March 2, 2024

Recruitment: Goblins and the permacrisis

Lance Hayward talks to global recruitment and mentoring experts for tips on attracting talent in an age of permacrisis and goblin attitudes…

Collins Dictionary named ‘permacrisis’ as 2022’s word of the year. The term describes ‘an extended period of instability and insecurity’. The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year was ‘goblin mode’ – a term describing a trending behaviour pattern which ‘rejects social norms and behaviour (and) is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy’. It’s a trend that has apparently become common post-pandemic.

The challenge

Whether you recognise these phenomena or not, our industry is certainly facing its toughest ‘people’ challenges ever. Most organisations had to cut deep into their experienced teams, operating only with a skeleton staff. Those departing took with them years of knowledge and experience essential for operational and commercial stability. Those that remain came under intense pressure in an extremely stressful operating environment.  

Faced with the prolonged period of instability and insecurity, many of the core staff retreated into self-preservation mode, seeking new roles in industries that had less pressure, better working conditions and greater security. Combined with the fact that record numbers of predominantly millennial staff are opting out of work altogether, this has left the industry facing a significant scarcity of talent across many departments.           

This shifting resource dynamic, combined with the fast-track ramp up has left many organisations struggling to rebuild the essential infrastructure of experienced staff members that were for many decades taken for granted. 

Demand surge 

Since the pandemic restrictions were lifted in 2022, the Talent Search and Mentoring division of The Hayward Partnership has had its busiest year since its launch in 2014. There has been a real surge in demand for new talent – particularly in the UK, Europe and the US – and our team has been pleased to support busy HR departments by searching, pre-interviewing and shortlisting credible candidates for a wide range of roles. 

We have been working closely with several CEOs and managing directors on mentoring too, to support those in leadership positions; and we have also forged a deeper relationship with Oxford Brookes University by supporting its graduate and post-graduate MBA programmes through lectures and workshops on personal branding, entrepreneurship and business strategy. 

In collaboration with the team’s recruitment and mentoring specialists, Roy Wilson, Mike Pooley and Sandra Pineau-Boddison, we have drawn on our global network of independent experts to share some of the things we know now matters most to talented individuals. On the following pages, we offer five key strategies for talent acquisition in the travel catering and retail industry which can really make a difference to your recruitment efforts. These strategies identify key elements you need to focus on to secure the best teams: Retention, Rebuilding Critical Skills, Training, Coaching and Mentoring, and Awareness Campaigns to attract new blood into the sector.

Undoubtedly, there has been a profound shift in the work environment and employee preferences. Businesses need to both understand and embrace these new realities of permacrisis and recognise the goblin mode attitudes impacting our people as the workplace evolves rapidly in our industry.

Strategic thinking…

Five key talent strategies to consider:

1: Retention 

Identify and focus on the root causes of attrition and retention. HR professionals, fully supported by leadership teams, must have a bigger voice and should push for this change. 

Appropriate and fair remuneration and feeling valued through positive feedback and recognition remain constants. However, work-life balance is increasing in importance, as is place-of-work flexibility, cross-training and a sense of purpose through community involvement. An organisation’s emphasis on sustainability, best practices and ESGs is also moving up the agenda. 

Really successful teams have worked out that time should be set aside for ‘Work’ and ‘Life’ without impinging on each other. But there is also a blurred segment in the middle when work and life merge for enjoyable social times with colleagues. This builds that informal organisational ‘glue’ that fosters loyalty and ownership to the organisation and each other. Clear parameters and boundaries need to be set to ensure an equitable balance between the aspirations of the organisation and the staff. 

2: Rebuilding critical skills

Audit and identify the key functional roles that form the critical spine of the team. Organisations need to assess the individuals currently in these roles, or the resource gaps that exist, and develop a recruitment strategy that produces a balanced team of experience plus new talent from outside the industry. With fierce competition for a smaller pool of talent, it is imperative that a ‘gold standard’ recruiting process is delivered. It must focus on the interview processes, testing requirements, company familiarisation and feedback loops to make applicants feel valued and informed. If businesses use the latest tech evaluation tools, they need to ensure they are balanced by a quality human interaction with the organisation too. Declare and stick to the time schedule. The successful candidate will begin their role with a positive view of the company which should then transition into a quality onboarding programme. Unsuccessful candidates will have also gained valuable insights. 

3: Training 

Training programmes are key to retention, providing a clear path for development and progression. With increasing pressures on food, energy and labour costs, and difficulties in filling vacancies, this element invariably falls off the priority list. In most cases, however, it’s a false economy as it results in costly and inefficient agency or interim staff backfilling the ongoing staff turnover. Technology has a part to play here. Most of us learned the value of YouTube during the pandemic to teach ourselves all sorts of new skills. Now organisations could invite back those experienced individuals who left – and pay them – to share their skills and techniques with the new starters using informal and engaging video formats.     

4: Coaching and mentoring 

External, confidential, experienced mentoring provides senior executives with an opportunity to talk more freely about the issues they face and the solutions they are considering. This is an area that relatively few companies think about investing in. For key roles, pairing semi-retired or retired, experienced individuals with new starters in a coaching and mentoring programme is a two-way engagement that typically benefits both the mentor and the mentee and, of course, the organisation itself.

5: Awareness campaigns 

Proactively reach out and build relations with educational institutions relating to catering and hospitality plus elite management. Support their programmes by offering personal branding, coaching, industry lectures and case studies. 

Explore the opportunity to link up with the IFSA Scholarship Foundation Program. Our industry has much to offer bright young talent. It offers much for people interested in working in customer services, global retailing and supply chains as well as international cuisine.
There are also lots of opportunities for those who want to work in logistics, manufacturing, information technology, finance and commerce. Yet we are not very good at promoting these significant opportunities. Often, people join the sector because they stumbled upon it by accident.