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The Workforce Landscape Moving into 2022

by nitin radhakrishnan

With a challenging two years behind us, many of us are looking to 2022 with tentative hope. There will be challenges, but there are also positives to draw on. We talked to Nitin Radhakrishnan, the Senior Lecturer in Management responsible for Industry relations for Le Cordon Bleu London, about the seismic obstacles the industry has had to deal with and the changing workforce landscape of the UK Hospitality Industry over the past two years and into the next…

Two years into the COVID-19 outbreak, the socio-economic fabric of hospitality has changed immensely and maybe on a permanent basis. One thing which unfolded was the staffing shortage within most of the service sectors. In the UK, hospitality has taken a big hit on its workforce with COVID-19 setbacks and the post Brexit effect. The lockdowns, the delay and indecisiveness of the government’s furlough scheme and the way it was rolled out, paved the way for many workers in the wider hospitality industry to re-think what their future holds and seek employment elsewhere. For instance, it led to a talent drain of workers to the distribution sector which was gaining traction on the accelerated growth of supply chain and logistics due to higher domestic consumption.

The Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme in August 2020 facilitated a huge comeback for the hospitality industry, which also served to highlight the staffing crisis. Over the last 12 months, the true extent of the workforce shortage is widely evident and ‘one in six jobs currently lies vacant, and 96 per cent of business leaders were seeing staffing shortages for some roles’, according to a survey of 200 senior executives from across the hospitality industry. As a result, we have seen many of the operators bumping up salary levels (some up to 20%) for certain entry to mid-level chef positions and sommeliers.

The UK – good news for 2022

While the hospitality sector is challenged with rising costs, changing taxations, temperamental supply chain and skeletal human resources to name few, demand from consumers on the other hand is very strong. The spending across the UK hospitality has been consistent and neighbourhood restaurants have been enjoying phenomenal trade albeit with caution from potential health & safety restrictions imposed by the government across different geographic locations. A positive outcome is that we are also seeing an increasing number of operators entering all the segments of the industry – including luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, casual brands and the Quick Service Restaurants with expected opening in early 2022.

Global differences

Comparing to other parts of the world, for instance India and the Scandinavian region, the phenomenon with the labour and workforce seems to be in parallel. In the Indian sub-continent, the polarised market segment of consumer spending has put a dent in the hospitality industry, where generally speaking staying with an employer for a longer time has significantly reduced amidst new opportunities within the country.

In the Nordic region, Sweden (having not closing the country after the COVID-19 outbreak) has fared better in terms of retaining the talent than their neighbours Denmark and Norway. The fracture in the labour workforce is prevalent, however, the entire Nordic region has been benefiting with the highly skilled migrant EU workforce from UK who has shifted their base elsewhere in Europe post COVID-19. From these observations, it seems that globally the hospitality industry is undergoing a shift in the way of delivery.

The benefits of technology

The industry is heavily investing in technology across all the domains to ensure operational efficiency, lean and efficient staffing and marketing competitiveness to name few. The crux of this evolving approach from business leaders is based on the understanding that a lack of staff will affect the success of businesses in the coming months. Lean staffing will impact all areas of hospitality, bringing with it a heavy reliance on to end to end software solutions, from procurement to delivery.

Staff retention and recruitment – making the right decisions

The questions remain on the future sustainability of inflated salaries and an artificial talent economy being created. There are many positions being fast tracked without the right skill set due to the sheer desperation of operators to sustain the demand of hospitality products. Staff retention and recruitment will remain a core challenge for hospitality leaders in coming years. Although there are some great schemes in the pipeline from the government in terms of apprenticeships, introduction of T-levels for school leavers etc, there needs to be a co-ordinated effort from the policy makers along with the decision makers of the hospitality industry to make the industry future proof in terms of creating a foundation for a career platform for aspiring professionals in hospitality. Hence, the industry needs work with educational institutions and training providers to create the awareness and foster the prospects of our very diverse industry of hospitality.

Creating a new generation of talent

Le Cordon Bleu is proud to be a leading global network of culinary arts and hospitality training Institutes, recognised around the world for the excellence of its training programmes. The achievements of Le Cordon Bleu alumni are a clear indication of the success of the education they receive. In 2021, Le Cordon Bleu Alumni have shone with exceptional honors, such as the World’s Best Female Chef (Pía León), Winner of MasterChef Indonesia (Jesselyn Lauwreen), Two michelin Star for Tate Dining Room (Vicky Lau) …

It is true to say that Le Cordon Bleu training programmes provide an international passport, enabling you to embark on a career in the gastronomy field. Some former students – many of them career changers – reach their full potential in a variety of roles such as journalists, food critics, writers, food photographers, chefs and/or entrepreneurs, some of which are Michelin starred or have won prestigious awards, teachers, restaurant and hotel managers, nutritionists, TV and Radio presenters, sommeliers, wine agents, F&B managers, retailers…

With the innovation and investment being earmarked for hospitality internationally, it is certain that staffing will be the priority in determining the business models across any regions of the world. As such the industry needs to attract the young, the seniors, the returning mothers and the careers changers throughout the length and breadth of the country and work with educational institutions and training providers to create the awareness and foster the prospects of our very diverse and interesting industry of hospitality.

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