Cover Feature

Pizza Hut’s deep-pan talent management master plan

Exclusive sit-down with Pizza Hut Restaurants’ Chief People and Marketing Officer as she reveals why education and transparency are essential to the company’s talent management strategy...

Words by Kieran Howells

Talent management, otherwise known as the holistic process of attracting, retaining and engaging high quality talent, is not a symptom of one single HR initiative. Ensuring that fresh talent is continually brought into the business, that employees are engaged and happy in their role, and willing to develop and grow, is the product of a well-honed HR-led strategy. Employee-employer communication and corporate culture have always played a big role in the talent management lifecycle, by attracting staff to the business and keeping them engaged at work. Another essential factor in ensuring that workers continuously feel confident in their role is the option of further development and progression within the business.


A wealth of data has pointed towards this. In fact, Korn Ferry research has found that a whopping one in three employees are actively looking for other prospects due to lack a of development opportunities in their role. Whilst this issue has become more acute as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, data released by the CIPD recently found that 94% of HR professionals have been forced to alter their organisations’ learning strategy in response to the pandemic. Over half admitted that learning is no longer receiving immediate attention within businesses as a direct result of the crisis. These figures are worrying, especially considering the fact that professional development was already struggling before the pandemic struck. According to City & Guilds’ Annual Skills Index 2021, 30% of UK workers say they have not received formal workplace training in the last five years – this is despite the fact that 94% of employees told a LinkedIn study that they would stay at a company longer if there is continued investment in their learning and development, pointing towards the ways that investment in L&D could support the talent management lifecycle.


Pizza Hut’s talent management manifesto


Pizza Hut says it puts talent management at the heart of its people strategy, as evidenced by the call to arms on its recruitment site: “The simple truth is, we believe in you. We want to invest in you and make sure you’re happy with how you’re contributing and learning.


“The resources we offer are vast; from induction programmes and online learning to professional qualifications. Think of it like you’re navigating your Pizza Hut career across a big road map.


“We’ll give you everything you need to understand the business including in store training, mentoring, leadership, development, coaching and facilitation skills.”

Kathryn Austin

Chief People and Marketing Officer

Topping up employee development

For Pizza Hut Restaurants, and its Chief People and Marketing Officer, Kathryn Austin, employee development plays a vital part in its talent management strategy. Just weeks before the country was submerged into rolling lockdowns, the multi-national restaurant chain was officially given the certification of a school, providing in-depth onboarding, mentoring schemes and professional qualifications to its own staff. According to Kathryn, the move was made to ensure that managing the development of its staff remained top of the people agenda. She told myGrapevine magazine: “Our locations are officially learning establishments; each delivers our in-house apprenticeship programmes, and we even actually get Ofsted coming to check on us. We have to deliver learning to a professional standard that is good or better than schools and colleges. And we have to prove that through all the relevant standards and audits.”

We have to deliver learning to a professional standard that is good or better than schools and colleges


Having been a member of Pizza Hut Restaurants’ executive team for over 12 years, Kathryn found herself in a strong position to lead the company’s HR strategy through the turbulence of the past 18 months. Rather than putting the talent management process on hold throughout the pandemic, Kathryn made a conscious decision to ensure that regardless of circumstance, all Pizza Hut employees could continue to make progress and remain on top of their own career goals. “A lot of people in the pandemic were surprised and also reassured that we carried on with those core initiatives. If you were on furlough, for example, we carried on with the apprenticeship training programmes. We actually had quite a few people who managed to complete Pizza Hut’s apprenticeship training when they were at home. When a crisis comes, it’s often these engagement initiatives that get dumped. It’s not seen as a core priority. In our business however, we know it was absolutely essential to keep it going,” she adds.


Delivering training to managers

This focus on Pizza Hut’s commitment to talent management also came into its own during the coronavirus pandemic, due to Kathryn’s dedication to providing extensive training for team leaders in an attempt to do away with what she calls ‘accidental managers’ – otherwise known as managers who have not received adequate training before taking on the role. This is an element she believes is vital not just for managers’ own career management, but for the talent management of the workers they oversee, too. Statistics evidence the importance of providing training to line managers within the workplace. According to Lorman data, 59% of managers reported having no training at all, whilst nearly 50% of managers who have been in their role of over ten years stated that they have received less than nine hours of training overall. “That is a real danger in the industry; a lot of businesses grow rapidly, and people get promoted because they’re good at what they do. You can end up in a situation where people are responsible for really large teams, who have never had any form of management training,” Kathryn says.


We see the bigger picture and the greater good of enabling people to have access to learning in all of its forms

So-called accidental managers, according to Kathryn, could be extremely damaging to a company like Pizza Hut, which she said operates an individual ‘micro culture’ in each branch. As such, she assures that before a new leader is given a key position, they complete Pizza Hut’s rigorous management training. “In our business, it’s hugely important to get all our leaders to be professionally accredited chartered managers. We’re looking at development, people management and training as education and social mobility. We see the bigger picture and the greater good of enabling people to have access to learning in all of its forms. It also means that all of the managers in our restaurants get to see what good really is. It’s a real pillar for us.”


A slice of talent retention

This approach to talent management has had a drastic impact on the talent lifecycle within Pizza Hut. Unlike its competitors, Kathryn notes that Pizza Hut has very strong talent attraction and retention numbers – this is reportedly the case even in the current talent shortage impacting the industry as a whole; the Office for National Statistics announced that the turnover rate for the hospitality industry reached a whopping 130.7% in 2020, compared to 78.9% in 2019. She believes this is down to both the internal culture, and the opportunities to add value to career progression through the company’s qualifications. Kathryn says: “Every person who gets through these programmes, who gets their maths and English GCSE equivalent, gets a qualification that they can take with them even if they don’t stay in the industry. We’re setting them on the right path. A lot of those people will have been unsuccessful in school or college, and didn’t want to go through the university route, and this is a viable alternative – one that doesn’t leave them in huge debt.”

And whilst education and development aide HR in the talent management agenda, Kathryn also believes strongly that Pizza Hut’s internal culture, one that she says promotes community, is a major tool in retaining staff who perhaps have stayed longer than they initially intended to. The relationship between strong internal culture and talent attraction and retention is one that has been proven in numerous studies. For example, Builtin data found that 46% of jobseekers cited strong company culture to be a key draw when choosing to apply for a company, whilst employees who do not feel confident in their company’s culture are 24% more likely to quit. Kathryn says that, as a result of Pizza Hut’s inclusive culture, talent management is a responsibility that is shared out among the executive team, which ensures that any one of the 5,000+ UK-based employees can contact them with any issues that they might be facing. “It doesn’t matter where you work or who you are, if you want to have a chat with the senior team, you can. We’ve tried to break down that more traditional view of a head office and the formalities that are associated with it, and just make it more of an interconnective network. That’s the truest sense of being a community-minded business,” she says.


Pizza Hut Restaurants fact file


Famous for its eye-catching locations and household-name pizza, Pizza Hut has been serving customers since its inception in 1958.

Pizza Hut Restaurants has over 5,000 employees within the UK.


The UK headquarters of Pizza Hut Restaurants is based in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

The restaurant group was founded by brothers Dan and Frank Carney.


With restaurants across the globe, it’s currently the world’s largest pizza chain.

Pizza Hut Restaurants is a franchisee of Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, which also owns the likes of KFC and Taco Bell, among many others.

Talent and transparency

The company is also very aware of the part that authenticity in the leadership function, and the transparency that this promotes, is an effective tool in managing the longevity of its talent pool. Throughout the pandemic, Kathryn and her team ensured that, despite the challenges that beset the business, the company was as transparent and forthcoming as it could be, and welcomed dialogue in a new series of all-hands webcasts, in which all Pizza Hut team members were welcomed to share their thoughts, and even debate the head office team. “We made sure everyone has a chance to speak and if someone has a view on it, and it wasn’t something we agreed with, we’d be honest and explain why,” she explains, noting that this prevented higher turnover than necessary by doing away with some of the more traditional workplace anxieties. “We made it clear that we didn’t have all the answers. And, someone may put a viewpoint forward and you may not actually know what you think about it at the time. We were comfortable enough to able to say in the environment of a webcast that we had to think about it and that we’ll come back to them. Sometimes, that means changing your mind or changing a course correct, which other leadership teams may find impossible.”

We have fantastic opportunities for progression


It’s clear when talking to Kathryn that for Pizza Hut, its focus on talent management is both based on the value it adds to the business, as well as the ethical argument for holistic career progression. She believes that not only does curating an HR strategy specifically aimed at developing staff into both well-trained and highly engaged teams benefit the talent lifecycle and the firm’s retention goals, but also offers an opportunity for workers to progress their careers and better themselves. Pizza Hut’s efforts to become a registered school, with access to coaching and certified qualifications, encapsulates Kathryn’s view that a healthy talent management strategy should ideally retain as many staff as possible, but also set them up for further success. “We’re doing this in the hopes that, not only will our staff be able to progress within the company; we want to give them tools that they can use far into the future in their careers. We want people to be advocates of Pizza Hut, even after they leave us, if they choose to do so. But we hope people will stay, because we have fantastic opportunities for progression,” she concludes.

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