At Costa, we aim to help people of all ages and experiences who are not currently in education, employment or training join the workforce. Through the “WISE” programme (which stands for Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment), we partner with local organisations to recruit candidates into structured, four-week work placements, after which we guarantee an interview and look to find a place for every single candidate that’s been successful during their placement.
We’ve found the key to success with recruiting via work placements is building a relationship on the ground with the local community. We work with partners and local organisations who understand the people that might benefit from entering work in this way and can connect us to them. We encourage all our store teams to have a strong relationship with their local job centres and presence at careers fairs and employability training across the country.
We don’t have any recruitment requirements based on education or previous experience, it’s all about behaviour and personality – or as we call it “Pride, Passion & Personality” — which is why building these links are so important. This policy ensures we have access to a much wider talent pool and can build a diverse work force. We have made a conscious decision to not turn anyone away – and welcome talented, hardworking people whatever their background.
As such we receive applications from groups including the long term unemployed, homeless and ex-offenders.
The candidates that come through the scheme are often lacking in confidence or experience at first so they don’t necessarily show up well during a standard recruitment process, even though they can end up being some of our best employees once they’ve settled into the environment and have had a chance to learn on the job.
One of our employees, Thom, has autism and could become anxious in new situations, so struggled to find work after leaving his previous job. The format of the placement meant he could take on things in his own time, and the he went on to perform amazingly during the programme and be offered a role. He is now completing his Barista Maestro training and is an indispensable part of the Costa family.
Another of our baristas had recently been in prison, and actually started his work experience whilst still serving his sentence. He was offered a permanent position and the store manager helped him arrange accommodation for when he was released. He was also able to access his earnings at this stage, meaning he didn’t have to rely on financial support to get settled back into the community.
The placement starts with an introduction to the Costa Coffee brand and the wider industry, along with a short, informal interview, which is mainly to benchmark their progress on the course. They then have four weeks working on the job, which includes one day offsite training per week.
After they complete the course the candidates obtain a level 1 externally recognised qualification, called An Introduction to Hospitality.
During the placement, we make sure everyone experiences all areas of working as a team member in our stores, starts their Barista training and completes their health and safety course. Our internal assessors will also work closely with the candidates on softer skills — ranging from communications, to time management to team work, depending on what the individual needs. This makes sure every candidate should get something out of their time with Costa.
We also often have candidates who are trying to find new career paths and this allows them a chance to experience what all areas of hospitality are really like before committing to employment.
One of the most important aspects of the placement is the feedback, which includes coaching throughout and a more formal process at the end. By the end of the programme we are able to see how the individual has developed and how they respond to feedback, making them “work ready”.
We also guarantee an interview and reference – and mark the end of each course with a celebration! We hope to hire as many as we can – we run these placements where there are jobs to be filled so, if successful, they can be hired immediately. Currently over two third are employed by us after their placement.
The business benefits are wide-reaching – it helps establish us with local communities, and allows access to a wide talent pool of people. We find those that are successful really understand the brand and are incredibly loyal, eager to drive their own performance and flourish when given the opportunity to be part of a team.
These employees also help to bridge the current skills shortage, and the programme has had a positive impact on turnover figures. We’ve found that those who join on the scheme typically stay with us for longer and are committed to building a career at Costa.