The effects of the pandemic on staff retention and employment…
It would be fair to say that staff retention has been a hot topic over recent months, in light of COVID-19 implecations, writes Sue Hollingshead. As we entered Lockdown in March, it was naturally a difficult time for everyone and also an unknown entity. Staff being furloughed, not being able to physically go to work, not being able to go anywhere for that matter, created a scenario that was totally new to us all. Holiday Park Scene has been researching how it affected employers within the holiday park sector and we have been pleasantly surprised by the positivity. Lisa Charles-Jones, HR Director from Parkdean Resorts reflects: “The response of our teams was fantastic. For example, we were first forced to close just before Easter, and rather than all our fresh food and drink going to waste, teams decided to donate to local foodbanks in their communities. “We also worked with the NHS to provide accommodation for key workers at four of our parks, which was our own small way of saying thank you,” says Lisa. “We were fortunate that we were able to keep hold of all our staff under the furlough scheme, and each park had regular online socials to check in on everybody and maintain the family spirit that is so important for our teams.”
Danielle Lasky, Head of People Operations at Away Resorts shared how their teams faired: “COVID-19 has made our team stronger than ever and the spirit that has been shown from our team members during Lockdown has been incredible! “We used our internal social media platform to engage with our team members while they actively took the initiative to pioneer some of their own engagement events – interactive quizzes, bingo, comedy nights. “It was uplifting to see how much creativity there was across the business. We were really keen to keep the lines of communication open and our CEO, Carl Castledine, very much led from the front. “At the height of Lockdown Carl was providing three recorded updates a week to all team members, ensuring teams were fully informed as to what movements there were across the business but also providing some well needed reassurance in what was such an uncertain, vulnerable time for all.” The approach by Parkdean Resorts and Away Resorts is refreshing, it was also a framework adopted by many companies throughout the country. A key part of retaining staff revolves around investing in their mental wellbeing, whether this is to support them in their role, tipping into their personal life, financial or otherwise. The true results of how companies have handled and supported their staff during Lockdown will be evident post- Lockdown. Danielle said: “We could not be prouder of how our team have adopted the new safe ways of working. “The hospitality and leisure industry can often be very demanding and the added need for protective equipment has made the demands on these roles higher – but our team have seamlessly taken on the challenge and excelled. It was such a great feeling to open our doors and welcome the team back when reopening on 4th July.” We are lucky to be in a buoyant market, with the Staycation having taken off massively as we were able to start travelling again. Parkdean reported huge demand and were able to bring back all of their staff from furlough and in fact hired a further 1,500 seasonal workers across the country to cope with the demand. A trend which we have seen throughout the market with its strength continuing to grow.
With his experience in recruitment, Jim Gandon, Managing Director of Annesley Gandon, for offered valuable advice: “Recruiting is sometimes the easy bit, retaining them can be the challenge.When it comes to recruitment, the biggest mistake we see is the lack of due diligence undertaken,” he said. “Candidates can look great on paper, but we can all write a CV that looks good. The key is a good track record and previous performance.” Jim advises when interviewing always ask for specific examples of things that have gone well, this doesn’t always relate to financial it could be systems and processes put in place. If they are good, then they should have a few examples of these. “Always take references and ensure that they have worked at the places they say they have, ask for their last two previous employers as a reference. If they have an excuse why you shouldn’t talk to them then that should be a cause for concern.” Retaining a team is one of the biggest issues we come up against, Jim continues: “As an employer, we should be creating an environment that is a pleasure to work in. Believe it or not we still come across employers that think it is the employees’ privilege to work for them and they should be thankful!
“We have put together teams that have made companies millions in extra revenue,” Jim says. “This has all been about the right people, in the right place, within a positive environment. For the most part recognition is the biggest driver for most people, small gestures like a thank you or a team night out goes a long way. “Yes, there are lots of employee benefit schemes around, but the simple things are the most important.” The next step, as advised by Jim, is to ensure that a new employee has the right level of induction and introduction into the company. This was endorsed also by Lisa and Danielle, and clearly a vital part of the process. Setting goals, targets, and review dates may seem unnecessary to the employer when employing someone they feel will be a perfect for the role, however the employee will flourish from having the guidelines and clarification of the employers’ expectations. So, what thoughts for post- Lockdown and the immediate future, we wonder. Jim commented: “The strength of the market is almost as unprecedented as the pandemic itself. “The appetite for the UK holidays and holiday home ownership post- Lockdown is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in the industry.
“The tougher side is where operators have realised they need to make redundancies, however there are also many opportunities for people as other companies grow.We have seen some very forward-thinking operators using this period of time to invest in their products and services for 2021.” Lisa agrees: “Unfortunately a lot of people have lost their jobs, but that could provide a great opportunity for sectors like ours which have been thriving over the past few months. “We’re always keen to recruit from a variety of professional backgrounds, and we may see people from other sectors making the move into our industry. “There was a fantastic level of co-operation across the sector as we all worked together to lobby the Government and local MPs. There’s no doubt that together, we’re stronger, and hopefully we’ll continue to collaborate together in the future.” Danielle concludes: “It has been such an unfortunate period watching so many people become vulnerable to redundancies, from a recruitment perspective it has infiltrated the market with some truly fantastic candidates! “We are continuing to grow as a business and have some amazing opportunities at all levels so I hope we can provide some stability for job seekers that have found themselves in an unfortunate circumstance this year.” Despite having had a challenging year which has affected Human Resource departments massively, there is clearly positivity for the holiday sector with some strong feedback, advice, and strength for future employment.
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