Tourism Northern Ireland

Tourism NI People Insight Event (9th November 2022) | Key Points


Nicki Darnbrook from NITA attended the Tourism NI event ‘People – Recruitment and Retention’ on Wednesday 9th November 2022. For those of you who were unable to attend the event, Nicki has compiled a short summary below.  


Presentations were delivered from:

  • BBDO – Perceptions Research into Employment in Tourism and Hospitality
  • Jill O’Reilly, O’Reilly People Management – Carrying out a ‘People’
  • Roisin McKee, HATS/People 1st – HATS and Springboard update

All presentations can be accessed on the Tourism NI website. 

The event finished with a panel of guest speakers providing insights on what we can do differently to attract & retain staff and make Hospitality and Tourism a great place:

  •  Laura Millar, Galgorm Collection
  • Ciaran O’Neill, Bishop’s Gate Hotel
  •  Nial McKenna, James Street South/Waterman House. 


One of the largest challenges facing the industry is that of the recruitment and retention of staff. Due to increased operating costs, it is more important than ever that the sector is able to adapt and maximise savings from their ability to recruit, retain and train their workforce. 

In 2021, Tourism NI and HATS commissioned BBDO to identify the long term challenges and opportunities for recruitment and retention in the hospitality and tourism industry. The BBDO research highlights that the main issues are flexibility, pay and training, especially in hospitality. Within tourism top priorities  included career progression, paid overtime and additional holidays whilst in hospitality top priorities included healthcare contributions, career progression and discounts. 

An online health check to ensure your organisation priorities are to attract, recruit and retain can be accessed on 

HATS objectives are Attract, Retain and Engage. They commit to providing good quality training, work life balance and support to staff with their Hospitality and Tourism Commitment encouraging the industry to sign up to become an ‘Employer of Choice’. HATS have published a webinar series of 8 x 30 minute webinars covering recruitment and retention to support smaller businesses and a webinar series toolkit which includes an overview of the webinars and key learning points. 

Top tips from the panel on recruitment, training and retention:


  • Ensure the core business is operating efficiently before embarking on a  recruitment process.
  • Grow your own talent by employing unqualified staff – it is difficult to recruit for qualified positions and easier to train your own staff.
  • Reach the right candidate (age etc) when recruiting by using a variety of recruitment methods – job markets, social media and online recruitment.
  • Engage with schools and educational establishments to recruit from different sources.
  • Increase your number of staff so you can be more flexible in relation to hours/days worked, additional holiday leave etc.
  • Use the 3 smile technique during interviews!

Induction and training

  • Use a buddy system for new staff to support them.
  • Train staff in all different aspects of the establishment providing training in different skills and experiences to enable staff to start at the bottom and work their way up to the top and provide cover for each other.
  • Personally invest in internal and external  training by self investing as well as applying for funding – do not rely on government funding only. 
  • Endorse training partnerships with universities and colleges and deliver educational courses on site where possible.
  • Train more experienced staff to be good managers in addition to them carrying out their daily job role.
  • Ask a younger person to mentor you so that you as a manager can hear things from their point of view.
  • Engage with HATS, TED programmes, Kickstart etc to increase funding for training and retention – engage online if you are unable to attend training events as the support is there.


  • Manage staff expectations by conducting regular 1:1 meetings to find out about each employee personally to get to know and develop them.
  • Job flexibility is a priority so treat each staff member individually to suit their circumstances to ensure they can still do things after work and have a work/home balance – change lengths of shifts and days/hours worked to make the job more appealing to a bigger range of people eg housekeeping shifts during school hours, 4 day weeks for chefs etc.
  • Communication and engaging with all staff is vital – do whatever you can to make your staff happy at home as then they are happy at work. 
  • Respect your team – each generation and department is different and has different needs.
  • Provide a rota well in advance as if you have young staff it will need changed frequently for sports matches, exam study etc – use a whatsapp group so staff can organise cover themselves at short notice.
  • Use creative ways to make time for yourself and your staff – social evenings etc.
  • Be critical in a positive way – always ask if this is the best that can be done.
  • Make staff feel welcome and valued by rewarding them in addition to a salary – reward schemes, employee of the week, certificates, discount vouchers etc
  • Change management views so that everyone is managing consistently.
  • Employ a staff engagement officer if you have a bigger business and employ a large number of  staff.
  • Link with external organisations for collaborative working to support staff.