Pub Skills: HR Summit

Alchemist attracts young job candidates with community volunteering

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Rules of attraction: job candidates apply for vacancies because they’ve heard about the Currency for Kindness scheme
Rules of attraction: job candidates apply for vacancies because they’ve heard about the Currency for Kindness scheme

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With competition for employees as fierce as ever, companies that want to be an employer of choice are introducing unusual benefits to attract and engage staff.

The Alchemist head of brand Jenny McPhee talks to The Morning Advertiser​ about their Currency for Kindness scheme, launched in April last year, which enables workers give back to their community.

What was the thinking behind your Currency for Kindness scheme?

Last year, we were thinking that a lot of our workforce are very young, a lot are Generation Z. We felt like they wanted to go that extra mile and do something different, whether that’s in their spare time or during work, they’re always looking for those new experiences but, more importantly, they’re looking for experiences that are going to help the community. People really do want to volunteer.

The idea come about after we were placed in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For 2017​. We were having a look back through the feedback from staff in the survey looking for areas that we could improve in and we found that that area was something we could develop a bit more.

How much time can people take during work hours to volunteer in the community?

It’s equivalent to one eight-hour shift a week per site. We have just opened our most recent site in Nottingham so, once that site is up and running, it will be in excess of 400 hours of time donated a month, across the country at 13 sites.

How do employees get involved?

It really is up to the guys on site, the opportunity is there and it’s up to them to make themselves known and volunteer to go to whatever project we’ve got going on.

One of the bigger charities we work with in Manchester, called Not Just Soup, is based on Oldham Street. We cook the food ourselves at site then we’d take staff over to serve it in the evening. It’s a very regular thing – we go once every two or three weeks.

What do your employees think?

A lot of the time it’s an eye opener. We’ve got so many varied charities from youth projects to farms where we help with maintenance. We also volunteer with the Bridge Water Canal Project, which involves cleaning up the canal.

One of our general managers working with homeless charity Serve Our Brummies identified that, a lot of the time, it’s not necessarily about the food you're serving, its about chatting to people and understanding the things they need. He realised that there was a need for sanitary products for women on the streets and that they weren’t really getting that. So we’re looking at ways we can help by teaming up with a retailer.

It shows it is not always about the food or a hot drink, there are other things that don’t really get talked about. Our employees have had their own experiences and I think it’s really personal.

Has it helped with staff retention and employee development?

The scheme has definitely helped with staff retention. I’ve noticed, with the war for talent, when we have gone to the recruitment day for sites in new cities, people have come specifically because they’ve heard about this initiative or things that we’ve done. We’ve seen that at our new Nottingham site.

On top of that it helps people bond together because you might be going to an opportunity with somebody you don’t usually work with. It opens people’s eyes to different things.

  • The Alchemist’s Jenny McPhee, head of brand, and Hannah Plumb, head of restaurants operations, will be speaking about the Currency for Kindness scheme at the Pub Skills: HR Summit on Tuesday 27 February. To hear more about this scheme and career development plans and how they can support pub performance and growth, attend our Pub Skills: HR Summit event on 27 February.

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