We’ve all been through a challenging few years since the pandemic hit, and it’s safe to say that no industry survived unscathed. But there’s one industry that has been hit particularly hard and continues to struggle to clamber back its footing and rebuild on an increasingly shaky foundation, and that’s hospitality.
Post-lockdown, candidate volumes soared, but it didn’t take long for the pendulum to swing the other way. A current tight market means there are a staggering amount of unfilled job vacancies and a relatively low unemployment rate.
The hospitality industry is itching to fire back up into full-throttle mode, but the shortage of candidates is slowing them down and becoming an increasing cause for concern. On top of this, the COVID19 chaos has almost immediately been replaced by a war in Europe, highlighting the unpredictable and volatile nature of the current job market.
More than ever, hospitality businesses engaged in high-volume hiring are in desperate need of a flexible, agile recruitment process that can be scaled up or down with ease and a total revamp of their talent acquisition strategies to help them attract top talent through their doors.
Current context: State of hospitality recruitment
Between 2014 and 2019, there was a gradual decline in unemployment rates, which meant a predictable labor market and, therefore, predictability in your hiring. But the pandemic hit like a meteor nobody saw coming and led to a series of uncontrollable peaks and troughs in employment rates.
Having experienced four major shifts in the labor market in the space of two years, we can be certain of one thing: the future job market is wildly uncertain, and organizations need agile recruitment systems that enable businesses to flow with the ever-fluctuating market. If you are still building a hiring process with a stable labor market in mind, you’re doing it wrong.
“The younger generation has seen the effects of a pandemic economy on restaurants and hospitality and are weary of starting their career in what they consider a volatile industry.“— Wesley Suitt, Regional Head of Client Success
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of February 2022, total unemployment rates fell to 3.8%, and job growth is widespread, led by gains in several industries, including leisure and hospitality. To provide some context, the unemployment rate in February 2020 pre-pandemic was at a similar rate of 3.5%.
In the U.K., job vacancies reached a record high of 1,298,400 between November 2021 and January 2022, and the unemployment rate is at 4.1%——just 0.1 percentage points lower than before the pandemic. However, between August and September 2021, 30% of U.K. hospitality businesses claimed vacancies were more difficult to fill than usual, compared to just 13% across other industries.
As total unemployment rates simmer, many who worked in the hospitality industry before COVID have sought job security in alternative sectors, with companies offering little to no incentive for them to return.
Inefficiencies in the hiring process are exposed
Pre-pandemic, the hospitality industry had the luxury of a higher volume of candidates than they ever needed, which meant that inefficient processes in the recruitment journey slipped through the cracks unnoticed. But now that the swollen candidate pool is gone, the effects of these long-standing inefficiencies have become glaringly obvious.
Candidates apply for roles but never hear from anyone or are forced to fill out their details twice on separate systems or wait weeks for an interview, and weaknesses like these in a hiring process are driving top talent away.
In a candidate’s market, businesses need to stand out
A tight market has given candidates more freedom in their job search, and they are no longer willing to work in low-paying roles with inflexible hours and poor conditions. It’s therefore no longer enough to match industry benchmarks with your pay rates.
In this new candidate-driven market, restaurants need to invest the same time, money, and attention to attract candidates/employees as they do customers. Revamping employee benefits, compensation and recruiting experience is a great start to attracting new talent.
Highlight what makes working in the restaurant/hospitality industry great (flexible schedule, fun work environment, career growth). Set up referral bonus programs to incentivize current employees to recruit for you! Just make sure the referral bonus is lucrative enough for an employee to put in the effort.
However, this is just the first step. Early attrition and turnover rates are still high; therefore, it’s up to businesses to differentiate themselves from the crowd and create an exciting work environment where employees feel valued and want to stay.
Younger talent needs to be engaged
Much like the financial crisis in 2009, the younger generation has seen the effects of a pandemic economy. They witnessed the effect the pandemic had on restaurants/hospitality and are weary of starting their career in what they consider a volatile industry.
While this reputation won’t persist in the long term, it is a challenge the industry will have to overcome by highlighting the benefits of restaurant/hospitality jobs for young people. Flexible schedules, good benefits, and great work experience will ultimately attract the younger generation back.
Younger candidates demand a digitized experience when applying for jobs, even in entry-level positions, and this is your only chance to wow them with an impressive employer proposition and brand. Is your application process mobile friendly? Do candidates gain a good sense of what the role would be like day-to-day? Are you personalizing the process and ensuring each candidate has an outstanding experience that they feel compelled to talk about with their personal network?
Failure to wow your candidates through the recruitment journey and beyond will not cut it in a volatile labor market that is rapidly evolving.
3 trends shaping hospitality volume recruitment in 2022
Trend #1: A renewed focus on CX
Although speed is valued, it would be a mistake to automatically assume a shorter application process equals a better candidate experience. The key to a positive CX is offering a frictionless, engaging, modern hiring process to job seekers.
Hospitality businesses that will do well in 2022 and the future are the ones that will make their entire application process mobile-friendly and so engaging and unique that candidates want to tell their friends, leading to valuable referrals that will widen the talent pool. Using automation to speed up the hiring process where candidates can self-schedule interviews and successful applicants can begin work immediately can give you the edge over a competing quick-service restaurant.
The foodservice industry is notorious for its high churn rate because job roles and responsibilities listed in job descriptions either turn out to be inaccurate or fail to create a clear picture of what it’s like to work there. Employers must provide candidates with realistic job previews to gain a better feel for the role and have the opportunity to self opt-out if they decide it’s not a good fit.
“A new hire could be lured by higher pay, but once they have worked for weeks or months, they may find that the job doesn’t meet their expectations, and they move on.“— Wesley Suitt, Regional Head of Client Success
Although assessments require time to complete, they provide recruiters with valuable data points that differentiate your candidates and help you prioritize those who demonstrate the skills and behaviors of your current top performers and not waste time on low-quality candidates. It can be tempting to cut assessments altogether from the hiring journey to make the process as efficient and streamlined as possible, but relying on resumes and experience to inform hiring decisions often leads to suitable candidates being rejected, which only exacerbates the impression of a talent shortage.
Organizations that use the right assessments are performing better. This is key to not only attracting the best candidates to your business but making sure your role is the best fit for them—the hiring journey is a two-way street and must consider both the candidate and recruiter experience.
Trend #2: A frictionless, agile recruitment process
Leveraging technology and smart tools throughout the hiring process can ease the recruitment burden placed on managers who are already pressed for time.
Hospitality businesses hiring at scale need a fast, frictionless, automated process to achieve a short time to hire, which is more important than ever due to a shortage of candidates. We are all aware that the market can dramatically change overnight without warning, so companies must choose a recruitment strategy that is agile, flexible, and scaleable if they want any hope of moving with the market.
In a current hiring process, a candidate might desire to apply for an entry-level role in a quick-service restaurant but face too many obstacles that discourage them from moving forward. Candidates may have to create a profile and fill out an application form directly on the restaurant’s website, then be flicked onto a separate applicant tracking system (ATS) where they have to repeat those same steps and add additional information. This is repetitive, unintuitive, and time-consuming, leading to potentially qualified candidates abandoning ship.
While some companies have already shifted to automation in the pursuit of speed and market agility, many still review candidates manually or conduct screening interviews. In 2022 and beyond, we’ll see a move within hospitality to a more holistic recruitment strategy that uses automation to create a seamless hiring experience for everyone involved by ensuring that all the technology and processes function together.
Businesses will use automation not only to progress candidates through the pipeline but also for decision-making. For example, when candidates take an assessment and score above a certain benchmark, they are automatically moved to the interview stage without input needed from hiring managers. Interviews can also be scheduled automatically for top candidates who score above a certain level for a specific skill or skill set and automated if one-way recorded interviews are used.
This way, candidates who fit all requirements will automatically progress to the live interview stage with a hiring manager, and no one is left waiting in the ATS to be reviewed. Recruiters can use big picture overviews of candidates to compare and assess their suitability for the role, all without directly interacting with the candidate, contributing to a more efficient and, therefore, positive hiring experience all around.
Trend #3: Recruitment marketing is just as important as marketing to customers
Finally, the future of hospitality volume hiring will see a trend in businesses placing equal importance on recruitment marketing as they do marketing to customers.
Your current marketing budget for attracting customers should be halved, and the remainder spent on marketing open positions to job seekers. Investing time, energy, and money in showcasing your company culture, selling what makes you unique, and showing candidates why they should work for you instead of your competitors is essential to attracting top talent through your doors in a tight market.
“Small adjustments in the hiring process like realistic expectation setting for the position, or transparency in hours and compensation are major first steps towards long-term employee retention. “— Wesley Suitt, Regional Head of Client Success
In hospitality, the real face of any business is the employees who work there in entry-level positions and interact with your customers every day. If you have a slow, clunky hiring process and poor selection criteria, you will lose the best candidates to your competitors and onboard mediocre employees.
The key to success in hospitality volume hiring in 2022 will be companies channeling their attention and resources into recruitment marketing and providing a frictionless, innovative, enjoyable experience for candidates the same way they do for customers.
While labor shortages appear to be the biggest obstacle for hospitality employers, the real challenge lies in finding the right people and retaining them. To do this, restaurants must redesign their entire hiring infrastructure and work with new systems built for agility, providing a winning experience and hiring at scale.
What does the future hold?
Although the labor market for entry-level hospitality roles continues to shift and is a complex issue to tackle, 2022 will center on restructuring outdated hiring systems and processes to deliver a transparent, frictionless hiring experience that is ready to pivot or scale in response to unexpected changes in the market.