JR: The recruitment and retention of people have changed entirely in many industries since the start of the pandemic, and that’s undoubtedly true in hospitality. The furlough schemes in many countries were very generous and went on for longer than first expected. The coronavirus crisis also led to many rethinking their careers. It’s not a skills shortage we are looking at now; it’s a people shortage. Red Carnation has six hotels in London and I am currently 120 people short of the 1,000 people needed to run them. Brexit has played a part, but we are now paying up to 30 percent more than we were pre-pandemic for entry-level jobs – and arguably, that’s fair and it’s about time things improved.
JW: The last 18 months have triggered much self-reflection and smashed together two worlds: work and home. It’s interesting to think about how technology has impacted the whole recruiting process, but it is challenging to translate an organization’s culture through tech. Usually, at this time of year, Crowe would be at US universities engaging students. However, a majority of colleges and universities are still limiting on-campus employer-based activities, including opportunities to guest speak in the classroom, so those “accidental collisions” with students continue to be very limited. That lack of presence on campus, particularly with entry-level talent, is significant for us.
WC: The balance of power has shifted hugely in favor of the talent, rather than the employer. If organizations are proactive, they should seek out people who want to mentor and coach others – it should be encouraged. As leaders, you have to tune in to what your employees want, which is why dialogue is so important. Often, when I ask leaders about the last time they had an excellent one-to-one talk with a team member, they smirk, which suggests that it didn’t happen recently. The further down the chain of command, the worse it tends to be. You need to know your direct reports so well – where they live, the name of their partner, and so on – to engage and motivate them.
JW: We have had significant success with referral schemes – we would rather pay our people to bring in great talent than someone else. As the mother of three children in their 20s, flexibility is the new currency, though. The whole notion of purpose and meaning at work is so crucial now. What does the organization stand for? People want to know that their work matters, how it is making an impact, and how it gives back to the community. Crowe has spent a lot of time re-evaluating our purpose and values to ensure they help people to achieve a sense of accomplishment and that their endeavors are recognized, rewarded and have meaning. Our focus is on creating a supportive culture that encourages and allows our people to explore new possibilities and opportunities with us based on their passion, talents, and the firm’s needs. It is frustrating when someone leaves Crowe to do something elsewhere when they didn’t know they could explore it here or how to navigate our environment to pursue a new role.
JR: You have to be inclusive now. Everyone must feel part of the team. This approach starts from the induction day when we ask new staff members what their favorite drinks are – and we remember this information and serve it up to them for their lunch. It shows we care, and touches like this, plus our founder personally wrapping Christmas presents and more, sets Red Carnation above the rest. You have to go beyond the usual expectations – employee of the month awards are not enough – and invest time, money, and effort into the staff and new hires.
WC: The trick is to make an organization or brand look as appealing and relevant as possible, and back that up with actions. Young talent especially wants autonomy and meaning in their work. Still, if you compare those requirements with the employee experience, it rarely matches up, and not having that authenticity can lead to disappointment and boredom at work. When considering employee feedback, typically, there are two organizational challenges: people say there are not enough opportunities to learn, grow, and develop; second, people feel that they have massively under-utilized skills. For this reason, a good line manager can have a multiplier effect.
JR: At our head office we have about 70 people and a lot of them want to work from home two or three days a week. I’m a bit of a dinosaur – I think people work better around other people, but I have had to yield to the demands, partly because I might lose talented staff. To ensure the job is done, I have also had to trust my executives, to whom these people report. I also think that hybrid working is here to stay, and I want Red Carnation to remain relevant and attractive. We have one-to-one meetings with all staff to work on their career development, and more than ever, you need to know more about your people or risk losing them.
JW: Gaining that human connection and building personal relationships, when we are not physically together, has been a challenge since the pandemic’s start. A few years ago, it was said that “people leave managers, not organizations,” which is still valid. Despite the monumental shift in the working environment, we need to lead from the middle and pay attention to all employees. Everyone at Crowe has a career coach, and managers have to create regular check-ins and structures based on an individual’s level. As a manager, you have to be intentional and take time to strengthen bonds with your team.
WC: The quality of the line manager is everything. Exclusive statistics from the Global Growth Institute show 54 percent of managers don’t delegate enough, 40 percent take on too much work, and 65 percent don’t keep track of the time. To better engage staff and improve the employee experience – and that includes for managers – the most critical question to ask is: “How do you feel?” The managers and leaders with the most emotional intelligence will stand out. The most essential leadership trait of the 21st century, without a doubt, is empathy.