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Published on Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How flexible are you?



Roberto de Vivo, head of operations at recruitment company Coople UK, suggests travel companies facing staff shortages look at more flexible solutions:

"It's no secret that the travel sector is facing a growing staffing crisis. In addition to economic uncertainty in the UK, fuelled by the unpredictability of Brexit, attitudes towards work are changing. With more people than ever wanting to work on their own terms, hotels, airports and tourism businesses are facing a huge challenge - shallow talent pools.

The SIA & Cielo Talent Study 2019 found that 70% of business leaders believe that the existing talent pool in the UK is shrinking, whilst the demand for talent is on the rise. The end product? A market rife with competition as businesses use limited pools to seek out the same talent. This makes it increasingly difficult to find skilled staff to fill spaces, and the travel sector is no exception.

The concern for businesses in the industry is having to settle for under-qualified staff. This, in turn, puts the level of customer service at risk, and as a consequence; the brand name. For businesses in the travel space to future proof their workforce and maintain high standards, it is crucial they accept that the attitudes to work are changing, and commit to embracing these new values.

The changing face of work
Speaking about the current challenges that hotels in particular are facing, Zoe Beautemps, HR Coordinator at Hyatt Group, said: "Competition is so high, we can't be overly picky when it comes to selection. Staff turnover is certainly becoming more of an issue in the hotel industry and it's increasingly hard to find the best fit between the company and the staff."

Other recruiters in the travel sector have found themselves desperately trying to overcome the obstacle of shallow talent pools through evolving the way they hire in order to find the best talent. Companies have introduced initiatives such as referral schemes and searching on Facebook groups to source prospective hires. Whilst this may have some initial success, it isn't a sustainable solution.

In order to effectively find new hires, the business as a whole needs to understand the changing face of today's workforce. The rate of pay alone is no longer enough to entice employees, and many workers aren't looking for the opportunity for promotion or increased responsibilities. Instead, finding work that can fit flexibly around their lifestyle is a huge career driver.

One long term solution is to introduce flexible, agile working; something that has rapidly grown in popularity over the past few years. Thirty percent of UK companies now hire temporary labour across all job levels, according to the SIA Talent Study 2019. The previous stigma around temporary staff only being qualified enough to support permanent employees has changed. Now people from all levels of seniority, be it admin to hotel management, have bright careers in the travel sector as a result of working flexibly.

Building the right culture
Finding staff is only the first half of the battle when it comes to combating shallow talent pools. It's of equal importance to maintain high retention levels of incoming and existing talent, whether it's concerning flexible or permanent staff. From talking to Coople clients, company culture is one of the biggest factors in retaining the interest of valuable employees.
It is clear that the key to keeping staff happy with their roles at work is making them feel valued and empowered.

The Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 50% of millennials said flexible working hours are very important to them when considering working for an organisation, whilst sixty-three percent agreed that it's the financial benefits which influence them most when choosing where to work. These results demonstrate the importance of offering similar benefits that full-time employees receive, like paid holiday, as it makes companies much more appealing to employees. Temporary workers must be treated equally and considered to be valued contributors if an organisation wants to attract the top talent in the field. The outcome is that employee satisfaction is increased and therefore so is retention and productivity.

Shallow talent pools will continue to prove challenging for the travel sector until it embraces the values of the modern workforce and creates a culture that supports all levels of staff. Amongst a growing consensus that work-life balance is a necessity, only through making it clear to employees that the company is dedicated to their well-being and providing them with the right training to develop their skills, will the travel space be able to overcome a shrinking talent pool.'¨

Ultimately, the keys are implementing a more flexible approach to hiring and ensuring a better lifestyle balance for staff. The companies that can strike this balance will earn themselves a critical advantage over their competitors."

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