Furlough consequences: How did furlough impact the recruitment of graduates post lockdown in the hospitality sector?

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Autumn 2021

Covid Influence

In mid-December 2019, a new and contagious type of coronavirus, COVID-19 (CoronaVirus Disease 2019) emerged and changed everyone’s day to day life as we know it. 

In 2020, the COVID-19 virus had spread globally, forcing leaders and universities into drastic measures affecting how citizens and students interact socially, educationally, and occupationally (Zhai & Du, 2020). 

To prevent further infections and in order to help people keep their jobs, the furlough scheme was introduced. The UK went into lockdown resulting in non-essential places being closed and workers receiving furlough (70% of the wage) instead of their full wages. 

In addition to that, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a rapidly changing (Kang, 2021) and unstable work environment for hospitality industry employees (Analysis of the Relationship between COVID-19 and Employee Satisfaction in Luxury Hotels, 2021). According to Rivera (2021), 49% of students said that they are concerned about their future careers in their desired field due to the global pandemic.

Covid Data in Hospitality

The hospitality sector was the first to shed its workforce in response to the closure of operations by governments and the slump in demand and may well be among the slower sectors to recruit its workforce back into employment (Flaming and Burns, 2020). 

The mass furloughs and layoffs, as well as the closures of business, could have significantly changed the job market and the dynamics between the hiring managers and job candidates.

Source: Insitute for Government analysis of HMRC, payroll statistics, July 2021

Post-pandemic opportunities for hospitality graduates

As the restrictions have been lifted, the number of employees has increased significantly due to the availability of jobs, especially in the hospitality sector ( https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-statistics-4-november-2021 ).

Source: Institute for Government analysis of ONS, vacancies by industry, July 2021

For instance, Marriott has begun using Facebook to attract young prospective graduates, because Generation Z, now one of the biggest forces in the hospitality and tourism sector, demands companies to acclimatise to social media (Goh & Okumus, 2020).

However, working in the industry may not be appealing to all tourism and hospitality (T&H) students (Walsh et al., 2015)

Nowadays, job transitions are more likely, whether by choice or necessity, especially in light of the struggling work economy, such as the COVID-19 state (Rossier et al., 2012). As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (https://ifs.org.uk/) has warned, based on previous recessions, graduates will likely find it more challenging to get work and will start off in lower-paying occupations than they might have expected as a result of the downturn. This is backed up by the research by the Institute for Student Employers (https://ise.org.uk/) which found that graduate recruitment is down 12% compared to last year.

The interview with the General Manager of Jury’s Inn Cheltenham Peter Hendry

As the data shows that finding a job post-pandemic for hospitality graduates might be quite challenging, we decided to interview a General Manager of a local hotel to see his point of view on the topic.

Academic resources indicated that it is more challenging to find a job as a recent graduate in the hospitality sector due to a significant job loss during the pandemic. Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

I would disagree strongly, however, this would be based on June 2020 onwards. Prior to July 2020, I would agree that finding jobs in a challenged and in some cases closed industry is very difficult. Now however there are more jobs available than there are people, so there should be no reason a graduate or student can’t find employment in the industry, given the significant recruitment challenges and people resources the country is facing in multiple industries, not just recruitment.

Do You think that the furlough scheme has affected the recruitment process in the hospitality industry? 

Difficult to pinpoint if Furlough has had the effect on the recruitment. It was a great scheme, however as it was going for so long many people had the benefit of 80% income for over 12 months, which arguably in some cases made people re-evaluate their needs from a job, and how much they needed to work, so when Furlough ended, many more people left jobs and the industry. Companies that couldn’t offer Furlough (due to low cash flow and low operating margins) found a real problem recruiting as the original team were eligible for benefits and retained those benefits as the industry woke up again, and didn’t feel the need to work.

As hospitality has been portrayed badly through the Pandemic, (first to close, last to open etc) many people have chosen to step away from this career choice, however as has been seen on the recovery through the summer and now continued through the autumn, hospitality is extremely resilient and has and will continue to bounce back strongly.

Have You noticed any changes in recruitment trends in your industry? 

It is harder to recruit, there is less choice of candidates and skill levels of those interested is lower than pre-pandemic, so the industry is less likely to recruit trained team members, instead of requiring to recruit more junior members and needing greater levels of training.

Employers are having to sell their business more to candidates rather than the candidate selling themselves to the employer, with greater benefits of employment needed. 

Hospitality growth comes through experience and training. Our company had an exceptional level of interest in the graduate programme for the September 2021 intake, and we have successfully employed our largest cohort this year, however growth in career and positions comes through experience that can only be gained by starting from the bottom up, so subject to what opportunities have been taken by the students through their studies in terms of placements and part-time jobs, will determine their future roles and entry-level salaries, and not relevant to the pandemic.

Final findings

In conclusion, as seen above, the academic data does not always reflect the reality of the industry. Kwok and Muniz (2021) encourage future studies to examine this phenomenon again in the post-pandemic era, which may inform us if COVID-19 would create permanent impacts on the job market. Based on research, we recommend enquiring information directly from a potential workplace and not always relying on academic data.

What is Your opinion on the topic? As a recruiter, have you faced any challenges? As a recent graduate, do you find it difficult to be selected for your dream job in hospitality?

Please leave us your answers in the comment section.


Peter Hendry says:

Great blog and a really important subject matter for those stepping out of academia and into the world of work. Take information from multiple sources and build local relationships with industry leaders. They are the ones that hold the keys to your next steps

s1904588 says:

Hi Peter, thank you for sharing your opinion and insightful tips for recent and future graduates!
Do you think the employment trends will keep changing as rapidly as they are now?

Kristiina says:

Hey, love your blog! Really interesting to know the statistics, haven’t seen this information elsewhere. For me personally the lockdown had a massive impact on my work and life in general. When it all started in March 2020 my workplace (as a waitress at a club at the time) has closed like all of the clubs, so I lost my job. Had to move back to my home country, where getting a new job was a little bit earlier, but to this day I haven’t found anything related to my degree yet, even though I finished my studies in beginning of the summer. Still looking for a degree-related job and waiting for the endless lockdowns and restrictions to end. Great to know, that I’m not the only one struggling! Thank you!

s1904588 says:

Hi Kristiina!
Sorry to hear about your experience with employment throughout this pandemic. Have you had a similar scheme to furlough back in your country and if so has it impacted your work life?

Alina says:

I am working as a manager in the restaurant, and I can tell you that it’s been really hard to find people who’d like to work in hospitality industry… I donmt have an explanation to that, but my guess would be that COVID-19 introduced us to many more digital jobs, and people now prefer working from home instead of doing any sort of physical work… Lockdown definitely changed us and how everyone sees things.

s1904588 says:

Hi Alina!
Thank you for taking your time to reply and add to our discussion. As a manager, do you think the end of furlough means that employment in hospitality will be easier in restaurants?

Matt says:

With the pandemic taking away the pre-covid work experience opportunities, I just feel less prepared going into a job in general, let alone a job in my preferred field. Though i find that there are more jobs available, wages are low and motivation is too. I find myself now just going with the flow, taking whatever opportunities I can.

s1904588 says:

Hi Matt,
thank you for taking your time to leave a comment.
Has the furlough availability throughout the pandemic influenced your decisions when picking a job?

Jaan says:

Very informative comment on the burning topic. In my experience, the furlough itself has not affected me personally, but I could certainly see the impact in the industry I was working in at the time, which as I now see, after reading this, was even more prevalent in other industries, especially hospitality.

s1904588 says:

Hi Jaan,
thank you for your comment.
What would you say would help the hospitality industry now?

Rasel Mahmud says:

A very well painted piture of how Covid 19 affected the hospitality industry and its workforce in the UK. As it is a massive sector covering a vast number of different type and kind of businesses; its very hard to pinpoint the casue and effects in a generic way. However it is very clear that the pandamic has changed the landscape of hospitaliry work and recruitments for good. For me on a good note now it’s time to recognise the economic impact and the importance of the sector, its worker and its manager and reward them accoridingy. A very well written and to the point article.

s1904588 says:

Hi Rasel,
thank you for taking your time to read and comment on our blog. It is really interesting to see your point if view on the topic. What would you say would be an appropriate reward for workers who stayed with the business throughout the pandemic?

Giovanni says:

Great blog, really insightful.COVID-19 is one of those events where is hard to have a contingency plan for, especially for the hospitality sector. However, I think it has exposed the importance of an online presence and flexibility.

s1904588 says:

Hi Giovanni,
thank you for your comment. We agree that the pandemic was quite unpredictable. Would you say that online events are the new future?

An excellent blog. Our mindset towards the work and social life balance has changed significantly because of the furlough scheme in the post-pandemic world. As a result, a hybrid style of working culture is developing, and our productivity is gradually increasing and becoming more sustainable.

In terms of the hospitality sector, we have to learn how to adapt to the new working style and improve the culture to attract graduates. I am confident that generation Z will bring lots of innovations together with technology to develop the hospitality sector.

It’s inevitable that we should make this sector resilient if we want to attract more talents. and only way we can do that is by practising the UNSDG

s1904588 says:

Hi Litu,
thank you so much for taking your time to leave a comment. Do you have any examples of sustainability in hospitality sector?

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