4 Signs Of A Fantastic Communicator In Middle Management

Excellent leadership is innate to some people. But if you’re looking for a new middle manager, they must be able to show how they’re adept at their role. The best leaders cannot act on their instincts if they are unable to articulate themselves well. That’s why we put communication skills front and centre when we screen new management candidates.

Here, we’ve compiled four core signals that someone is good at speaking their mind, dealing with staff and customers, or translating a brand-wide agenda.

If you’re in the midst of a hiring plan, these are the reliable traits of a natural communicator.

1. They can give examples of engaging a team

A leadership candidate must identify times in which they’ve remained the guiding hand on a workforce, and how they brought everyone in line to achieve a common goal. What was the objective? Where might staff have diverged from it? What part did the candidate play in the team at large, and how did they use their words to steer those beneath them?

Bringing KPIs into the fold doesn’t happen easily. Ask your shortlisted managers about the ways in which they engaged people of all ages, affinities and demographics to reach for the same target.

2. Different communication tools are used

By the same token, the ideal management candidate understands that one team member may learn or communicate better through a certain method – and that their colleagues may prefer a different approach entirely. Effective messages are adapted to those who are meant to receive them. In the face of digital technology, this has never been more relevant.

Fantastic middle managers experiment, use a diverse mix of communication tools, and think about age variation: a WhatsApp group makes more sense to use with young workers, instead of those in their 50s or 60s. Older staff may prefer a face-to-face sit-down, or a phone call if you’re off-site for the day.

3. They’ve collaborated with other managers well

If you have, say, a team of 15 general managers, you need to be confident that they can agree on the best approach for their team. They therefore have to work well together, not just as an isolated unit. Perfect people translate the top-down brand message to other managers, as well as staff and themselves.

Ask the candidate to explain how they’ve done so in the past. Managers should also measure the results of their communication – for instance, by tracking customer satisfaction, sales or reviews before and after they’ve given a pep talk.

4. Rewards are as important as reprimands

If someone does a bad job, they should be brought to task for it. Yet the opposite is true too. An amazing performance must be recognised, or else there’s no incentive. A prestigious middle manager knows how to compensate a good day at work.

Vouchers, bar tabs, physical prizes, tickets for sporting events or entertainment… There are countless things to offer in order to motivate an employee. But this also extends to personal feedback. Simply saying “nice job” on occasion can be enough to lift the moods of those around your candidate. So ask them to express how they reward someone.

SPE Connect can, of course, help with any management hiring strategy. We have decades’ experience in area, regional and mid-level leadership. Contact us for more details.

Recruiting by Numbers

Hello, my name is Simon and I’m a Recruitment Consultant – with honesty and integrity! There, I’ve said it!

Most people don’t associate such values with recruitment agencies and seem to constantly berate them on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. But, in today’s social media-driven world, you are only really one connection away from someone. By proving you operate with integrity and honesty, recruitment by numbers could be a thing of the past.

I’m passionate about food, drink and – of course – supporting people through their career or professional evolution. Great service is part of that. My time served in the RAF, followed by a long and successful career with British Airways, has shaped the person I am today. Integrity, honesty and working in partnership are all traits that run through my DNA, and for the past 11 years, I’ve been partnering with some of hospitality’s biggest brands to find and supply the best senior operators across the sector.

Recruiting by numbers

In my experience (and I appreciate this does not apply to all), recruitment agencies manage the performance of their consultants by numbers… “How many CVs have we sent? How many calls made? What revenue has been achieved?” It isn’t healthy to work under so much metric pressure. League tables are in there too – numerical target boards which suggest that results are purely based on who does what, as fast as they’re able, in a given period. It’s no wonder that this affects recruitment behaviour from the top down.

Recruiters don’t just work one role, you see. They work several at once, so speed becomes vital. Rather than quality, it is all about quantity: the fastest fingers are first to the post. Several agencies are usually competing for the same candidates. Given that there are only so many suitable professionals in one particular location, those candidates indirectly become a victim of the numbers system – as do those who apply to the jobs that are not relevant.

On top of that, some clients get drawn into this game too. They’re affected, on one hand, by the sole, metrical barometer of success that an agency holds up to their recruiters. But they’re also prone to taking on three, four or even five recruitment agencies to work on the same role, instead of trusting a single service to do the job. Candidates unwittingly add to the problem, uploading their CVs on several job boards, as well as dishing their CVs out to multiple recruiters at a time (understandably) to get the role they want.

We will never truly break this behavioural cycle unless we get back to basics, which I believe means putting the individual at the heart of everything. Remember: partnerships, honesty, trust and integrity.

Finding a partner in personal service

For me, recruitment is fairly simple. If you take the time to truly get to know your clientele and the candidates you are supporting, they’ll appreciate your knowledge and support. When relationships are nurtured, this is reciprocated. A recruiter may not get the financial reward right away, but what goes around, comes around – and it will!

When a client sincerely trusts their chosen recruitment partner, they won’t feel the need to juggle several agencies. Furthermore, when a candidate has a ‘go to’ recruiter who has supported them well in the past, this relationship will also bring the best results.

An honest approach to hospitality recruitment

Now I appreciate that, like most industries, there are good and bad agencies – those who believe their own headlines about their service credentials and then fail to deliver quality. Breaking the numbers game sets the precedent for what we believe in as a business at SPE Resourcing.

To find the best person for any job takes knowledge, time and effort – there is no ‘quick fix’ in this game. We have spent years building long-lasting, trusting relationships with our clients and are dedicated to delivering the best talent to them with quality value and service.

This also applies to the candidates we represent. I have met several people recently who have found themselves looking for a new role, many of them willing to take the first job that is offered. It would be very easy for me to ‘sell them their dream job’, but I believe it’s our role to make sure it’s the right opportunity and fit for them.

The role may look perfect on paper, but if (for example) the company culture isn’t, then this will become an issue sooner rather than later and probably lead them to leave after two or three months. I want to make good on a client’s investment, and ensure the candidate finds somewhere that fulfils them. Some people just aren’t meant for certain businesses.

Recruitment is a people industry. The hospitality sector’s reputation is built on the pillars of great quality, service, diversity and knowledge. By continuing to work with these same values, continuing to gain knowledge and understanding, and listening to my clients’ and candidates’ needs, the results will continue to come.

A Chat with Simon Parsons, Director of SPE Connect

Recruitment is more than a numbers game. The strength of middle management in any organisation relies on understanding where and how unique qualities are rewarded.

Simon, our Director, knows what it takes for someone to thrive in a business that has the potential to change their life.

To celebrate SPE’s 10th birthday – as well as the launch of SPE Connect – we sat down and talked about what our new service means in a market that all too often takes people for granted…

What does SPE Connect represent for middle manager recruitment?

My role is to source the best candidates for our clients. I believe that we should be an extension of our clients’ own team, representing their brand in the market and supporting their recruitment drive. 

A recent example illustrates this. We were recently approached by a client that had a number of restaurants across the country to support them with some challenging appointments. Although I was aware of their business, I didn’t know too much about them as a company so I took the family to one of their local restaurants to find out what it was really like from a customer perspective. Whilst I was there, I spoke to staff, customers, the management professionals on-site… anyone who could give me a flavour of how the business works and what it was like to work for them – I even memorised the menu!

That’s the only way to become an extension of their team. I really don’t think you can talk to candidates in the market about a business unless you’ve experienced it first-hand, especially in hospitality, retail and leisure. A recruiter must understand the challenges a company is facing, as well as what it does extremely well.

That’s what SPE Connect is all about – treating people’s livelihoods with the care they deserve. SPE stands for the Latin phrase ‘scientia potentia est’ meaning ‘knowledge is power’. Without in-depth knowledge and regular contact, you can’t truly recognise a brand or individual’s aspirations.

How do you prepare candidates for a potential opportunity?

I like to make sure that my candidates are fully prepared if they enter into an interview process through us. For me, it is really important that they fully understand the role they are applying for, who it reports to, what the culture of the team and business is like, and all the other important sides to a role.

A job description doesn’t tell you where a company is heading in five years, or what the senior leaders are like. That’s where I come in. I aim to give people an idea of what it’s like to work for an organisation, so they can reach a decision based on having all the information.

Do any of your candidate relationships particularly stand out?

All of them to be honest. My first ever placement 11 years ago, was someone who had been a running a holiday/caravan park. He was really keen to progress his career and believed that he had the skills for something better, however he had struggled to convince recruiters to support him because of his current role.

We arranged to meet, and during that meeting it became very obvious that he was extremely driven and had some great commercial experience, so we discussed roles and companies that I thought would suit him and arranged for him to meet one of my clients in the pub sector – I just felt his experience and skills could really compliment what the Operations Director had said he was looking for. He got the job and has gone on to be a senior operator with one of the biggest pub companies in the country – I love the fact that we have stayed in touch and become good friends.

How do you identify someone for a role they may have not considered before?

We often engage candidates that may not have initially thought of looking at a particular brand. Some people make a judgement based on what their mates have told them. Yet we help them consider new things. Simply talking to candidates is enough to stoke interest.

Of course, there are times when I’ve approached someone, spoken to them, and thought, “You’re not right for this particular job, but you’re absolutely perfect for another.” And when a different opportunity arises, I bear them in mind.

Do skills transfer easily between your core sectors?

They definitely do. Passion is what motivates everyone in the hospitality sector – it may sometimes not pay as highly as other sectors, but it’s about making memories. I’ve understood that since I was young, waiting tables at my local golf club. I wanted to be a chef back then. Now I’m in an opportunity to support the best companies that help this passion grow.

Retail, leisure and hospitality have a lot of similarities these days. The key operator skills are the same. You’ve got to be customer-focused, commercially savvy, able to upsell, and ensure service delivery is of the very best standard.

The landscape is always changing too, regardless of sector – and that’s making brands more receptive to new skills and proficiencies.

You benefit from working closely with Daniel Cornwell’s Executive Search business.. How do your services complement each other?

Daniel knows everything about my clients, candidates, and the strategies I’m pursuing. This means he’s well placed to advise and coach senior leaders in tandem with my aims for the same organisation.

Once his networks need an area manager or another mid-tier figure, they come to me, because they trust in our shared quality. Equally, anyone who sees me on LinkedIn might get in touch with a senior-level job opportunity, which I’ll pass to him.

Between us, we have a network that can support any hiring initiative – and our clients know they’ll get the same drive, commitment and service levels.

We’re incredibly excited about where this brand will take us, and you. To enquire about middle management recruitment, call or message us today.

How Can You Attract The Best Area Managers?

A company that knows what it stands for, and what it can give people, is cream of the crop when it comes to a mid-level hiring initiative.

Take area managers, for instance. They’ll be bearing a lot of responsibility, and as a rule, they’ll want a few things in return. This goes far beyond a good salary, too, if you’re seeking top-of-the-line candidates.

Since our job is partly about expressing, distilling and advising on your offer, let us give some tips for bringing the best area managers in the UK on side.

Spare the Time to Meet People

No-one likes a cold shoulder. If you want someone to truly get under the skin of your business, it’s so important to meet them in person.

Let’s say a candidate is intrigued when we lay out the role. They’ll research the brand, review their skillset, and start to think about their potential impact on what you do. Yet this enthusiasm may wane if the employer is unresponsive. A couple of meetings is all it takes for someone to feel a connection to your culture. It shows you’re approachable, interested, and willing to describe the opportunity in your own words.

Give Flexible Hours, Holidays and Maternity or Paternity Leave

There’s no getting away from it – we live in a world in which corporate perks, more so than ever, shed a golden light on your role. Area managers may have to put in a fair amount of overtime. To give them the incentive to do so, it’s best to grant rewards or flexi-time when the moment calls for it.

Split maternity/paternity clauses; working earlier or later shifts depending on their lifestyle; bonuses for great performance across several sites. There are so many incentives to explore.

Set up Financial Securities

Health or life insurance is never a bad addition to the contract. Furthermore, it may be good to explain what may happen if – hypothetically – the company goes bust in the future. Will the candidate have a guaranteed redundancy package?

Some employers skip these details when they’re preparing an official hiring document. But the small-print definitely matters. It’s useful for calming misgivings, especially from a wife or husband who may want their partner to stay in the same, safe job, rather than pursue a new challenge.

Find Management Headhunters with a Difference

At the end of the day, managing a recruitment drive can be very difficult. At least the most rigorous kind. That’s why a tailored recruitment firm, such as SPE Connect, can really help you for an area manager role.

We see ourselves as a conduit between you and them. Instead of adding more pressure to your in-house team, let us handle the process from the very first call to the final shortlist.

Over weeks, months or years, we’ll come to know your business as if we’re a part of it. Then it’s simply a case of translating the values and culture well enough that people get the gist of what you represent. This is how the best candidates are discovered…

Keen to gain that deep, lasting attraction for area manager placements? Speak to us today. We’re more than ready to play matchmaker.

What Does the Skills Shortage Mean for British Pubs?

The data is fairly stark. Thanks to a survey from the Office of National Statistics, we know that the number of UK chefs fell by 17% during 2017-18. This comes at a time when the hospitality sector is feeling the squeeze from Brexit, as well as calls for an official qualification to be set up before 2022.

Yet growth is strong, and hospitality owners – as ever – are working with what they have. Pubs, especially, are reacting to these challenges head-on.

We want to highlight what some leaders are doing in response to the skills shortage, and remind you why thinking on your feet is the best way to ride any turbulence in the market.

More responsibility for training on the job

Yes, the number of chefs is declining. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – it’s just becoming harder for pubs and restaurants to hire a cook who comes with excellent culinary experience. For years, pub companies and casual dining businesses have been intentionally de-skilling their kitchens. In theory, this enables faster service by less-qualified (cheaper) staff. However, the battle for value for money means that customers are becoming more and more discerning when it comes to eating out – the knock-on effect amplifies the chef shortage as companies are now scrabbling to put the skill back in to their kitchens.

This has forced some hospitality owners to train their staff as they work. College placements and junior chef roles allow people to hone their talents on the job, whilst solidifying retention if the employer pays for their development.

A lot of the time, it’s a question of trust and a willingness to experiment. Apprenticeships help gastro pubs place their own standards on young chefs, so they’re likelier to stay there if they gain a sense of fulfilment and progression.

More room for meritocracy

The shrinking pool of ‘traditional’ senior figures for pubs across the UK has democratised the search for up-and-coming talent. Those who might previously have been ostracised in this sector have the opportunity to prove their worth; there is more room for meritocracy.

In order to attract top talent, the sector must leave traditional biases behind and create a culture of racial, gender and age equality. This, of course, is a very good thing. As performance is closely tracked, the right people can rise to the top – perhaps more so than they’ve done in the past. It’s a case of necessity driving real, lasting change, which doesn’t submit to anything but credit where it’s due.

Renewed focus on employee satisfaction

Bar staff, glass cleaners and chefs are, historically, amongst the most overworked and underpaid workforces in the UK. They’re also affected by staff shortages, which – along with a reliance on tips to cover low wages – further pile on the pressure.

This is being challenged in the current climate. In the same way that cooks are being given more spontaneous training, pub owners know they have to keep people motivated, happy and comfortable – otherwise they will be submerged by the skills deficit.

That’s why we’ve seen the rise of several initiatives. Some businesses are raising their basic pay, whilst others are welcoming their team’s input on their menu or cask ale selections. Area managers may consider a ‘points’ system, rewarding performance with additional holidays or bonuses. The advent of Glassdoor has made employers more accountable and, as ever, the hospitality sector is tight-knit – it’s soon known who the good companies are to work for (and who to avoid). Of course, only the best senior figures can see these through – which makes a middle management search all the more important…

If you’re a potential candidate, or a pub owner  in need of progressive thinking, then the drop in high skills shouldn’t be a burden – it should inspire the next stage of your development. Speak to us for advice or senior recruitment services as you move forward into the future of British pubs.


When Middle Management Goes Wrong…

Inspiring leadership is like a great rhythm to a song; we barely notice it when it’s working properly. On the other hand, poor senior management is much more apparent, causing many areas of an organisation to break down, and cuts to profits or morale.

Middle management is the connective tissue between the top and lower tiers of a hierarchy. We want to point out how it may fail, and the consequences that follow.

SPE Connect look for those who are the antithesis to these qualities, but it’s worth saying what could happen if you find the wrong people instead.

Mismatched employees

Middle managers should know exactly who can perform what task to the best of their ability, and how to get the best out of their colleagues. Whether you’re searching for senior hospitality roles, retail managers or any other figurehead, this rule doesn’t waver. Asking staff to do something they aren’t comfortable with, or don’t particularly like, is going to waste your money and time. More than that, it’ll probably drive poor engagement and almost certainly lead to higher churn rates.

Some people are better with people; others prefer back-of-house activity, or using IT software. It’s imperative to realise where specialisms align to make a team function well on a busy shift. We have often heard of candidates who have gone from hero to zero (or vice versa) – surely the question needs to be asked why, in both cases.

Owners and workers left in the dark

We might liken middle management to a ladder between those who make the biggest decisions in a company and the workers who carry them out.

But when management fails to listen to either side, there’s a problem. Those guiding messages won’t trickle down – communication both ways is critical. Likewise, colleagues can’t rely on their feedback being heard, which punctures the belief they have in their influence and value as they deal with customers.

Feedback becomes useless as it’s never addressed in a meaningful way. Core attributes of what the brand means, and what it represents, never get through to a target market. The organisation may stumble on, wounded, even though neither level of the hierarchy knows why.

Unrecognised achievements

As much as a middle manager may have to track stock, enquiries or adherence to health and safety standards, there’s a much more elusive metric at play – how well an employee is doing from week to week, or month to month.

Constant, glowing customer ratings must lead to something. That’s also true of the amount of orders a person takes, or the meals and drinks they serve in record time. If none of that matters, there’s no reason why an employee should put in the extra effort.

Night shifts, long hours, coming in early to prepare for seasonal events… It all seems pointless if the results go by unnoticed. As a result, the workforce will do less with the manpower it possesses.

In so many ways, the line of communication is very fine, and cannot be snapped in two by poor middle management. But to bolster your business, we always focus on those who have a proven history of doing amazing work with their team and associated brands.

SPE have risen to be one of the top middle management search firms in the UK for a reason – we find the people you’ve been waiting for within a network that’s extremely rare and diverse. Contact us to use a mid-tier search like no other, in service to a watertight business structure.