Busting the myths around jobs in hospitality

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

More than pulling pints: recruiting and retaining staff in the hospitality sector is an ongoing problem but pub companies are going above and beyond to help
More than pulling pints: recruiting and retaining staff in the hospitality sector is an ongoing problem but pub companies are going above and beyond to help

Related tags: Stonegate pub company

Guest editor Simon Longbottom sets the brief for this issue’s Spotlight feature, which looks at debunking the myths surrounding jobs in the hospitality sector.

Hospitality jobs are still considered a stop-gap job with some 53% of young people (16 to 20-year-olds) saying they wouldn’t work in the trade, according to research.

HIT Training and recruitment website Get My First Job also discovered Generation Z viewed jobs in the sector as a ‘stepping stone to another career’, with ‘limited career prospects’ and as a ‘part-time job while studying’.

However, operators are introducing initiatives to try and turn this perception around and bring staff­ up through the ranks.

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) chair and managing director of Red Mist Leisure, Mark Robson said pubs have a strong track record of training and developing people.

He added: “You only have to look at the leaders in our industry, a good number of them started in a kitchen or behind a bar, as I did.

“But in the past few years, the recruitment pool has dried up. Pubs have had to invest further in development and market this to recruits in a more aggressive and proactive manner.

“Candidates have the luxury of scrutinising several potential employers before they decide who to work for and they are rightly looking at all the factors – training schemes, development plans, perks, benefits and remuneration.

“As an employer, if you don’t have a decent o­ffer with clear progression opportunities, you’ll struggle to get the right people and have little chance of retaining them if you do.”

Smashing perceptions


One example of a pubco that is using di­fferent development schemes to keep staff­ and help them progress is Marston’s.

It has more than 3,500 employees and 500 apprentices, which are either in training or on a development programme, manager training has evolved in the past couple of years to be “more about behavioural skills,” according to head of training Jane Murray.

She said: “The perception of working in hospitality is that it’s very hands-on, but you might be managing a big business. It’s not just pulling pints and chatting to regulars. You can gain some really transferable skills and behaviours that can set you up for the future.”

A dedicated team at the company, drawn from the pub front line, is now specifically charged with ensuring all employees and future employees are helped to identify the training programmes for them.

Mitchells & Butlers also outlined what it is doing to drive development within the business, across its estate.

Susan Martindale, group HR director at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) said: “We employ between 40,000 and 44,000 people and we’re blessed with a plethora of talent. It’s important to identify potential and give people a platform to develop careers.

“­The beauty of our industry is that you can go from pot-washing all the way to the boardroom, and we’ve recently extended our apprenticeship programme through to MBA level.”

Since M&B turned its focus to chefs and kitchen managers three years ago, more than 200 people have been through its Chefs’ Academy – which recently earned a Princess Royal Training Award.

“It’s important, too, to think about employees’ needs,” Martindale continues. “Our training is now almost completely digital and we’ve introduced culinary masterclasses. Our research shows people want that opportunity to develop, to become experts, and upping their skills is important for the guest experience, too.”

Staff turnover at M&B has also fallen in each of the past five years, according to Martindale.

Structured training programmes

Stonegate’s Albert’s Theory of Progression (ATOP) o­ffers training and developing programmes for each stage of an employees career path.

For front-of-house teams, this all starts with Albert’s #GR8 Induction – an in-depth online induction that gives a clear road map of how employees can develop their knowledge and skills to gain the experience to reach their individual career goals.

The next stage is Albert’s Award, which helps team members develop in their role to team leader. Albert’s Accolade equips team leaders with the management skills for them to become deputy managers.

Albert’s Accelerator develops advanced deputy managers to general managers (GMs), where they then join Albert’s Welcome and Albert’s Masterclass, which supports and enhances the skills required at GM level.

The highest level of ATOP is Albert’s Aspirations, this is for those high performing GMs who have ambitions to take the next step into area management.

For back-of-house teams, Albert’s Evolution has enabled Stonegate to deliver a structured back-of house pathway, from team member through to area

chef, incorporating leadership, business, customer and people skills.

Embrace this agenda


Fellow large operator Stonegate not only pushes career progression in its business but is also concentrating on the diversity aspect of employment.

CEO Simon Longbottom said: “­There is, if we are really honest an uncomfortable truth that lurks in the background when our industry comes together to celebrate or network – the room tends to be dominated by middle-aged white men.

“Quite rightly, the Government is now shining a light on diversity within UK public limited companies and our sector should embrace this agenda and be at the forefront of driving a positive change.

“We have prided ourselves on operating a meritocracy that supports our ‘bar to boardroom’ culture whereby anyone can progress within our business, irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity or educational background, provided they have the potential and ambition to succeed.”

He went on to outline how the company’s first gender report revealed a 10% pay gap and what steps it took to understand what was driving it.

Longbottom added: “It was clear the case of the gap was a lower representation of women in more senior roles but we needed to better understand the root cause of this.

“We commissioned research among women and men across the company, undertaken by an external consultant, to understand the potential barriers to female progression.

“­The good news was this work reinforced many of the positive aspects of our culture that I see whenever I am out in the trade.

“But there are things we can and must do to improve female progression, address our gender pay gap, and further reinforce our ‘bar to boardroom’ philosophy.

“As a result of this research, we have already commenced work on a clear four-point plan. Firstly, we have initiated a root and brand review of the content our area manager and general manager roles to identify how we can reduce complexity and promote greater flexibility within these roles. ­This was seen as a barrier that deterred many women from applying for these roles.”

Not only this but Stonegate has also initiated a female mentoring programme to aid employees with potential progress through the business.

Avoiding unconscious bias

Longbottom said: “Some 31 women have been nominated into our first programme, who will be mentored by members of the Stonegate leadership team.

“We will also roll out a training programme for all line managers in the business to eradicate unconscious bias, which may at times, hinder female progression.

“Finally, we have also decided to significantly enhance our parental leave provision. Our maternity leave provision has increased to 12 weeks’ full pay.

“We will also retrain our managers on best practice for keeping in touch with employees who are on parental leave to ensure they remain connected to the business.”

Longbottom said the initiatives will help to create an environment in which, even more women can see a clear route to progress within the business and further strengthen the meritocracy, which lies at the very heart of Stonegate’s culture.

He added: “I’m sure others in our sector will be grappling with similar challenges and issues and I hope everyone is as committed as I am to opening up opportunities for progression to all socio-demographic groups.

“It can only serve to strengthen our businesses and our sector as a whole and maybe in a decade’s time, the white, middle-aged men will be the minority group in the room when we come together. I’ll drink to that.”

Related topics: Training

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