Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall: ‘Experts Grow’ Project

This case study shows how better professional progression for hospitality employees strengthens profitability for employers.

Summary

The hospitality industry is central to the UK and regional economy, yet suffers low rates of pay and productivity. Poor understanding of the true value of hospitality skills and jobs and low levels of employer investment in skills, pay and benefits mean employees are often transient, disempowered and disengaged.

The ‘Experts Grow’ project at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall shares ways of improving the earnings and progression of low-paid workers through changes to business practices which deliver clear benefits in productivity and product quality. Led by a partnership of progressive hospitality businesses and supported by the UKCES UK Futures Programme, the project developed the hospitalityskills.net Toolkit to demonstrate to small hospitality businesses how they can afford to train and progress their staff.

The project has successfully engaged 15 hospitality businesses in prototyping practical tools to enable investment in people to achieve business improvement as well as personal professional development. Over 400 low-wage employees in partner businesses have benefitted from the project, developing clear career progression pathways and achieving lasting increases in wages. At the same time, employers report productivity gains sufficient to fully offset the cost of their investment; suggesting increased pay for staff and increased profits for businesses.

“If all hospitality businesses in Cornwall could increase their productivity by half a percent that alone would probably solve the region’s ‘chronically low’  economic development - and skills progression is key to this. The Experts Grow project enables businesses to boost investment and grow progression opportunities for hospitality professionals.” Dr Sandra Rothwell, Chief Executive, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership

Aspirations and objectives

Cornwall is the Least Developed Area in England with high levels of multiple deprivation. Hospitality is a crucial part of the regional economy, where one third of all households in Cornwall has someone working in the industry. Yet Cornwall’s hospitality sector is strongly seasonal and suffers widespread low pay and productivity.

‘Experts Grow’ is a 12-month project that has sought to embed a culture of continued professional development in participating hospitality businesses, improving the profile and value of hospitality skills and progression pathways in the industry. 

Approach

The project has been business-led and grew by linking ‘shop-floor’ experience with research of theory and best practice in multiple sectors. Fifteen Cornwall has acted as lead partner in a consortium of progressive hospitality businesses, hosting an independent project manager.

The project has sought to bring together and build on the existing high-quality business practices evident in each of the partner businesses; while trialling new and alternative ways of improving the earnings and progression of lower-paid workers.

UKCES has provided funding that has helped project partners to complete internal training progression programmes and develop a Toolkit designed to make it easy and affordable for local small and medium-sized businesses to improve productivity by investing in their staff.

The Toolkit has been developed using an ‘Agile’ approach, with iterations informed and tested through partner meetings, staff surveys, business engagement and facilitated feedback. UKCES has also participated in the ‘Test & Learn’ of the Toolkit, while Cornwall College and Visit Cornwall have provided valuable support with accreditation & dissemination.

Progress to date

By changing business practices and increasing employer investment in job enrichment, professional development, and pay and benefits, the project has delivered better skilled, engaged employees with increased value and self-worth.

Over 400 low-wage employees in partner businesses have benefitted from the project, developing clear career progression pathways and achieving lasting increases in wages. At the same time, employers report productivity gains sufficient to fully offset the cost of their investment; suggesting increased pay for staff and increased profits for businesses.

The project has successfully engaged 15 hospitality businesses in prototyping practical tools to enable investment in people to achieve business improvement as well as personal professional development and has delivered a higher skills professional development toolkit (www.hospitalityskills.net) that will enable tailored delivery in hospitality businesses everywhere.

Building on this success, there are plans to draw on EU and mainstream funding to engage a further 80 hospitality businesses in a regional coalition to increase investment in higher-level skills training across the hospitality industry.

Measuring success

  1. At least 3 training days delivered per employee in partner businesses
  2. 433 low paid workers in partner businesses awarded pay rises and engaged in clear progression routes
  3. Productivity gains in businesses fully offset the cost of investment in training and development
  4. 15 Expert Trainers embedded in hospitality businesses driving employee-centred workplace progression

Lessons learned

Key Success – competitor businesses collaborating to develop local talent pool for mutual advantage, creating genuine progression pathways for staff from one business to another;

Key Challenges – turning our working practices into tools which other employers could use; getting toolkit balance right between employees (focus on improved benefits, opportunities and engagement) and employers (focus on accessibility, rigour and relevance); coping with ‘National Living Wage’ rule change mid-project;

Key Learning – design interventions with absolute clarity of exactly who, in which role in the business, is the target, and how exactly both the business and the employee benefits from the intervention.

“Our people are experts: they’re trainers, they’re learners, they inspire each other and our customers.” Matthew Thomson, Managing Director, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall