Amrit Dhaliwal, Walfinch CEO, shares his radical ideas to help solve the key worker recruitment crisis affecting care, hospitality and logistics
Shortages of key workers are rife and they are impacting business growth for many franchises. In the care sector, there are about 105,000 vacancies and about 34 per cent of people leave their jobs each year. In retail, vacancies reached a record of over one million in the summer of 2021 and employers are struggling to find staff. Hospitality job vacancies hit a new high of 178,000 in February this year, and 96 per cent of UK logistics businesses report problems recruiting HGV drivers. According to Logistics UK, skills shortages are growing across the entire industry.
Franchisors and franchisees in these sectors, and more, will be suffering. Difficulties in recruiting front-line workers who deliver their services can prevent growth, and news about recruitment issues may be deterring prospective franchisees. Finding solutions requires nothing less than a radical change of mind, heart and tactics by franchisors.
1. Radical changes are essential
I’m not alone in thinking this. Research by skills development organisation City & Guilds suggests there will be 3.1 million key worker openings in the next five years, but only around 25 per cent of UK citizens would consider taking jobs in sectors such as food production or logistics.
“In the face of a growing labour crisis impacting these vital industries and wider society, we need to collectively take a long, hard look at how we can make these jobs more attractive,” said City & Guilds CEO Kirstie Donelly, recently. “We need to do more than simply clap for carers. We desperately need to re-evaluate the way that we, as a nation, recognise these roles.”
I’m right with you on this Kirstie! A huge re-evaluation of our attitudes to key workers is long overdue. Franchisors can no longer treat them as expendable. When they leave there may well be no one behind to take their place.
2. Solutions start with changing our minds
We must change our perception of what these jobs are. Without the people delivering these front-line services, none of us in management and the C-suite would have a job. Companies could go bust.
We must treat employees with respect – as people, not just company assets. Get to know them, speak to them regularly, listen to their concerns, and help with any problems they may have. Offer them flexible work if they want it. At Walfinch, we know that values like respect help attract more franchisees and carers, contributing to expansion. I believe that franchisors in any sector who develop this culture of respect will see the same effect.
3. Offer careers not just jobs
Many of these roles offer an opportunity to get into a career on the ground floor without needing existing qualifications or a degree – a rare opportunity in today’s job market. Realise the value of this and publicise it in your vacancies, online, and on your website. Highlight examples of people who started at the bottom and made it to the top of the ladder – perhaps even becoming franchisees.
4. Attract people from outside your sector
Publicise the fact that you recruit for attitude and trainability, not just for experience, so you are open to candidates from outside your sector. For decades many businesses have been recruiting only people with same-sector experience in order to save money on training, but this reduces your potential field of candidates. Make it clear that you’re open to newcomers to your sector, and ensure you offer training.
5. Make it worthwhile to stay with you
There are many incentives you can offer. Here at Walfinch, we are introducing a new scheme that incentivises staff to stay and eventually become franchisees by reducing the £27,000-plus VAT initial investment fee by 10 per cent for each year that a carer remains on our team. By year five, the discount reaches a maximum of 50 per cent, so the investment is just £13,500 – and the carer will have invaluable experience in how the system works.
6. Sponsor training and development
A role that includes employer-sponsored training, and time off to do it, will attract candidates who want to climb the career ladder – just the type of motivated people you want. Don’t just offer basic or mandatory training – make it possible for staff to really grow their skills by offering extra technical and management training. Check to see if you can get government help with training.
Training also helps retention. Publicise the opportunities you offer for training and career development as often as possible. Every employee that stays with you saves you money on recruitment.
7. Set up franchise wide training schemes for employees
Consider setting up a franchise-wide training scheme for staff. I know of at least one franchise that is offering franchisees access to a training scheme for the technicians that deliver its services.
8. Revamp your recruitment systems
Recruiting via the same old tired vacancy descriptions posted on mass-market job sites is unlikely to work any longer – for a start there are hundreds of other vacancies that look the same. Rewrite your vacancy to really sell the career you are offering. Describe the role in terms of its capacity to improve customers’ lives, deliver job rewards and the chance to scale the career ladder in-house. Include the benefits and social opportunities that you offer, such as monthly staff pizza nights and birthday treats.
9 Use your people as recruiters
Nothing sells a job more than a recommendation from a happy employee, so harness that. Encourage employees to recruit friends and relatives by offering rewards when they find a new employee who joins and stays for, say, 12 months. You can also make it easier by making available a recruitment app. In the care sector, there’s an app called Care Friends that rewards staff who recommend new candidates and we are making it available to all our franchisees. Look for one in your franchise sector.
All of the above requires new thinking. Franchisors need not only to think about recruiting franchisees but about how to help those franchisees recruit staff. It’s more work and it may mean more expense, but you can’t afford not to do it – and long term it will pay off.
Amrit Dhaliwal is the chief executive of the Walfinch home care franchise.