Is your candidate care strategy an obstacle to growth?

14 Feb 2017



CJUK Talent Manager and 2016 IRP Award winner Susannah Lawson outlines what it takes to succeed when candidates are scarce.

Around two years ago CJUK identified a huge obstacle to our growth. While clients were calling more and more temporary chef vacancies into our office every day, we couldn’t register enough candidates to satisfy demand.

It wasn’t just us. All types of hospitality businesses around the UK are struggling to fill chef vacancies. We realised that in order to achieve more growth we needed to get better at attracting, recruiting and retaining the best chef talent.

By realigning our focus to make candidate care a priority, we have seen 44 per cent growth in profit year-on-year, and we were proud to win ‘Best Candidate Experience’ at the 2016 IRP Awards.

Tackling an acute skills shortage

The skills shortage in hospitality is consistently highlighted in the REC’s regular jobs data. Research published by People 1st shows that 11,000 new chefs are needed to satisfy demand in the next five to seven years.

Last year, 14,000 students graduated from college with a culinary qualification, yet there is still a huge shortage of chefs.

We believe retention is the key to solving the chef shortage, so over the last couple of years we’ve made changes to ensure we are not only attracting the best talent, but also retaining them in the industry. Here’s what we’ve learnt.

1 – The 360⁰ recruiter no longer exists

CJUK identified that we needed specialists to source and attract talent without the distractions of running a busy desk with monetary targets, demanding clients and new business development.

As a result, the CJUK Talent Team was implemented. This was a risk, calling for investment in people who weren’t technically ‘billing’ for the business – but the results speak for themselves.

The Talent Team introduced our Chef Charter, which is our pledge to candidates, setting the standards and expectations we work to.

2 – Stop relying on job boards

During a skills shortage candidates are in high demand – many chefs don’t need to apply to job adverts and the ones that do get snapped up straight away. We stopped using job boards all together: not only did that save us a lot of money, it forced us to become more creative with our attraction strategies.

We went back to basics, relying on referrals, tidying our mammoth database and building our brand presence on social media. Our network of chefs is our most valuable asset and removing the temptation of adverting on job boards forced us to exploit it. In fact, we saw a 44 per cent increase in registrations via referrals last year.

3 – Create a community

Our online and social community of chefs has been a priority. Using social platforms such as Facebook, we have been able to reach a huge pool of potential candidates as well as reinforcing relationships with the chefs already on our books. Interacting with chefs on a more informal basis has seen us increase registrations via social media by 200 per cent.

For the last three years we have held the annual CJUK Live Event which brings all our chefs together from across the country to celebrate their success. The event includes an awards ceremony which recognises individual candidates’ hard work and dedication over the past 12 months.

4 – Offer learning and development

There are many benefits to working on a temporary and interim basis, such as pay by the hour and better work-life balance. However, one of the biggest concerns we heard from candidates was that their access to learning and development was sometimes restricted because they weren’t included on training courses offered to permanent employees.

This year we’ve introduced CJUK masterclasses, where our chefs can upskill and learn from each other in key areas such as pastry and butchery. These have been very well received.

Every six months we promote a proportion of our chefs to ‘Elite Chefs’. This is a highly commended status and something that our chefs strive to achieve. With ‘Elite Chef’ status comes an annual appraisal to ensure that their career is going in the right direction, a CJUK uniform and priority work. Our chefs are promoted at ‘Pizza and Peroni’ nights, our regular social events to celebrate and share success.

The benefits of our candidate care focus have been invaluable. We have removed our obstacle to growth by building a pool of loyal, motivated and engaged candidates. In a sector with such a chronic skills shortage, we are now in the position where chefs are approaching us for roles.

We believe similar results are realistically achievable for all agencies that are prepared to put the candidate first.

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