Clint Estibeiro talks to HCR about what hotels need to offer candidates if they want to attract and retain them

Having spent the last 12 years working as a housekeeping manager in hotels across Ireland, Clint Estibeiro knew better than most the staffing requirements of the hospitality industry. Last year, he set up Sky Staffing Solutions with the aim of placing entry level candidates in suitable positions, not just potential recruits at managerial level. “In my career as a housekeeping manager, I found that a lot of the larger recruitment firms were only interested in finding candidates for higher level positions. I decided to take a different route; we find positions for kitchen porters and housekeeping staff as well as chefs and general managers. Even though we’re operating just one year, we have already successfully supplied over 400 candidates to hotels and laundries across the country,” said Clint.

Business-wise, 2021 was a very successful year for Clint. Setting up a recruitment firm during a pandemic that placed candidates at all levels turned out to be a good business move. Throughout his years as housekeeping manager in various properties across the country, he also built up a valuable contacts list which has served him well since starting Sky Staffing Solutions. “I had particular success with laundry companies last year. They were finding it extremely difficult to source staff, so we stepped in at the right time.” Brexit also meant that EU candidates couldn’t look for work in the UK. “Instead, I was able to find them work in the Irish hospitality sector. That was something else that helped grow the company at the beginning.”

Initial success at properties such as Fota Island and Hayfield Family Collection helped spread the word about Sky Staffing Solutions and its policy of supplying both entry level and managerial staff. The recruitment firm is also the official hiring partner for Viking River Cruises, managing the staffing requirements of the cruise line. Staff shortages aren’t as challenging as they were earlier in the year, says Clint. “With schools and colleges on summer holidays, we’re finding that demand has gone down. Chefs are very much still in high demand and to try and meet that requirement, we source chefs from Europe. Hospitality businesses are also very much looking for housekeeping staff and cleaners. Accommodation is, unfortunately, a major issue.” Properties that have accommodation on site are better placed not just to attract staff but to also retain them. “If a property is unable to provide accommodation, we do our best to source candidates locally. But accommodation is a real issue and with the majority of houses on the market for sale and not for rent, it’s a problem that I can’t see being resolved any time soon.”

Hotels that go the extra mile are finding it easier to attract staff, says Clint. One Dublin-based client is currently providing free accommodation, free meals and free laundry services to attract candidates. This level of investment in potential candidates isn’t something that’s necessarily happening in other countries, says Clint. “Properties in Ireland are definitely going above and beyond to try and attract and then retain staff. I think it’s something the industry needed to do though. Investment in staff was lacking up until recently. I also know of a hotel in Co Clare is providing accommodation to its staff, not for free of course but at a very reasonable rate. As the hotel is situated in a rural location, they are also providing free transport to and from the property. If a staff member wants to pop into town and do some shopping, the hotel will organise transport for that too. If the hotel transport is busy, staff members are told to get a taxi, keep the receipt and they will be reimbursed. That’s a hotel that cares about its staff, that wants them to perform to the best of their ability and above all else, wants to retain them.” Some hotels are paying well above the minimum wage to ensure they attract staff, says Clint. “These days, good wages aren’t enough but they’re still a good starting point. Particularly with the cost of living, candidates are less likely to settle for sub-standard pay, particularly if they’re local candidates. If a hotel is trying to attract staff from outside Ireland, then providing accommodation is vital. Candidates are also increasingly interested in training and development. If a candidate wants to advance their career in hospitality, providing on-site training and external courses will make an employer a much more attractive proposition.”

If after applying for a role a potential candidate isn’t successful, Sky Staffing Solutions makes it a priority to place that candidate in another role. Client satisfaction is key; it’s what’s made the recruitment firm a top choice for hotels, both large and small, across the country. “Despite only operating just over 12 months, we have managed to build a solid reputation as a firm that goes the extra mile for both employers and job seekers. This Sunday, I have a candidate arriving from Romania to take up a role at a hotel in Meath. I’ll be picking him up myself at the airport and bringing him to the hotel. I’m passionate about this industry and about providing only the best service to all my clients. I intend to continue to offer that high level service into the future.”