Furlough consequences: How did furlough impact the recruitment of graduates post lockdown in the hospitality sector?
16th November 2021
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.
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 ).
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.
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.