Auditions not interviews

With the Apprenticeship Levy recently coming in, Kevin Watson, Managing Director at Amadeus explains how they always look to recruit, train and retain the best.

“One of the greatest challenges I face as MD is people: recruiting the best, keeping the best and getting the best from the team.”

When it comes to recruitment we concentrate on getting the right fit for the business. At Amadeus we have some of the best people in the industry and we attract strong talent through a vigorous process where potential employees don’t interview, but audition in a live environment.

The new Apprenticeship Levy is argued by some to be a game charger in the way apprenticeships are administrated and that is fair. However, we have been attracting talent through our apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Solihull College since its launch in 2013. The Levy should give employees more influence and flexibility when it comes to the qualification and should add to the need of more skilled workers within our industry. Our scheme has helped many aspiring chefs develop their culinary skills by giving students over the age of 18 the best possible work-ready skills to move into a career in hospitality. For those who come through our apprenticeship programme, we hope they will go on to build their careers with us ensuring Amadeus can offer the very best in hospitality catering now, and in the future.

Many of our apprentices learn how to deliver outstanding retail, exhibition, conference and event catering at the NEC Group’s world class venues – the NEC, ICC, Vox, Barclaycard and Genting Arenas, all based in Birmingham. They will spend one day a week at College and then four days a week in the kitchen where students will be assessed in a real environment. Our world-class chefs coach the apprentices the whole way through the process and inspire them to aim for the very highest standards.

Training is an industry responsibility and most companies of our size will have a training scheme in place so it will be interesting to see how the levy is undertaken. It is important to note that the new levy includes particularly all kinds of training, from craft to management.

All our staff, of every position, are extensively trained and encouraged to become immersed in the Amadeus way of life. Once recruited they need to live and breathe the values of the business, which really helps staff retention rates.

We add to this approach with our ‘Service that Sells’ training programme, which incentivises staff through a ‘recognise and reward’ gift scheme. This is when they demonstrate Amadeus values in their daily work and is again support by the Amadeus Academy which teaches the art and skill of foodservice. These are just two ways in which we promote training within the business and encourage career development. Employees also benefit from a generous employment package as part of the NEC Group.

All our staff, of every position, are extensively trained and encouraged to become immersed in the Amadeus way of life.

We always look to celebrate success so everyone feels motivated to achieve more. Every year we hold a ‘Brilliance’ awards where people across the business are celebrated for their contribution to the business and all staff are widely encouraged to enter industry catering awards. It is important to celebrate their talent on a national level.

One should never underestimate the importance of culture in an organisation – ask anyone why they work for Amadeus and the resounding answer is “the people”. When people meet us they are struck by our comradery, humour and enjoyment. I pride myself as being an approachable leader and take time to get to know individuals, conducting ‘back to the floor’ shifts in each venue and hosting team building sessions. All team members have the opportunity to shape the future of Amadeus through our employee engagement survey which the board are committed to implementing suggestions based on staff feedback wherever possible.

It is important to have visible leaders throughout the company. The best approach is to lead by example and I undertake regular professional development to ensure I am the best I can be. On-going professional development for all employees is something we are very keen to ensure always happens. Employees are fully inducted into the business and we have a robust Performance Management process that captures all personal development requirements. We provide development opportunities from both the bottom up – for example culinary for our chefs, and top down such as coaching and sales training to enable us to meet our strategic goals.

I strive to promote a healthy work life balance across the organisation and have implemented ideas such as ‘Walk and Talk Fridays’ which encourages staff to stop emailing and have brainstorming sessions instead. People’s inboxes can also be set to reject emails when they are on annual leave in a bid cut down on the post-holiday emails people receive on their return.

If the new Apprenticeship Levy helps build the talent of the future then it must be seen as a positive for the industry. However at this early stage there is some discomfort and confusion over the finer details. The industry constantly needs new talent to grow and diversify and anything that encourages people to seriously consider catering as a career and provides them with good quality training and a qualification has got to be a good thing.

Working in this industry can be both extremely rewarding and challenging. It can also be difficult to enter the industry or re-enter and so recently we have started work with Springboard who help get people back into work after career breaks or having served in the Armed Forces. It is important to make sure we all look at the bigger picture.

As we all look to differentiate ourselves, we see the importance being place on people once again. Therefore at Amadeus we look to nurture talent across the business. For those who come through our apprenticeship programme, we know we are training up the hospitality leaders of the future, exposing them to world-class chefs in the process. Rising stars can also benefit from the Amadeus Academy each year, an important part of their learning and teaches them the art and skill of foodservice. We’re a close knit team with real comradery and that is essential for bringing in talent and making sure they excel and shine.