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Innovative Recruitment and Retention

The recent BC Tourism Industry Conference (TIC) brought together hundreds of professionals across the province to cover a variety of topics and sessions affecting the industry; one of these sessions addressed the pressing issue of current and anticipated labour shortages. Moderated by Arlene Keis, chief executive officer of go2HR, the panel consisted of Jasmin Kesmez, HR generalist at PlentyofFish and Amy Hamdorff, recruiting manager at Joey Restaurant Group.

The purpose of this panel session, Keis explained, “is to gain new insight and knowledge from HR professionals from both inside and outside the industry.” Titled “Innovative Recruitment and Retention,” this HR-focused session discussed tips, tricks and tools used by these successful organizations to recruit and retain staff.

Considering that some 100,000 new jobs are anticipated in BC’s tourism and hospitality industry over the coming years, it’s more important than ever to find new and innovative ways to recruit and retain skilled employees. As Keis stated in her presentation, this gap started in 2013 and is only expected to worsen. 

As someone well outside of tourism and hospitality, Kesmez of PlentyofFish (POF) – a technology company that provides a platform for online dating – has experienced a similar dearth of skilled professionals. Her challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining workers are familiar to many in the industry.

With 80 team members and offices in Europe, North America and South America, Kesmez said the technology industry is anticipating a labour shortage of more than 180,000 to fill new jobs across Canada now through 2019.  To deal with this shortage and encourage retention, Kesmez explained that she and her team focus on some key tangibles and intangibles, such as maintaining a positive work culture, promoting a work/life balance and championing an overall belief in their product and service. “Every Friday afternoon,” she said, “we send out success stories to our staff to remind them what they’re working towards and how they are connecting people.”

Other retention efforts include yearly staff retreats to encourage strong connections with peers and with the company, as well as regular staff parties, Friday Happy Hours and rewarding high performers with bonus programs.  In particular, Kesmez said, “PlentyofFish makes it a point to offer cross-functional opportunities to our staff, so they know there is lots of opportunity here to grow and move up within the company. This has really been effective in our retention strategies.”

Amy Hamdorff of Joey Restaurant Group echoed Kesmez’s sentiments when it comes to current and expected labour shortages. When you consider the continued growth of Joey Restaurants with 26 locations across North America, and another anticipated 12 locations opening over the next several years, the discussions around labour challenges are very familiar to Hamdorff and her team. “Each of our locations requires anywhere from 100 to 150 team members,” Hamdorff said.  “So it’s really important for us to look at new and creative ways of finding and keeping our staff.”

In her presentation, Hamdorff cited a severe shortage of cooks until 2020 and beyond – a shortage, she said, that will only continue to increase. To address this challenge, Joey Restaurants offers on-the-job training for new cooks.  “No training, no problem,” she said. “We will train you on the job.”

This effort has proven successful in Joey’s recruitment strategy, along with creating a strong and defined employment brand through JoeyCareers – an array of digital initiatives via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that showcase the advantages and opportunities of working with Joey Restaurants.

“Everything we do at Joey’s is done through our six core values:  Integrity, Passion to Win, Innovation, Teamwork, Excellence and Unleashing Potential,” Hamdorff added. The last value, in particular, is one that she emphasized during her presentation, noting that “every person at the company has an opportunity to develop their skills.”

Joey Restaurants also makes it a point to build relationships with local schools and organizations to source new team members. Most recently, the restaurant group has worked with go2HR, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, chambers of commerce and local tourism boards.

In terms of retention, Hamdorff emphasized the company’s focus on growth and opportunity at every turn. For example, through the Joey Culinary Apprentice Program, Culinary Clubs and JoeyEd – a diploma and MBA program with Royal Roads University (in partnership with Joey Restaurants) – every team member has the opportunity to build their knowledge, develop their skills and grow with the company.  To make sure of this, Joey Restaurants creates progression and action plans for each staff member, while all the educational courses are paid for by the company.

In an industry known for its high turnover and low wages, Hamdorff added that Joey Restaurants is attempting to combat these with various innovative strategies.  “Through our programs and plans, we are challenging the notion that a career in the hospitality industry is not a desirable one.”

Whether discussing the shortage of technology scientists, cooks, chefs or other types of skilled workers, industries across the province and around the country are experiencing similar labour challenges. However, what we’re learning, said Arlene Keis of go2HR, is that there are “many ideas being put forth that tourism can learn from, and that can be transferred from one industry to another.”

For more information on tips and tools to recruit and retain staff, visit go2HR.

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