Fresh on the back of three new acquisitions, Douglas Waddell, operations director at Hand Picked Hotels shares an insight into the company’s recruitment and retention schemes as the portfolio grows and the team scales up.
In September, Hand Picked Hotels bolsted its footprint to 22 sites, with the completion of the acquisition of three hotels in the Channel Islands.
The deal was first announced in May 2021 and sees the the family-owned group, headed up by Julia Hands, take over the assets and management of Fermain Valley and Ziggurat hotels in Guernsey and The Braye Beach Hotel in Alderney.
As this expansion happens, Douglas Waddell, operations director at Hand Picked Hotels knows how critical it is to ensure the focus remains on staff to enable these growth plans to be a success. He oversees around 1,500 people across the portfolio and has introduced a number of new initiatives to keep the brand on track when it comes to employee development and care.
Staff development programmes help each team member to determine a clear career path within the business and several apprentice schemes have also been introduced. The four days on, three days off concept that was rolled out for kitchen staff has transformed the stability of the team and this is also being explored for other departments.
We caught up with Douglas to discover what changes have been made to the group’s hiring and retention processes as business momentum continues.
How has your recruitment process changed over the last 12 months?
We have moved to a centralised resourcing function which has consolidated all activity in one place and allows for a greater referral of candidates across the estate. Our General Managers need then only to focus on selection. We also utilize platforms such as LinkedIn, both from a company perspective but also personally within our own networks to share opportunities.
What have been the biggest challenges in recruitment and how are working to overcome this?
Like all hospitality businesses, the numbers of people who have left the industry has affected the number of potential candidates available to us. This has been compounded by the number of employees/candidates from the EU having reduced due to the new Brexit immigration rules. We are focusing on local engagement to attract local talent as well as looking at new sources of talent that were previously prohibitive due to EU requirements.
How many staff work across the portfolio and how many vacant positions do you have currently?
With 19 hotels and 1,300 bedrooms, our target headcount for the summer is close to 1,500 people so there is a gap to fill and we’re working hard to attract new candidates to the business. We have been successful in recruiting a number of positions recently.
What has worked particularly well when hiring? What has not worked so well?
The central resourcing structure has provided more efficiencies and is allows us to be more targeted in our search. We also offer a referral scheme for existing members of the team and that works incredibly well.
What investment have you put into new staff training and development programmes over the last 12 months?
We are able to offer development up to and including Level 7 with our educational partnerships. We are currently piloting a graduate training scheme aligned to Level 7. We can also offer apprenticeships across all departments in our hotels, both front and back of house.
What positions are particularly hard to fill? Has this changed over since the pandemic?
Chef recruitment has been particularly challenging and particularly the Chef De Partie role. The shortage of food and beverage service staff continues to challenge the whole hospitality industry since the pandemic too.
How do you reward staff? What benefits do employees get?
As a family-run business, we offer a welcoming, friendly environment and treat our colleagues like family too. We offer live in accommodation, an increasing holiday entitlement with length of service, a share in service tips on property, online retail discounts, employee awards and length of service benefits along with excellent rates for team members and their friends and family. These are just a few but there are many more!
You are looking to potentially roll out your four-day week currently offered to chefs, to other departments. How does this work?
Yes, the four-day week with three days off has been very successful. We have had to increase the number of team members in order to facilitate this, but the retention in our kitchens since introducing this has been phenomenal. It is important we try to provide as much flexibility and work life balance as possible. Since lockdown, many people have reevaluated what is important to them and the opportunity to spend more time with family is key.
Where do you think the industry needs to focus its efforts when it comes to promoting hospitality as a respected career path?
The industry is still the best there is – dynamic, exciting, evolving and personable! No day is ever the same and the interaction with guests and the teamwork involved in delivering an exceptional guest experiences are second to none. It would benefit from moving away from being associated with long hours and low pay and the likes of the Institute of Hospitality and Springboard are industry bodies working very hard to change that perception with a lot of great work going on. Skills learned during a few years or a lengthy career in hospitality cross continents, countries and industries like no other and I, alongside my colleagues are passionate about championing it.