An interview with Dawn Holden, Recruitment and Training Manager at YHA (for recruiters)

03 Jan 2023

03 Jan 2023

We caught up with Dawn Holden, YHA's (Youth Hostels Association) Recruitment and Training Manager, to discuss the major influencers in her career, the shift in peoples' expectations of working in hospitality and the work tech that helps her most.

Tell us about your first job in hospitality?

I remember it well. It was with Mitchells and Butler, and I was studying my A Levels. I can remember my parents driving me there. The interview only lasted 10 mins, in which I was handed a uniform and given a start date. I’ll never forget the look on my parents’ faces. The interview finished early, so I started walking back and I could see they had tears in their eyes as they saw me and the uniform under my arm. Despite my youth, Mitchells and Butler quickly recognised me as being a responsible person. Few were given till access and responsibility, so it felt good to be given it. I had to fit it in around my studies, which was challenging at times, but it was a great first insight into hospitality – an industry I really hadn’t considered career wise - I had my heart set on being a teacher. Hospitality is hard work and can be long hours and I really carried the can from an early age.

Has there been anyone who’s stood out as being a major influence on your career?

I can recall a manager that I have strived not to be like - I’m sure we all have those.

But yes, there is one particularly person who influenced me. When I was 21 years’ old, I was made a general manager for Intercontinental Hotels and opened a brand-new property for them. I was Intercontinental Hotels youngest general manager and I’ll never forget the man who recognised my potential, he was called James Ford and I’ll always appreciate the opportunity he gave me, which arguably went on to shape my career thereafter.

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in people’s expectations of working within hospitality?

Post pandemic I think things have changed quite a bit. People are now expecting higher rates of pay and wanting more flexibility in terms of shifts and working hours.

Where we’d have expected employees to work a 5-day week on a rota perhaps, we are now more open to dividing that person’s role into two shifts, so they in effect share the hours and role. Flexibility really is key in both attracting and retaining the best candidates.

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

We’ve lots of exciting plans for the year ahead. We’ve just refreshed our careers page and our core values, which spell out HEART (Helpful, Efficient, Authentic, Respectful, and Team spirited). These are core values we live by here at YHA. We’ve also spent the last six months working on the internal intranet, to both educate and offer information and support to our staff and volunteers on everything including equality, diversity, and inclusion – which we’ve had a big focus on in the last year. We’ve just gone live with a section on menopause awareness and our menopause policy. And next year we are planning on launching our intranet section on neurodiversity. We’ve recently be awarded some money from the Culture Recovery Fund, which will help enable us to develop on the good work we are doing around all of this.

How many employees do you look after?

In my team I have 3 people who report to me directly. In the height of the season, YHA employ 1,500 staff. I am responsible for the recruitment of all and the training and development for all but they are not all my direct reports.

Would you recommend any technology that helps you in your day-to-day role?

Systemisation is the key to our success; we are always looking at ways to systemise the processes of our recruitment and training here at YHA. We use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to multi-post our vacancies, manage our candidates and provide our hiring managers with full visibility of the candidate journey and to manage their own vacancies. Our Learning Management System (LMS) provides our staff with a learning platform and our managers with a clear view of their team’s progress on compliancy and development training, allowing us to map out career progression – these are the two most valuable systems in my role.

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