I recently came across some articles from 1987 which discussed the shrinking pool of people working, or willing to work, in the hospitality industry and why we did not tap into the pool of older workers who seemed willing to work but were frequently ignored.
Fast forward 35 years and it seems nothing has changed.
For the past couple of years, the world has endured a pandemic which was beyond belief, and far more impactful than we ever imagined. Hospitality in particular, suffered an unthinkable downturn resulting in the lay-off of vast numbers of staff as businesses fought for survival.
Now, as the world begins its recovery, our hospitality industry is wondering where all the staff that were largely abandoned, have gone? Well, many have transitioned to other jobs and professions as people realised that better pay and conditions were to be found outside of hospitality.
So, the result is that today, the industry is facing a severe shortage of staff across all tiers of the industry, from management to culinary professionals, front of house service staff and back of house roles.
The traditional answer has been to import the labour from somewhere else, particularly countries where the standard of living makes even the low wages and poor conditions of hospitality seem attractive. However, with the pandemic still in people’s minds and some logistical difficulties, including aviation availability, worries about the health burdens with unvaccinated people and more, this is not necessarily the quick fix it once was…
In seeking solutions for these issues, the discussion then again turns to why hospitality seems so fixated on a younger demographic and surely the crisis can be averted if we just hired older people?
It is said that the hospitality industry’s traditional reliance on younger workers needs to be re-evaluated. Attracting, retaining, and developing older employees could be a key factor in addressing the issues facing the industry today.
The question is of course where to start? How can we integrate the over 50’s or 60’s into a functioning workforce? How do we address the ageism that seems to be so ingrained in our industry?
I read the other day that: –
- ‘A less youthful appearance’ may not reflect the brand image a business was trying to portray so a factor that leads to ageism in recruiting staff.
- ‘Older employees’ may be unable to understand the technological requirements of roles…
- They had ‘physical limitations” or even “cognitive decline” so not suitable.
- There are ‘communication issues’ between older and younger employees in the team.
These are all excuses of course, and have little basis in reality…
Much of the older cohort in society are very well educated, have years of useful, practical work experience, grew up with and implemented the technology widely used, and are the healthiest generation of their age that the world has ever seen…
In 1909, Australia introduced the age pension, set at 65 for men and 60 for women, but at that time, the actual life expectancy was 55 for men and 59 for women. It is now 80 for men and 84 for women and shows no sign of declining. This all goes to prove that 60 really is the new 40, and the older person can easily continue to contribute to the workforce for much longer than in years gone by.
Unemployment for older people is a real issue, so how does society help itself by addressing the staffing shortages and elder unemployment?
Some countries are already considering laws & regulations for industries/companies to show a minimum percentage of employees that are aged 50 or over. This is a real measure to address ageism and workforce shortages.
Clearly an attitude change is required in societies where the focus is on perpetual youth and older people are seen as a burden rather than a resource.
An aging population is a burden on society, but this burden can be somewhat alleviated if we realise we have an underutilised resource and literally put it to work. The chef, waiter, or manager with 40+ years in the industry can still offer much to the industry if we only give them a chance…
About the Author
Karl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.