Q&A: How can recruiting mature workers help UK hospitality operators during the growing staffing crisis?

The work Learn Train Recruit has done with young people is well documented, but we are also much more than an employer of young people. We believe in a diverse work force and that the current staffing crisis needs to consider the older generation when recruiting.

Interviewer: Janie Stamford

In this short Q&A, we ask 3 of our team - Tim Andrews (Managing Director), Richard Sawyer (Executive Chef Consultant) and Michelle Berry (Perms Consultant) their views on why recruiting mature workers could be a very sensible decision for employers.

Q: How can recruiting mature workers help UK hospitality operators during the growing staffing crisis?


Tim: Recruiting mature workers is absolutely essential when looking at the growing staffing crisis. In September last year, a report by MAC (The Migration Advisory Committee) stated that the proportion of EU workers among hospitality’s new starters stood at 38.5%, having fallen from 45% over the last 18 months. This is only partially offset by UK new workers which increased by only 2%.  This basically amounts in real terms a shortfall of around 60,000 workers annually, year on year. And it’s going up. That is a large deficit. Looking to hire more mature workers is essential when looking to close this gap.


Michelle: I have found that mature workers tend to have a different work ethic and a lot more commitment and loyalty to a work place


Richard: We are all part of the ageing process and still want to feel part of society. Mature employees tend to favour flexibility and bring with them lots of life and , often, industry experience. The issue in our industry is that a lot of places do not see mature workers as young, sexy and dynamic, and often over look the experience they bring with them because of that.


Q: How big is the mature workers recruitment pool?


Tim: The latest figures I could find was that 46% of the hospitality workforce was between the ages of 16-29, 35% were between 30 – 49 years, with only 13% between the ages of 50 – 59 years old. The remaining 9% were 60+. The Independent news paper last year reported that over a million 50+ workers who were able and willing work were unemployed. That is a large number of wasted potential talent and a resource, as an industry, we should be tapping into.


Michelle: It is large because many hospitality businesses seem to favour millennials when recruiting


Richard: The gap is large, as most hospitality recruiters seem to see mature workers as a health and safety issue, wondering if they can commit to the long hours that the hospitality industry can operate under.


Q: What do mature workers bring to the table that their younger colleagues might not and why?


Michelle: I believe mature workers can bring wisdom, better understanding of what is required in a work place, dedication to getting the work done with good results, being on time, turning up for work every day, respecting each other regardless of age, knowledge and experience.


Richard: In my experience, mature workers bring absolute dedication, lack tardiness, tend to have sincerity, are experienced listeners, and because they have “been round the block” – so to speak – bring with them different life experiences meaning higher skills levels, higher levels of engagement, wanting to give back, lower turnover rate, coaching and mentoring.


Q: What can hospitality operators do to make themselves attractive to this market of jobseekers?


Tim:  Well for a start they can be more open to the idea of working with mature people. For example I recently had a very experienced candidate in his 50s who had more energy than some of his peers in their late 30s/early 40s but was being looked over because of his age – there was this continued assumption that he was “past it” when in fact it couldn’t be further than the truth.


Michelle: Companies should stop discriminating, and offer more opportunities for training the mature worker, and be prepared to employ the mature worker as well as the younger worker, thus creating a diverse workforce that can work cohesively.


Richard: Firstly, to be more diplomatic when considering applicants for a role and not just say “oh, they’re over qualified”. Another classic is the assumption that someone must be too expensive because of their age and experience. There are many mature workers who would appreciate and consider a salary reduction.


Q: Which operators are already benefiting from this worker demographic?


Tim: Well I can say straight away, us. Learn Train Recruit has a mixture of young and mature workers and the dynamic is incredible. I tell you something in terms of energy and commitment the older members of the team can give the young ones a run for their money. I am delighted to have such a mixed team. I do know that McDonalds have recently been promoting to the more mature worker and that it is working for them. Outside of our industry, of course, most people are aware of the very successful B&Q model.


Michelle: Learn Train Recruit, Hilton Hotel in park lane, Retail -River Island


Richard: Companies such as John Lewis, B&Q, Waitrose are all ahead of the game and are already doing this… so why isn’t the hospitality industry?


Q: Are there any types of roles/operations that best suit mature workers? Are there those that especially do not?


Tim: I would suggest that there are perhaps some roles that might not be suited but it really depends on the physicality of the person. For example, a role that requires people running up and stairs all day – but again that is more defined by the persons health rather than age.


Richard: My view is this, catering and hospitality in general can offer such positions with a little bit of adaption and willingness and forethought.


Q: Where do mature workers tend to come from, inside or outside of the hospitality industry? 


Tim: I would say both, and it depends at what stage people are in their respective careers. Some people look to hospitality as a source of income when their careers have finished in other sectors. A big issue we also need to tackle is driving out experience from our industry, because of this massive assumption mature workers are “past it”. We should be retaining this experience, and using it to pass down the knowledge and expertise to develop and grow the younger workers.


Michelle: In my experience I have found that for entry level roles, mature workers come from all workforces, and tend to be people looking for, or additional, income.


Richard: Some mature workers leave the industry due to demands placed on them by unreasonable employers. I know of people who have been forced out by being given un-achievable goals, when the reality was the employers only wanted a “youthful” team.


Q: What are the benefits of recruiting mature workers from other sectors?


Tim: This is probably where I deviate a little from my colleagues here. I’m not sure hiring mature workers from another sector is necessarily advantageous or over taking someone from another sector generally. I think someone coming in from outside the industry can bring in new fresh ideas, new ways of doing things and have a lot to add – IF they have the right personality – regardless of age.


Michelle: Mature workers bring knowledge of other sectors, at times adapting what has been learnt in one sector and bringing it to another.


Richard: A mature worker from another sector is likely to show willingness to adapt and learn. They can potentially offer efficiency and confidence, as well as set an example.


Q: Is there any legislation that employers need to consider in regards to mature workers?


Tim: The obvious one that springs to mind is the Equality Act 2010. The law says that you can't treat someone unfairly or differently because of a ‘protected characteristic’. Age is a protected characteristic so it is essential that any policies and procedures you have as an employer do not discriminate – even inadvertently – against an employee due to their age.


Michelle: Health and Safety, for sure.

Some areas of Health and Safety, absolutely, as well as Manual Handling may have to be looked at as well. Shift patterns is another one – for example too many double shifts and late finishes is a No No. Putting the right mature candidate in the right job with the right working conditions is essential.


In conclusion: It is clear that there are a number of benefits in hiring mature workers, and hospitality employers should think twice before writing someone off because of their age. Age, in many cases, it seems really is just a number. If you're not looking at the older employee just because of how long they have lived on this planet, you really are missing out as an employer.

If you are a mature worker and you are looking for hospitality work, why not visit our jobs page and see what opportunities are available to you.

For other related blogs on this matter why not take a look at:

Opportunities For Mature Workers In The Hospitality Industry

What Can You Expect From A Job In Hospitality

Old Dogs New Tricks - Why You Should Employ Older Workers 

Our Q&A team: 

Michelle Berry - perm consultant               
Richard Sawyer - Executive Chef Consultant                  Tim Andrews - Managing Director

  Michelle Berry     Richard Sawyer           Tim Andrews

Janie Stanford is a digital media specialist and journalist. For more info visit https://janiestamford.com/

Posted by: Learn Train Recruit