Last week the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) announced that it has updated its growth forecasts, revealing that it estimates GDP will exceed the level seen at the start of 2008.
As the largest online jobs board for the UK, we're experiencing a similar positive trend in the hospitality industry, which could almost be seen as a bell whether for economic growth as the number of jobs advertised on Caterer.com grew 8% in the last quarter of 2013. However, with the upturn come new challenges for hospitality employers on the hunt for talented candidates.
Over the last two quarters of 2013 we saw applications per job fall slightly, whilst the number of jobs advertised steadily increased, with 120,956 advertised in 2013. We are without question operating within an employee led market, indicating a need for businesses to set themselves apart from the competition by developing their employer brands and positioning themselves as a place where employees can grow their careers.
Take a look at the hotel industry as an example. It is a hugely competitive market place, with a diverse range of opportunities available for individuals considering a career in the industry. Part of its success is down to the hotel industry's ability to adapt to meet new consumer and guest opportunities. For instance, throughout the recession we saw the growth in economy/ budget hotels. While this trend is not unique to this sector, what is interesting is the diversity of offering the budget hotel sector now provides. Guests can choose to opt for a stylish hotel that continues to meet budget requirements, or select a 'no frills' hotel that provides all the basics at a value price.
The hotel sector has also experienced a growth in the number of boutique brands, as consumers increasingly opt for more personal experiences, with individually designed rooms, considered to be less 'mass produced' than many larger scale multinational hotel companies and brands. We have also recently seen the growth of the "apart hotel", designed for longer staying or self-catering guests. "Apart hotels" offer a compromise between apartment and hotel amenities, such as buffet breakfasts and meal deliveries.
As the industry has diversified, it has provided more opportunities for careers, but equally it has led to further challenges in the hunt for talent. Consumer expectations remain high so the budget employer must compete with more upscale properties to offer the best possible service; the boutique brand requires staff with individual personalities that support the hotel's brand values, yet they can't always offer the multiple opportunities that are found in a multi-branded corporate hotel business; "apart hotels" have added an additional element of competition in the market for hospitality talent as they too require people with transferable skills to meet differing guest demands.
These challenges have no easy solution, but what is important for every hotel business or apartment provider, is the development of a strong employer brand. This needs to complement the company's wider corporate brand, whilst also staying true to the guest experience and offering. It needs to be robust and distinct enough to stand out and attract the best candidates as the war for talent continues to intensify.
As unemployment falls and while we may not yet have reached at pre-recession levels, now is the time for businesses to take stock and ensure they future proof their talent strategies and consolidate their employer brand. Although this presents challenges for hospitality employers, it also provides us all with a real opportunity to place hospitality firmly on the talent map, something that many businesses have already come some way in doing. It's a chance to attract more talented people into the industry, particularly those young people who are contributing to the 'unacceptably high' levels of youth unemployment that the BCC has also mentioned. By highlighting the opportunities available for long term career growth, we can encourage them into the industry so that we can provide talented individuals for the future.
If the industry misses this trick, it will be faced with an ever growing talent gap, and a skills shortage which could seriously hamper the industry's growth prospects.