Employer Excellence Programme helps tourism businesses build their workforce

Scheme assists employers to provide a quality workplace so they can attract and retain the best people, which is vital for the sector

Pictured at Fota Island Resort in Co. Cork, who have already signed up to the initiative, are: Fáilte Ireland Director of Sector Development, Jenny De Saulles (Centre), with Fota Island Resort Staff, Una O’Donovan, Spa Therapist; Rafael Resenite, Section Head Chef; Shane Meyler, Concierge. and Finola Twomey, Group Director of Revenue, Sales and Marketing. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan

All over the world, tourism is fundamentally a ‘people business’ but nowhere more so than in Ireland where our greatest asset as a nation is the Céad Míle Fáilte which is provided to visitors by both tourism staff and related businesses.

So, in order to attract and retain the best people to work in tourism, we need to consistently ensure that we provide quality workplaces. But the staffing and skills shortages experienced by the tourism and hospitality industry since the sector reopened post-Covid, have been a considerable barrier to its recovery.

Although this difficulty has recently come to the forefront of the industry’s agenda, the tourism sector faced a particular set of challenges in attracting and retaining talent even before the onset of the Covid19 pandemic, in particular with regard to the perception of it as a rewarding and long-term career choice. The closure of the sector during Covid19 exacerbated these and, ultimately, the challenges facing the industry’s labour market continued to evolve.

Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Sector Development, Jenny De Saulles, says that it is vital for the industry to continue to attract and retain talented staff.

“Although immediate staffing concerns, which were apparent after the tourism sector reopened post-Covid, have eased for many businesses, we are still seeing unprecedented mobility across sectors,” she said. “This means the industry needs to focus on retaining staff like never before, as well as training and developing the new talent that comes into the sector.

“As an industry that is people-centric, being able to attract and build a talented workforce is the cornerstone of our tourism’s future prosperity, which is why Fáilte Ireland developed the Employer Excellence programme.”

Jenny De Saulles – Director of Sectoral Development Failte Ireland.

Launched last year, over 240 have registered with the programme to date, a move which afforded them access to dedicated people management training, an independent employee engagement survey and accreditation, as well as a bespoke programme of capability building support to implement change in their business.

“The ultimate ambition of this programme is not only to support businesses to build their own employer brand and attract the talent they need now and into the future, but also to create a way for the industry to collectively work together to demonstrate the best of careers and employment in the sector in a way which will ring true for key audiences – employees, jobseekers, the talent of tomorrow in secondary schools and their key influencers, including parents and guidance counsellors,” explained De Saulles.

“A key element of Fáilte Ireland’s Employer Excellence programme is putting the views of tourism employees front and centre though an employee survey. To date, 24,000 tourism and hospitality employees nationally have been positively impacted by the programme, with the opportunity to have their voices heard through an internationally recognised employee engagement framework.

And, according to De Saulles, the findings of these surveys show it’s not all about pay increases and time off.

“What really came through in the survey results is that we have lots of great staff in the sector who are really passionate about what they do and there are some areas in which they know their employer could make small changes that will have a big impact,” she said. “Providing structured and regular feedback on performance, recognising a job well done, and taking appropriate and visible action [in response] to employee ideas will build trust and further empower employees to strive for the best in what they do.

“There is also a big opportunity for the businesses in the sector to develop a clear communication and involvement culture, where ongoing listening and reacting to feedback from employees becomes embedded in how they work. Providing space and opportunity for employees to proactively upskill and develop their career in their own way and at their own pace develops a culture of continuous development which is motivating for employees and leads to greater opportunity for progression for them and higher retention levels for the business.

“And finally, there can be a lack of awareness of the wider benefits of working in the tourism sector, such as flexibility and breath of roles and opportunity to develop, and this is something that employers could be more explicit about, both in communicating to existing employees as well as when recruiting, at job advert stage or in interviews.”

The National Tourism Development Authority is currently recruiting for the next intake of businesses. The programme remains open for tourism businesses interested in participating to register.