In Payroll & Employment by Clyde Mooney

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Luke Butler

Contributor – Luke Butler


Working in hospitality recruitment, I’ve come to know a diverse range of professionals across many sectors, from on-premise and accommodation to QSR, Club, and contract catering.

One of the first questions I ask candidates is: What are you looking for in your next role?

The surprising thing is the consistency of responses from candidates, regardless of sector. There is a clear message from candidates about what they are looking for in a work environment, a sentiment that’s echoed across the broader employment market.

And perhaps the hospitality industry has been slower to respond to the changing needs of employees, which has led to a skills and candidate shortage is some areas, as workers look to more structured sectors to bridge the gap.

So what are candidates looking for in a role and in a workplace? Here are five key areas to consider as opportunities to support a stronger employment brand in the market, greater employee engagement, and a more effective staff base across your business.


  1. Positive Culture

Time and time again, what a candidate is really looking for sits ancillary to a good salary or a big title. Sure, those things are important, but in the long run it’s a positive culture that will keep an employee connected to your business.

The benefits of defining and instilling a distinct culture are many. Not only do you create a positive workplace where colleagues thrive, but your customers feed off this when in your business. Your employees will work with you for longer, they’ll encourage others to join your business and they will require less management as your culture will influence them to do the right thing.

To initiate the development of a strong culture, it’s all about investing the time defining the purpose, values and beliefs that sit behind it, then flesh out the behaviours that you’d expect within that culture.

As an example, your culture might be built primarily around communication, encouraging the free transfer of opinions to ensure employees know they have a voice.

However, if you choose to define your culture, ensure that you live and breathe it at all times, otherwise you run the risk of creating a negative environment that staff have difficulty trusting. Make culture a priority from induction and you will begin to see the benefits very quickly.


  1. Creative freedom

Having the opportunity for creative input in a business is becoming increasingly important to candidates. Some operators are naturally hesitant to the input of employees, but much can be gained by opening the lines of communication with those most connected to your customers.

The key to successful creative partnerships is setting a framework to manage the processes. For example, provide the opportunity to be creative around a specific business initiative along with clearly defined outcomes. By doing this you will promote creativity in a staggered way until you feel comfortable to expand the limits.


  1. Having a Voice

In today’s hyper-connected world, everyone has a voice. When you consider this within the context of a largely extroverted industry, you have a candidate pool of vocal individuals keen to have their opinions heard.

Engaging employees through forums can be a great source of insight. But for any initiative to be successful, it must be structured to avoid any potential negative impacts that can occur as a result of voices feeling unheard.

Consider monthly meetings or regular 15-minute stand-ups with staff to obtain feedback or ideas. Set up a ‘feedback@’ email address for staff who wish to communicate confidentially. Encourage managers to ask questions, and where possible, form an inclusive approach to decision-making processes. Whatever you decide to do, the key is to commit to the process and follow through.


  1. Opportunities for growth

It seems these days that we’re never discussing just one opportunity. Employers need to be mindful that candidates are already considering their next role, and the one after that.

Where we see great success is with businesses that are able to clearly step out a progression path within their organisation. Even better, when the path is aligned with performance or behavioural KPIs, so that candidates have a clear understanding of what is needed to achieve their long-term career goals.

Identifying opportunities for growth can be as simple as mapping out the career progression you are already seeing in your business so candidates can build a picture of what their path could look like. By aligning with a position description (discussed below) candidates can identify the linked behaviours and employers have a way to measure performance.

It’s also helpful to provide examples of how key individuals have progressed through your organisation to showcase what real life success looks like within your business.


  1. Position Description

Historically it is rare to see a position description shared with new or prospective employees in hospitality environments. There are organisations that do this well, however most rely on the verbal transfer of information during interviews or a level of assumed knowledge relating to what a position will entail.

There are many benefits to providing a position description. Consciously or subconsciously, employees see a position description as recognition of the importance of a role, which adds merit to the entire recruitment process.

With a position description in place, you also create a yardstick by which future performance can be measured. You also reduce any ‘grey areas’ relating to core responsibilities and expectations, instead empowering employees through the guidelines provided.

If you want to mobilise quickly and create position descriptions for employees, consider starting with bullet points, which can be expanded over time. At this point your position description will also be broad enough for use as a management tool. Longer term you can incorporate information relating to specific tasks, expected behaviours, lines of reporting and limits of authority.

In an employment market experiencing a significant candidate shortage, intensified by a proliferation of new venue openings, smart operators are taking it upon themselves to focus on tailoring their employment proposition to the wants of top talent.



Luke Butler is Principal Consultant, Hospitality & Leisure at FutureYou Executive Recruitment. He has more than 18 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including senior roles as Group GM of The Keystone Group and GM Melbourne for Urban Purveyor Group, and owner of Surry Hills’ Carrington Hotel.