We had the opportunity to interview Nicky Wright, Head of Permanent Resourcing at Nicky Wright resizeCompass Group to gain more insights into staff recruitment and retention in the Hospitality industry and her experiences in her role at Compass Group.

Q: Please can you tell us a bit about you and your role as Head of Resourcing at Compass?

I joined Compass in September 2019, and I am accountable for all salaried recruitment for Compass Group UK, supported by my fabulous team. I previously worked within the Hospitality industry for a large well-known pub company where I undertook a variety of HR and Resourcing roles during my time there.  And prior to my move into Hospitality I also spent 6 years in agency recruitment.

The core responsibility of the role at Compass is to develop the approach, strategy and scope of the services we deliver, this includes.

  • Delivering a sector/brand aligned team of Resourcing professionals
  • Understanding the requirements of our sectors to build strong and lasting relationships with our stakeholders
  • Providing fresh and creative recruitment campaigns to build brand awareness
  • Developing tools to drive the objectives and strategies

Q: Learning & development is a big part of your company culture – can you tell us about the training & development opportunities for Compass employees?

Compass Group UK & Ireland has a dedicated central Learning and Development team who provide a wide range of engaging and inspiring learning initiatives for employees. There is a full suite of digital learning modules, both mandatory and optional; development programmes that serve every level of the business from frontline employees through to exec members who wish to progress their career, and a catalogue of development workshops for those who wish to develop their skills in particular areas. In addition, we also have a mentoring and coaching network to support colleagues throughout their learning journeys.

Compass has made a commitment to apprenticeships to support the Skills Development of existing employees and the attraction of new talent to the business via an apprentice vacancy route funded through our Apprenticeship Levy. Our apprenticeship offers have been developed in conjunction with each of our business sectors, taking into consideration the skills gaps and skills development requirements to achieve our people, purpose and performance objectives.

Q: Are the training & development opportunities mandatory or are employees encouraged to opt into training opportunities?

There are several mandatory training programmes that employees must complete which are targeted at specific disciplines, sectors and roles to ensure our people have the right skills to do their job. After mandatory training is completed, we have our free at point of use L&D offer that anyone can take part in, which allows anyone to learn at any time based on their specific development needs or interests. In 2019 we delivered over 100,000 training courses to our people.

Q: What would you say is the most important element of the onboarding process when someone new joins Compass?

The employee experience. Often companies focus on mandatory learning when onboarding a new starter, which we know is important, but ultimately what the new starter will remember is the experience they had when joining!  Our main aim is to attract and retain great people, and for that you need employees to receive a warm welcome, a great onboarding programme which consists of engaging, useful, role relevant and targeted learning that helps the new starter settle into their role seamlessly and integrate with their new team as quickly as possible. We have recently updated and refreshed our Frontline and Unit Manager Onboarding programme to ensure the perfect start for our new colleagues.

Q: Compass is the largest contract catering company in the UK with over 60,000 employees, what would you say the three pieces of advice you would you have for smaller catering companies looking to recruit employees into the catering industry?

There are lot of elements to consider but my top three would have to be to ensure:

  • An engaging candidate journey
  • Authentic recruiters
  • Accurate and timely communication

Q: What do you look for in an employee when you are recruiting and how do you find someone?

We source our candidates through a variety of different channels including job boards, head hunting and referrals. Our people see themselves as part of the Compass family, and so many candidates also come via recommendations to friends and family.

We recruit against skill set for the role as well as individual behaviours - The Compass Commitments (Respect, Growth, Teamwork)

Our Apprenticeships are recruited via the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) Job Boards and in conjunction with our external partnerships and preferred providers/colleges.  Here we focus on the behaviours and interest in our sector – with our ‘hire the smile and train the skill’ philosophy.

Q: How has your staff retention rate changed during your time at Compass? Why do you think this is? And what changes have been implemented that you think may have helped staff retention?

As I’ve only been with Compass for a short while, it is a little too early to really tell but we are in the process of transforming our recruitment processes and so we in the near future we will have:

  • An attraction and assessment process that aligns with performance measurement when in role – right people – right role
  • An engaging and interactive toolkit for managers to help with a seamless recruitment journey – right people – right role
  • Fully immersive and targeted onboarding programme that can be tailored to the individual
  • A consistent and fair set of company behaviours that permeates through each level of the business and aligns with attraction and performance management

Q: What should we be doing as an industry to attract new talent?

Investing in Apprentices & Early years to grow from within and have a future talent pipeline, apprenticeships are key to help future proof our business.

Our apprenticeship programme improves our skills base, attracts diverse talent which leads to employee retention, improved productivity and brings new ideas and ways of working into the workplace and helps diversify and create our talent pipeline.

Q: What benefits do you think are important to offer staff working within the catering industry?

  • Flexibility
  • Fun
  • Training linked to a structured career pathway/progression
  • Attractive rates of pay
  • Autonomy

To help us create change within our industry and help outsiders understand that working in hospitality is a job worth considering, complete the UK's Largest Hospitality Salary Survey here. The findings will be discussed on a panel discussion taking place at the Vision Stage at HRC.

The Compass Group comprise of 60,000 talented people bringing you all of the great tasting food, memorable experiences and vital support services that can transform every day into a great day. All of the little things that make the world of difference and boost the wellbeing of millions. From outstanding restaurant experiences, enhancing sporting events and feeding thousands of school children, patients, workers and military personnel, to delivering warm welcomes, clean buildings and safe environments. 

Make sure you meet them at Stand P350 at the Professional Kitchen Show at HRC in March.