail-manager offer by introducing externally recognised, professional qualifications in addition to those we offer in-house."

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