There has been some fine work carried out on highlighting the career possibilities available across the sector over the last couple of years, but with the campaign to cut VAT seemingly being moved into the sidings by the Government for the time being, it is time to ramp up an issue it can’t afford to ignore, job creation. The sector just needs a figurehead to lead the way in highlighting the breadth of the careers now available.
Last Friday, it was announced that Sir Philip Green, chief executive of the Arcadia Group –owner of BHS and Top shop, was launching a schools scheme to get teenagers into retail. The new scheme is a fresh way of letting students see inside the workplace so they can understand the breadth of retail careers: from fashion buying and finance to logistics. There will also be masterclasses at the school: in CV-writing, social media and merchandising.
Over the weekend, several newspapers ran pictures of President Obama running around the White House to support his wife Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign to encourage people in the US to be more active and to eat healthily. Both highlight what can be achieved when a high-profile operator gets involved with a campaign, first comes publicity, second action and third political influence (although to be honest Michelle Obama may have a head start here).
The launch of Green’s scheme, which will offer pupils from more than 20 partner state schools top-level work experience with the Arcadia Group, was attended by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, who immediately pledged his support for the project.
Cast your minds back to the start of 2012, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg made a number of visits to businesses in order to welcome their attempts to create jobs. One example was McDonald’s which announced plans to create at least 2,500 new jobs across the UK during that year. It said it expected more than half of the posts to go to people under the age of 25, while an estimated 30% would go to first time workers. These are the headline facts that politicians love to hear, especially in a downturn. Although thankfully the world has become a more positive place since then, job creation is still a key political tool in the run up to a general election.
However, if the sector wants to be at the forefront of this job creation, it need to do more to highlight the full breadth of careers that it can provide. Why? Because Generation Y, born in the 80s to mid 90s, and the “millennials”, born from the mid-90s onwards, have the broadest horizons of any generation to enter the workforce.
They are technically literate and connected to one another, brands, employers and the outside world in a way anyone who grew up with vinyl can only just begin to understand. This has led to an increased confidence in where they want to go and what they feel they are worth. So, typically, Generation Y and millennial recruits are associated with wanting work to be both challenging and fun, rather than menial, with plenty of training – all key touch points that should give the eating and drinking-out sector a clear advantage.
The sector should be stepping up to this challenge by highlighting the increasing roles that can be found in marketing, finance and technology. It already has the best people to communicate the opportunities available, be that boardroom level operators who have worked their way up from restaurant floor/pub bar to generational peers.
One of the most impressive examples of highlighting career pathways in the sector on a peer to peer level that I have been lucky enough to come across recently, is the service coaches scheme that Fuller’s runs. Service coaches (“champions of engaging service across the company”) are front-line members of staff who are given extra training and support to become advocates for outstanding service in their area. The company currently has c40 service coaches and is looking to add many more. The interaction between the coaches and staff, how they challenge both each other and conceptions around how a role should be carried out, forged a sense of engagement and ownership, which the company hopes will carried on throughout that member of staff’s career and also handed down to the next generation coming through.
TGI Friday’s, the Karen Forrester-led group, is quite rightly held up as one of the finest examples in the sector for hiring, training and retaining staff. Last week, it launched its Academy of Excellence to offer tailored training courses to develop and progress employees. The company has also announced that it would be running 12 “talent showcases” at the Luton-based Academy to find the “next generation” of staff members. How about Forrester being the figure head for bringing through the next generation of sector stars, or even YO! Sushi’s chief executive Robin Rowland, who, with his non-exec roles at Caffe Nero, Marston’s and Tortilla, has a view into a whole range of impressive training and engagement schemes.
This is not to disparage the work already being carried out, especially by companies such as Pret A Manger, or by projects like the Big Conversation and the Perceptions Group. This is just to highlight that there is a bigger a picture to go after, which with some joined up writing and a suitable figure head could lead to significant and long-term benefits for the sector and the economy as a whole.
This morning Tim Martin, chair of JD Wetherspoon, sent out his latest thoughts on the progress of the VAT campaign in which he says that the response from the politicians who have been consulted so far seems to me to be overwhelmingly positive in respect of the proposition that supermarkets and pubs should have equal taxes. (See M&C Report website for full note: How democracy works)
The VAT Club estimates that a reduction in VAT to 5% will create about 700,000 jobs and will be tax neutral in three years. The jobs creation point should be the main battle cry, perhaps in that sense we can get Tim to widen his gaze and hopefully the Government will open its ears.