Work & Wellbeing

Hospitality sector needs ad industry’s help to solve historic labor crisis

By Julian Douglas | International chief executive and vice-chairman

November 8, 2021 | 7 min read

In his latest column, IPA president Julian Douglas discusses how the ad industry can help solve recruitment issues in hospitality.

The hospitality industry is the UK’s fourth biggest employer. But it is experiencing chronic worker shortages, with over 188,000 hospitality vacancies. You might have noticed this if you’ve found your favorite lunch spot isn’t open of late. Research shows only one in five adults in the UK would consider a job in hospitality, and only two in five would recommend a job in hospitality to others.

So for the next Think 10X initiative, part of my IPA President’s Agenda, the best of the advertising industry is coming together to save our pubs and restaurants by creating a recruitment campaign to reframe and rejuvenate the sector before it’s too late. The steaks couldn’t be higher (sorry).

woring in hospitality

There are reportedly over 188,000 vacancies in the UK hospitality industry

This initiative is already showing great promise. Mark McCulloch, founder and chief executive of Supersonic Inc, has created a coalition called Hospitality Rising, made up of brands ranging from Pizza Express to Pret, Hawksmoor to Hilton Hotels and a whole host of small independents. They will provide the funding – what they need is a big idea that doubles the talent pool.

The great renewal

As we all know only too well, the talent crunch is impacting our industry too and much has already been written on the subject. Businesses are going it alone and fighting each other for an ever-smaller number of candidates, while other sectors are throwing huge sums of money at the talent available.

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Much is being said about The Great Resignation. What a waste of a term. The word ‘resignation’ is imbued with a sense of giving up. An accepting, unresisting attitude. Submission; acquiescence: ‘to meet one’s fate with resignation.’

This doesn’t tally with the many people I’ve met recently who are making the decision to change the job they do, the place they work or the country they live in. These people aren’t giving up. Quite the opposite. They are making an active choice to do something different. So how about The Great Recalibration, or The Great Renewal? Or even The Great Renaissance?

We are all living through the biggest change in attitudes to work. Every industry is facing talent issues. And it’s global. The tech-enabled possibilities out there are enormous. Meta, you might say. But like every industry, to build our tomorrow we need to fix our fundamentals today. Our role and the way we choose to fulfil it. The contribution we make to business and society at large, and how we are rewarded for it. How we discover, attract, develop and retain talent.

Attraction and retention

HGV drivers are reportedly getting £60k. Starting salaries for lawyers are at £147k. Looking through the papers, it seems we’re all working in the wrong industry. Work under way at the IPA shows there has been salary stagnation in advertising over the past 10 years, with pay rises not keeping up with inflation and in our December IPA Council meeting we will be discussing this as a key issue. We cannot compete in attracting the best talent if we fall so far behind competitive industries.

Beyond the numbers, we may do well to reconsider our definition of wealth and reclaim its original meaning. Looking into the etymology of the word, Jeremy Williams finds it comes from the old English ‘weal,’ which means ‘wealth, welfare and wellbeing.’ By the 15th century it settled around the idea of possessions, riches and prosperity, leaving behind the original wider meaning of health and wellbeing.

I believe reclaiming this original, more holistic interpretation of the word is crucial to taking on one of the greatest challenges we face – talent retention. A key step to addressing this is creating a culture of belonging and inclusivity in our industry.

The iList 2022

That is why I am delighted to see that one of my favorite programs at the IPA, the iList, is returning in 2022 supported by Accenture (entry for nominations is now open).

With a playful nod to the somewhat old school and elitist A-list, the iList celebrates the 25 most inspirational, inclusive and irrepressible role models in our industry today.

The iList was launched in 2019 to recognize and celebrate those leaders from all backgrounds and at all levels who are changing our industry for the better. These are the people who are truly promoting and driving a culture of belonging in the advertising industry by creating authentic, representative work or game-changing programs within their organizations or as part of industry initiatives.

In keeping with my 10X Accelerate Opportunity agenda, we are turbo-boosting the impact we will make with this second iteration of the iList for 2022. So this time there will be more than just an award with a year-round program as we build a community of like-minded leaders and provide a platform to share best practices and innovative ideas to help others find solutions to their own D&I concerns.

You can enter yourself or nominate someone else and I urge you to do so. We are looking to highlight the real heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes and to share stories that others can learn from, borrow, copy or incorporate easily. All levels are welcome and entry is free. Even the act of completing the application will help in accelerating change to tackle one of our industry’s greatest issues.

Julian Douglas is president of the IPA and international chief executive and vice-chairman of VCCP.

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