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Opportunity knocks

Chiara Di Rienzo, Director of Acuity, Axis Group’s front-of-house division, discusses the company’s involvement and partnership with Growing Talent, an initiative that focuses on furthering social mobility through employment, as part of a programme to offer full-time job opportunities to people struggling to find work.

Modern businesses grow by creating strong relationships and partnerships, both with their customers, and their employees. Strong relationships, combined with the highest quality service tailored to a clients’ precise needs, are central to success.

At Acuity, our mission is to deliver a five-star front-of-house and reception experience. To achieve that, we require a dedicated team of customer service professionals that are fully committed to providing the highest level of service. Best-in-class customer service professionals, however, need to be supported with ongoing training and support. They need to be able to develop as individuals, as well as employees, to achieve their own personal goals and ambitions.

Success in the world of customer service should not be about your background or where you come from. It should be about your appetite to learn and grow. It was with this in mind that last year we started talking to Jane James Consultancy (JJC) about its ‘Growing Talent’ initiative, to see how we could work together to help those in need. This might be, for example, because they have recently been made redundant or have overcome other challenges and hardships, or simply that that have not been able to land a stable role.

Growing Talent focuses on furthering social mobility through employment, as part of a programme to offer full-time job opportunities to people struggling to find work.

The process gives opportunities to people who really need it – predominately young people and especially those who may not have the necessary qualifications. Upon selection, applicants are given a provisional job offer for a permanent role. Candidates learn all areas of the business and the role they are to fulfil.

The training is not only task-related. Midway through the process a week is spent in London working on wider life-skills including personal finance, fitness, nutrition and wellbeing. Candidates are also given the two-day global Mental Health First Aid course resulting in qualification as a Mental Health First Aider. These bespoke workshops and sessions are designed to help applicants grow as people and not just employees.

Joining the Growing Talent network was simple and easy, and the process was very rewarding, enabling us to see the personality and character of candidates as well as their long-term potential.

I observed the first stage of the process, which takes the form of speed dating-style meetings with all applicants. The shorter, more informal meetings allow candidates to feel more comfortable and display their personality. Shortlisted candidates are then invited to attend a one-to-one on-site meeting to learn more about the responsibilities and skills required to be successful in that position.

The next step of the process involves three weeks full-time on-the-job training including a weekly appraisal. This crucially acts as a mutual ‘test drive’ for both the applicant and the employer. Following the holistic spent developing important life skills, candidates have a final week of on-site training before moving into permanent employment.

The first employee to have gone through the process is Mohammed Ismail, who had previously been working in multiple jobs to make up the hours and wages he needed, but he did not see a future or long-term career in any of the jobs he was doing. He was initially employed in Acuity’s SELECT team providing high-quality holiday and sickness cover to Acuity’s suite of high-profile clients. He has now been given a permanent role as the Acuity Corporate Receptionist at one of the company’s he provided cover for.

When we first met Mohammed at the employer speed dating event, what really struck me was his confidence, positive outlook and his professionalism. Even without specific front-of-house experience, he demonstrated a well-established understanding of customer service and what the five-star welcome entails.

During his three months in the Growing Talent programme, Mohammed demonstrated his flexibility, determination and adaptability. Since then, he has exceeded expectations and proved to be a fantastic addition to the Acuity team. Working closely with JJC, we hope to unearth similar success stories and talented individuals like Mohammed again in the future through Growing Talent.


Food and support services provider Compass Group UK & Ireland, recently partnered with industry charity Springboard, One Housing Group and Your Story to host a UK Hospitality and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Hospitality Works event to provide support for unemployed people in London. The event, saw nearly 40 people who are currently seeking work attend, not only to learn more about how a career in hospitality could work for them, but to be provided with support in skills development workshops, gain access to industry experts and have discussions around current vacancies that exist within Compass.

The DWP Hospitality Works 2019 campaign, #JobsWithASmile, was launched earlier this year in a continued bid to attract more workers into the sector and raise aspirations. The successful initiative has created over 8,500 placements across the industry since its creation in 2015.

The London event was part of a wider three-week Hospitality Works programme.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships & Early Careers, Compass Group UK & Ireland approached Springboard last year to see how Compass could get involved in the campaign: “Compass is a people powered business. We work at over 10,000 sites in the UK, covering a wide range of sectors including healthcare, defence, education, sports and leisure to name a few, providing many different opportunities for a role within our business. We recognise the need to invest and train our people and have 16 different apprenticeships available to help people learn on the job and develop a career with Compass. It was great to have the opportunity to work with Springboard, Your Story and One Housing to support people back into work.”

Anne Pierce, CEO, Springboard says: “I am delighted to see our partnership with Compass continue to go from strength to strength. Compass has a dedicated team focused on developing talent within their business, and together with our joint commitment to creating opportunities that enable people to achieve their potential and nurture unemployed people of any age into work means we can provide a broad range of exciting and relevant programmes which help people develop and progress their careers. Our partnership demonstrates the benefits of investing in the future workforce and diversifying recruitment pathways to the Hospitality sector.”

Andy Woodcock from DWP was delighted with the event: “We’ve built on the success of the Hospitality Works programme year-on-year and this has been the best one yet. We hope that as a result of these events, we’ll see many of the candidates find work within hospitality and get the opportunity to climb up the ladder.”

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