Best talent management initiative and overall winner

Mitchells & Butlers


It’s a tricky time for the hospitality industry. It’s facing multiple pressures, including shortages of chefs and front-of-house staff; a decline in uptake of food technology and chef qualifications; and a decrease in applications from EU workers as uncertainty over Brexit continues. 

In such a difficult climate, pub and restaurant chain Mitchells & Butlers had to come up with a plan to mitigate the millions of pounds it was spending on agency staff and recruitment costs at a time of such high churn. The company admitted it was struggling with loss of sales, poorer food quality and increased wastage. But the HR team was central to solving the problem.

The solution it eventually came up with was hugely impressive both in terms of scale and impact and so wowed CIPD People Management Awards judges it deservedly scooped both the talent management award and the overall prize. It was an inspirational and perfectly realised strategy in a sector which is notoriously tough on talent and resourcing – proof that if people professionals are ambitious and determined, they can achieve measurable success for their organisations.

The new strategy aimed to both showcase Mitchells & Butlers as an employer of choice for under-25s, and address the company’s 84 per cent turnover. It set a target to have an apprentice in every one of its 1,635 pub restaurant locations within two years, along with a new learning and development programme targeted at young people, offering qualifications from GCSE up to Master’s level. 

This new and ambitious focus on nurturing young talent has led to partnerships with young people’s organisations such as HeadStart, Birmingham Care Leavers and Believe in Young People, as well as the Department of Education, to offer 40-day work placements. 

Mitchells & Butlers now run an award-winning apprenticeship programme, and the target of having an average of one apprentice in every location was hit six months early. Around 50 university leavers are recruited each year on the retail graduate scheme. Applications for both are now soaring, with the company receiving an average of 1,000 per month. 

This has seen both corporate and social benefits, with hundreds of thousands saved in training costs due to a lower turnover rate, and improving the attractiveness of the company for graduates and school leavers. The company has gone from training no apprentices at all in 2016, to apprentices now comprising nearly 5 per cent of the Mitchells & Butlers workforce – in fact, it is now the operator of the largest culinary apprentice scheme and the largest employer of under-18s in its sector.

Judges were hugely impressed by the fact the business implemented an holistic, HR-led solution that has positively impacted almost every part of its operations and left it facing the future with renewed confidence. Its commitment was not to cost cutting or crisis management but to a sustainable, long term solution aimed at increasing retention and ensuring better internal succession planning and mobility – an example to any business facing tough times that there is always a better way if you think creatively.

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