In the Wake of COVID-19: Why EVP is More Critical Than Ever in Attracting Talent by Ann Elliott

As Featured in Propel’s Friday Opinion

If someone from a different sector asked you what the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) was for the hospitality sector, what would you say? Would it be any different to what you might have said pre-covid?

Having talked to more than 25 HR Directors in the sector over the past few weeks for a project for Harri, it’s obvious that all the businesses I talked to are very clear about their EVP and see it as critical to attracting and retaining talent. The EVP reflects their core values, their sense of “why?” and their purpose. It’s their anchor in many ways. It encapsulates: “Why would anyone want to work for us?”

Someone, somewhere, a long time ago, must have agreed this as an EVP for the hospitality sector? Would it have been the Sector Skills Council and does it still exist for our sector? If a sector EVP doesn’t exist but needs to be created, what should it be?

According to Workology, having a great EVP helps companies attract and retain talent, appeal to different markets, re-engage a disenchanted workforce, prioritise their HR agenda and create a strong people brand. It said: “A good EVP contains elements that appeal to different groups of employees from different cultures, age groups and functions. The most successful EVPs are derived from combining needs of key segments of the workforce to form a universal brand that is then communicated through the best channel for each segment.”

Well, as someone said to me this week, if they had to start with a back-of-house EVP pre-covid, it would have been:

  • Work your socks off
  • Have your time off compromised
  • Work very unsocial hours
  • Miss your holidays
  • Work in unpleasant conditions
  • Go unrecognised
  • Be on minimum wage

To be honest, this probably wouldn’t be very different for a number of other teams in the hospitality sector.

So our sector’s EVP might not have been brilliant pre-covid but the pandemic has hit its reputation quite dramatically over the past 14 months or so. Our EVP is potentially even shakier now than it was pre-covid. As someone else said to me, if passing “the test of mum and dad” when their school leaver child said they want to work in hospitality was hard in 2019, its now impossible.

Our industry bodies have done a brilliant job of telling everyone how hard hit the sector has been, how many businesses are closing down, how many jobs are being lost and how unstable it is, in order to gain financial support. It has worked with the government but its impact on those who may have previously considered working in hospitality will not have been so productive. Why even risk starting a career with hospitality when its future seems so uncertain and so unpredictable?

I don’t know who will take up the mantle of developing, agreeing and promoting the EVP for our sector. Could it be UKHospitality perhaps?

I passionately believe in this sector. I felt as if I had come home when I joined it after three other jobs – one in fast-moving consumer goods, one in an agency and one in food production. I still feel this way.

If I had to talk about an EVP in our sector, I would like to be able to say:

  • Recognisable and measurable career paths
  • Early recognition of potential
  • Huge opportunities for personal growth and learning
  • The potential for real responsibility at a young age
  • Part of a family
  • Real enjoyment and fun
  • Flexibility on hours
  • Options for work-life balance
  • Great benefits and rewards

Hopefully, post-21st June, the sector can start to talk positively once again about how great it is as a place to work. We have lost huge numbers of employees to other sectors and to other countries. We will need them back and, hopefully, sooner rather than later. We have work to do though to keep selling the sector to future team members.

Ann Elliott is a hospitality strategist, connector and adviser

Harri works with Ann Elliott on the hospitality sector’s people challenges and presents solutions to promote a positive employee experience, which includes boosting the Employer Value Proposition using tools like Carri Chat & Apply and Career Branding.

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