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[Update] The hospitality sector faces the challenge of attractiveness

The question of the attractiveness of the hospitality sector has been at the heart of all the debates lately, while the effects of the pandemic are still being heavily felt. The sector is in fact suffering from a disaffection driven by various factors, often predating the crisis. Jean Terlon, Vice-President of the UMIH's catering division, fears a historic shortage of staff in the run-up to the 2022 summer season, with 300,000 employees currently missing. At the time of the tourist recovery, what solutions are available to professionals who are currently struggling to recruit, particularly in view of the coming summer season?

Various causes at the root of the problem

450,000 is the number of employees who have decided to leave the hotel and restaurant industry between February 2020 and February 2021. These figures, reported by the Ministry of Labour, reflect the scale of the problem facing professionals in the sector. Although 213,000 people entered the sector over the same period, the loss still amounts to 237,000, a record figure. However, this phenomenon predates the crisis.

There are many reasons for this decline in the attractiveness of the sector. First of all, working conditions are considered to be restrictive. As well as insufficient pay for the amount of work provided. Gonzalo Fuentes, the head of the Spanish CCOO union in charge of tourism and the hotel industry, explains that in his opinion "there is no shortage of professionals in this sector but a lack of decent working conditions".

More than a quarter of employees in the sector also mention the difficulty of balancing work and personal life. Indeed, working on Sundays and in the evening has a major impact on their daily lives. All these constraints discourage potential new candidates and push those in post to leave their jobs to join other sectors of activity.

And the health crisis was the last straw for a number of employees who chose to leave the sector, sometimes permanently. These past two years have been trying for them, but they have also been a trigger for some, as Sébastien Bazin, the CEO of the Accor group, explains. He estimates that around ¼ of his employees will not return at the end of the crisis, in particular because they "have learned to spend precious time with their families, because they have sacrificed this precious time by working weekends and evenings: they are no longer going to do so, because they want to change their life or because they want to learn another profession, they have taken time to reflect".

Laurent Dusollier, Managing Director of the Odalys Group, confirms this worrying phenomenon and specifies that "recruitment problems will not be solved by salary alone". Indeed, "the problem is more concrete, with people wanting to do other jobs, to work different hours, with different constraints".

Véronique Terrisse, General Manager of the Hilton Evian les Bains, underlined this:

We did not wait for Covid to ask ourselves certain questions. Consecutive and fixed rest days to offer stability in personal life, elimination of schedules with breaks or even bonuses for night work, these are things that we have already put in place.

The employers' organisations representing the sector are working hand in hand with the government on ways to improve the sector's image. Negotiations are underway, resulting for the time being in a new, more attractive salary scale. The latter has been signed and should soon be implemented. In addition, the tax exemption of tips by credit card should be implemented this year.

Capitalising on the geographical footprint of tourist groups is also a factor of attractiveness with sometimes the destination participating in the attractiveness of a property. Most of the world's leading hotel companies offer their employees the opportunity to develop within their managed properties around the world. They can therefore learning new skills and discovering new destinations and cultures. This mobility can be valued by young recruits and should be implemented within smaller groups of franchised properties for example.

Increasingly demanding employees

However, this problem of attractiveness is not only due to a lack of salary recognition. The aspirations and needs of employees, especially those from the younger generation, have changed significantly in recent years. The search for meaning in one's work is now increasingly felt, as is the search for a company with an attractive employer brand and a good corporate culture.

Just as we see the brand as a value proposition for the customer, we need to see it for the employee. This is an aspect that we have neglected in times of plenty, but it is now urgent to invest and work in this area. 

José Guillermo Díaz Montañés, CEO and founder of Artiem.

What other advances are expected by employees in our industry? Numerous studies have been carried out on the subject in different countries. The answers show that there is a need for more flexibility in terms of working hours and days worked to allow a better work-life balance. Employees also want recognition, a motivating factor that will encourage them to invest more time and effort to progress within the company.

In addition to recruitment difficulties, there is the problem of employee retention. Before asking the question of how to attract new recruits, it is essential to ask how to retain your teams. A task that is becoming increasingly difficult. According to Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, the solution lies in "starting the retention process when the person is still open to staying, not after they have announced their desire to leave."

Before looking outward, look inward and give them opportunities. The best way to retain talent - if the company is growing - is not to bring in people from outside, you have to create a dynamic for those talents that have kept you going for two or three years and put them to work.

José Guillermo Díaz Montañés, CEO and founder of Artiem

There are several avenues of reflection open to employers in the hospitality sector, starting with the attention they pay to the well-being of their employees. At a time when the term burn-out has entered the dictionary, the physical and mental health of employees must be given priority. An employee who is happy in the workplace will be more productive and will undoubtedly want to develop within the company. A happy employee is a loyal employee.

Good management is also the key to a motivated team. It is therefore necessary to train managers properly. They must be able to show empathy and kindness towards their teams. It is also worth considering the solution of the Chief Happiness Officer, a manager in charge of the well-being of employees who can intervene in the event of conflict. This requires a review of the payroll and consideration of an additional post, which was not previously considered necessary.

An employee must see prospects for development within the company where he or she works. As has often been stated, the hospitality sector is a real professional lift. And one of the ways to move up is through training. That way you have qualified employees who have acquired all the knowledge and skills you need to move up. A study conducted by The Harris Poll shows that 70% of employees would be likely to leave their current job to work for an organisation that invests in the development and learning of its employees.

Train people well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough that they won't want to leave.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

An evolution in recruitment and retention methods now known as the "employee experience" concept. A concept that highlights various levers such as the development of employee skills, the use of various communication channels including social networks and of course training. Whether it is continuous, distance or hybrid training, employee training must not be neglected and must be present throughout the employee's life cycle.

Inspiring examples

Several actors in the sector are already showing the way to restore the profession to its former glory. Club Med, for example, is breaking with the codes of traditional recruitment. The group organises live meet-ups in its French resorts in order to let candidates experience the Club Med spirit even before they are hired. The group has also decided to offer its "office" employees the opportunity to telework for a week in a resort, thus allowing them to test the concept of workation.

In a context of tension in the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries, this commitment is all the more important to attract new candidates and retain our current employees. We don't just recruit talent, we support them in their professional development, while offering them a unique life experience.

Audrey Bonfillon, Corporate HR Director, Talent Policy and Development Club Med

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is committed to social inclusion by developing a corporate culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a result, the group received a perfect score of 100 in the 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a benchmark survey measuring corporate policies and practices on workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people.

NH Hotel Group is also committed to gender equality, particularly in terms of pay, but also in terms of women's leadership to enable more women to take up leadership positions. With the younger generation more involved than ever in defending the rights of minorities and women, such initiatives could give the sector visibility.

The Accor group enjoys a strong employer brand that is particularly appreciated by its employees, who explain in a video why they like working at Accor so much. The initiative stems from a simple question posed by Sébastien Bazin: "Why do I love my job? More than 3,500 responses were received from Accor hotels around the world. Among the words and expressions most often cited were passion, energy, empowerment, the possibility of evolution, belonging and the relationship with customers. 

The Big Mamma restaurant group is an interesting example in terms of recruitment but also in terms of employee retention. The group practices campus management in order to capture talent even before they enter the job market. It also chooses to focus on soft skills rather than diplomas. The group offers personalised support, in particular by assisting their employees in their search for accommodation or a nursery or by financing Italian courses. Finally, the emphasis is placed on internal promotion, as Big Mamma's leitmotiv is meritocracy.

You have to pass on knowledge and always continue to learn: a bored talent is a talent on the way out.

Elsa Darquier, former HRD of Big Mamma at the Global Lodging Forum 2018.

The regions are also taking up this issue, such as Normandy, which is joining forces with the CCI and UMIH Normandy as well as with the region's starred chefs to promote the restaurant and hotel industry. In particular, they are targeting their actions at young people in order to attract and train new recruits. Discovery courses during the school holidays are offered to young people aged between 14 and 25 to discover the sector. In total, more than 200 restaurant owners have taken part in this initiative. In addition to this, there are other actions such as company visits, immersion programmes with professionals and job dating. 

I am proud of the commitment of the restaurant owners in Normandy: 17 starred chefs and 183 restaurant owners are opening the doors of their properties so that young people in Normandy can discover the professions of cooking and service. Their commitment proves that the profession is evolving. Restaurant owners and their teams are ready to support and train the future talents of tomorrow. [...] The CCIs of Normandy and their 5 CFAs (3IFA in Alençon, ICEP in Caen, IFA Marcel Sauvage in Rouen, CFAIE in Val de Reuil and FIM in Saint Lô) are at the side of the restaurant owners of Normandy in order to train young people to excellence.

Gilles Treuil, President of the Normandy Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Training remains a key factor in promoting a sector to the younger generations, a notion that the butchery-charcuterie sector has well integrated as an example. In addition to the quality training provided from the CAP, additional training is provided throughout the craftsman's career. As a result, butchery is an attractive sector that has little or no crisis. In addition, the salary is attractive from the start of the career, with a 13th month and an end-of-year bonus. In 2018, the sector had nearly 40,000 employees and each year no less than 6,000 young people enter the sector.

This profession is a real social lift. You progress well in this profession, going from apprentice to worker and then often to company manager, with a good collective agreement, continuous and permanent training and good health, mutual and provident insurance.

Jean-François Guihard, President of the CFBCT (French Confederation of Butchers, Delicatessens and Caterers)

The same is true of the construction industry, where the jobs are highly technical and require precise knowledge and specialisations. And work-linked training is perceived as the best way to enter this sector. A training method that is not very highly valued in France. This is in contrast to Germany, which is the leading player in apprenticeships in Europe with 1.3 million apprentices compared to only 500,000 in France. The differences between the two countries relate in particular to the role of companies in the training system. In Germany, apprenticeship is directly controlled by companies so that young people are trained according to the concrete needs of their future employees. This strategy pays off, as 60% of young German apprentices are hired by the company that trained them.

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