What do you do when you operate in an industry facing a recruitment crisis? Put staff at the centre of your brand…
When we started working on a new project late last year, we realised that all our conversations – from naming to menus – kept coming back to the same subject: a specific group of people in the business. With the majority of branding projects, the most important stakeholder is the customer. Not in this case. At the heart of the brand we’re building is the staff.
But this isn’t an isolated story. We’re increasingly creating brands or campaigns that either speak to or involve internal teams. In the leisure and hospitality sectors, brands are tackling the recruitment crisis head-on by celebrating their staff.
Slick and polished ads used to dominate Third Space’s campaigns. Now, inspired by the success of previous user-generated content (UGC), the luxury health club is taking real-life experiences and wrapping them up in a distinctive way by placing its expert personal trainers (PTs) at the heart of its campaigns.
“We wanted to retain the authentic nature of UGC but to communicate our brand values, both visually and with our tone of voice,” says Third Space brand manager Jon Weston-Stanley. “The January #BeExtraordinary campaign was a step change for us because it marked the first time that we got to know our trainers on a personal level. Previously, we used static images; this time, with interviews and videography, we’ve been able to show the people [behind the workouts].”
Working with the teams at Third Space, we helped to create high quality flythroughs and campaign films to showcase the club in promotional use, while a more handmade ‘inside view’ style is used on social channels. Both take a less scripted, more informal and relatable approach.
From the trainers’ perspective, it offers a boost to their social profiles and an “ice-breaker” with members, who feel like they know the PTs already because of the campaign’s storytelling. In addition, Jon brings trainers into the fold at a campaign’s briefing stage. “If we’re doing a Mind & Body campaign, we’ll go to the Mind & Body Master Trainer [for their insight]: what would be a good way of approaching it? What are the challenges? What would you value?”
Successful brands are breaking down traditional corporate messages into conversations between peers and customers. As such, a brand’s story becomes even more important, with staff playing the lead roles.
Last month, Rosa’s Thai launched “Wok School”, a chef training programme open to candidates of all levels – with no chef experience necessary. What’s particularly interesting from a brand perspective is Rosa’s transparent approach. By opening Wok School to the public for lunch, Rosa’s blends internal practices with external comms, and makes the training programme part of the public-facing brand experience. A skilled and happy team is a positive brand message for everyone.
“There’s a real shortage of Wok chefs and a lot of competition – it’s a highly-skilled position,” says Gillian Lambden, people director at Rosa’s Thai. “The Wok School is our solution to that. Because we’re known and loved for our authentic Thai food, we’re partly targeting people who may never have worked in hospitality, but have always loved our food.”
It’s a clever strategy. If the talent pool is shrinking, create a solution to grow it. “Recruitment was never a huge challenge for us, but Covid and Brexit showed us we needed to think outside the box,” says Gillian. Rosa’s has also lent its support to Hospitality Rising, a fundraising initiative with the aim of creating the world’s biggest hospitality recruitment advertisement campaign.
Over at Various Eateries, whose brands include Coppa Club and Tavolino, Anum Fatima, recruitment and team member retention manager, says she is dedicating 80% of her budget to employer branding. “Normally, I’d allocate more to jobs boards; now, we’re creating content with our own people to tell their success stories,” she explains.
Between Covid and Brexit, Anum says the candidate pool has shrunk significantly, with many businesses looking within and approaching people directly. But she credits Various Eateries’ culture – “where people are given the space to express themselves creatively” – with its lowest turnover rate over the last four years.
“It’s no hidden secret that hospitality has faced its toughest year yet, but we need to find solutions,” says Anum. “And as far as the recruitment process is concerned, brand is by far the most important asset.”
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