A thought to Covid-19 and healthcare recruitment

Covid-19 has had a profound effect on all our lives over the past few months. As we move through the phases of exiting lockdown, our attention is focusing more and more on the long-term effects the pandemic will leave behind. One thing I do hope for is that the outpouring of public appreciation and respect for our country’s frontline healthcare staff will not be forgotten quickly.

Global awareness

Through social media, health workers have collaborated across the board on a scale never seen before. Unfortunately, this was often about sourcing desperately needed supplies of ventilators and personal protective equipment for staff. We are all used to hearing about the trolley crisis and staff shortages, but this allowed us, the general public, to see the human faces behind the problems in a way we never had before. We were also introduced to many of the others who form the backbone of our health service from household staff to direct care workers.

Professor Arnie Hill of the Royal College of Surgeons raised the idea that our recent insight and exposure to the industry has greatly expanded people’s interest in healthcare as a career path. Health has moved to the forefront of global consciousness, with Tony Holohon and Tadhg Daly becoming household names and terms such as basic reproduction rate becoming part of our everyday vocabulary. Is it a reasonable assumption that we will see a greater interest in health-related courses over the coming years?

Next generation of student nurses

The last couple of months have been particularly challenging for our students especially those who had been due to sit the Leaving Cert. They were one of the groups most affected by the virus with the lack of clarity for months before the final decision to use predicted grades. H-Pat applications were of course closed in January before Covid came to prominence however nursing and other medical fields may see an uptake in demand for September. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation renewed its calls for extra undergraduate nursing places to avoid even more severe staffing pressures in the future. The INMO has also said it is likely there will be a drop in overseas recruitment because of the coronavirus pandemic resulting in extra pressures on nurses and midwives in the years ahead.

April’s announcement that fourth-year nursing students who are currently working as interns in hospitals are set to move onto the HCA pay scale was most welcome. Many observers believe the pay cuts which had been implemented in various formats since 2009 had contributed to the surge in nurses qualifying and moving abroad and to the difficulty in recruiting nurses to work in Ireland. This has in-turn contributed to understaffing and overcrowding in our hospitals and pressure on our nursing homes.

Home carers

As we celebrate National Carers Week from June 8th, it is both sobering and inspiring to hear the tales and struggles of Ireland’s home and family carers who are notable frontline healthcare staff. It emphasizes the depth, breadth and diversity of roles which make up our “healthcare frontline”. With an expected increase in investment in healthcare globally over the next few years, it seems that it will become ever more challenging for the state and private employers to attract and retain the right people.

Brian Nixon leads the permanent recruitment division of Excel Healthcare and specializes in the recruitment of Nurses and other senior roles within healthcare. To discuss recruitment and how we can help, please call 018717676 or email

Hospitality industry pivots to meet new normal

PIVOT! How creativity is key to hospitality industry’s bounce back

Pivot.. pivot… PIVOT!!! Everyone remembers the episode in Friends when Ross, Rachel and Chandler are trying to get the couch up the stairs and Ross is shouting “Pivot” to no avail! Well that is exactly what the hospitality industry is going through at the moment! We are holding the future of our industry in our hands, stuck on a corner, knowing we have to pivot but not entirely sure how to do it! So what is a pivot? A pivot is when a company makes a change to its business model after realising that they are unable to service the market in its current format.

So how do we accomplish that?

I spoke to a number of companies this week to check in how they are adapting and I was delighted to get such a positive response. For example, I spoke to senior management in Boojum and they told me how they decided early on to meet the challenge head-on. They left a small number of stores open for delivery only as well as click and collect and adapted the layout of all their kitchens to create a new workflow that kept the staff a safe distance apart while not affecting productivity. They are now looking at reopening more stores with the same template. Boojum also introduced initiatives for staff that were temporarily laid off, one of which was a free daily meal! This is a fantastic idea as it kept staff engaged with the brand while not working and highlighted to the staff how they are valued by management.

This echoes reports that I am getting when I speak to people in the Quick Service Restaurant Industry on the high street. Most have pivoted their business to service takeaway and click and collect demand which allows them to remain open and functional while working away in the background figuring out how they are going to manage to return to regular service. Amazingly, some QSR operators who have adapted to take advantage of the demand for home delivery are reporting that their sales figures are level with figures for 2019 with one operator that I spoke to admitting that he was in the middle of opening a new outlet!

What about hotels?

We are seeing that a number of hotels and restaurant are starting to reopen, offering a reduced menu for click and collect and home delivery. Earlier, I spoke to The Castleknock Hotel who is doing just that. They have been busy designing and implementing a new service for their customers which has been a massive success for the hospitality industry. They have adapted the kitchen, implemented new Health & Safety guidelines and also rotated the staff to ensure that social distancing protocols adhered to. By rotating the staff on smaller shifts, it also promotes employee engagement and give the staff a sense of purpose albeit in a limited capacity at present. Now doing a takeout coffee service, they will keep the call and collect model when the Hotel fully reopens and they also hope to expand by adding of a new outdoor area in the coming weeks!

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks as we start to see the ingenuity and resilience of the Hospitality Industry adapt to challenges in the market. There are green shoots starting to spring up so get up off that couch and pivot…


Recruitment in the time of corona

Excel Recruitment CEO Barry Whelan gives his tips for recruitment in a socially distanced world

Even with lockdown potentially (hopefully) coming to a full end in the next few weeks, social distancing and remote working where possible are going to be the way of life for many for the foreseeable future. While things might seem all doom and gloom, there are companies actively hiring and many others planning their recruitment needs for when restrictions ease and life returns to its new normal. Whether you’re looking for a longterm leader to join your business or for an immediate scale-up of staff to meet extra demand, below are some tips for employers to help tackle safely shifting your recruitment processes during this time while still finding great talent to join their team.

Do a tech check

There are a huge number of technologies available to facilitate remote working, team meetings and video interviewing, From Zoom to Microsoft teams to Bluejeans, the list is endless. But before you fall down the rabbit hole and rush to invest in tech, assess what you need it for and whether you need it at all. Are your team structured enough that a group email thread will work? What about setting up a Whatsapp group so everyone can stay connected and in the loop? For interviewing new hires, does it need to be a video call or are you comfortable with just a phone interview? As with everything, remote working technology is only valuable if you need it.

Video call confidence

Many employers have embraced video interviews and while it’s great to be able to engage with potential new hires, it’s important to remember that video interviews should be fundamentally similar to in-person interviews. All the advice we’ve been giving to jobseekers about video interviews applies to employers and hiring managers as well. Dress the part, check whatever software and wifi connection you’re using are good to go, make sure you’re in a quiet space and that people know not to disturb you, turn your phone to silent and have a back-up plan should you need it. There are often delays and pauses in the connection that don’t occur face to face so practice not only using the tech but communicating through it.

Ask: who’s doing what?

One of the biggest headaches of remote working is keeping in contact with team members and ensuring everyone is engaged and on the same page. While it may sound obvious, ensuring everyone knows who’s doing what will save a huge amount of time, money and headaches for you and your team. Simple questions such as who’s taking charge of screening at CVs, who’s scheduling interviews/ contacting candidates etc. need to be clarified before the hiring begins. Often this happens organically when the team are all in the office at the same time, but now these details must be discussed ahead of time so everyone’s on the same page. Not only is this important to ensures a smooth running in-house but also improves the candidate’s experience.

Stay engaged with your current team

With everything so up in the air, making considered, thoughtful hiring decisions are now more important than ever. Open clear communications with teams and individuals at all levels of the business means you will be better able to identify where the real gaps and needs in your team are and work to fill these, instead of where you presume the needs are. Developing stronger communication with your team also means you’re in a better position to spot if employees may be unhappy and looking for a move and you can work to address any issues before they start sending CVs out.

Have an onboarding plan

Once you’ve done the hard work of recruiting a role, don’t forget the next crucial part of the process: Onboarding and training your newest team member. It can be quite disconcerting to start a new job at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a global crisis! Depending on your company/ the role, your new hire may be working from home without the opportunity to meet their team/ manager in person or if working in essential services may have a huge amount of information and policies or procedures to absorb. Having a clear training plan ahead of time along with regular check-ins will be key to ensuring your new team member hits the ground running.



New Beginnings

Excel Recruitment’s Commercial Director Jennifer Maher on what it’s like to start new beginnings in a pandemic.
Two months into my new role as Commercial Manager in Excel, coronavirus hit. To say it was a scary way to start a new job is a fairly massive understatement; I had barely learned everyone’s name before I was no longer seeing them in person every day says Jennifer Maher.

Building Excel’s Commercial and Industrial Division was a project I was really looking forward to, but to not be able to go to all the meetings I had arranged with some very well-known and exciting companies made it far more of a challenge than I had anticipated!

Rising to the challenge

Over my twelve years in recruitment, the highlight of any role has been getting out to meet potential clients, spending time onsite with them and learning their business. This is how I have always built relationships with my clients and in many cases, has led to real friendships. Not having the ability to do this was something I was really going to miss and an obstacle I was unsure how to overcome.

Thankfully with the wonders of technology, these meetings have been able to happen, albeit virtually. To be able to keep some sort of normality while nurturing my relationships with my clients is a blessing.

“We are all in this together” has become the slogan for these times and it has proven true over the last few weeks. Clients have, at times, been unsure of next steps, nervous about what was going to happen and how long it may last. I have heard first-hand from many, that knowing they had our back-up put them a little more at ease. The knowledge that we would pull out all the stops to help them in any way possible gave them peace of mind. Many clients came to us to help ensure their workforces that were temporarily laid off were looked after, a goal we achieved in many cases.

The positives

Excel’s reputation for success nationwide in the retail and hospitality industries meant we were able to adapt to what was happening rapidly explains Jennifer Maher. Rather than lose our hospitality and events workforce, we redeployed them into other workspaces like warehousing, logistics, administration etc… while also helping out our clients’ employees by finding them temporary work.

I have always met with all my candidates face to face to learn about them and to ensure I put them into jobs they will do well and be happy. Now the ‘new normal’ means these interviews are telephone / Zoom based. A lot has changed in the past few months, but I’ve found people being more isolated means they are happy to have telephone conversations and are opening up a lot more in terms of their goals and where they want to see their future. This has given me more opportunities to steer them in the right direction, even sometimes in directions they may have never considered before.

Continuing to build

With Excel’s reputation for being professional and trustworthy and our extensive network of clients and candidates, we have been able to break into a new industrial division and place excellent people in various roles. Excel Recruitment has always prided itself on its ability to form new and lasting partnerships with clients and we still work with clients today that first came to us when we opened in 2002. I count us very lucky to have formed new relationships and partnerships during this time and I am confident the new clients that we have gained since the beginning of this pandemic will be clients we will work with for years to come. Going from beginning a brand-new division to three months later, having over 250 temporary candidates on-site nationwide across a large portfolio of clients is something we will be forever grateful for and I am proud of the team for rising to the challenge.

I am looking forward to the days where we can all meet again face-to-face but until then I count myself lucky to be part of such an amazing team of people with a management team who really care for their employees!

As this crisis lifts, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me for any of your requirements across logistics, warehousing, transport, admin, finance or anything else you may need.

retail reopenings, social distancing, retail

Retail’s Return: The reality of retail in a socially distanced world?


To state the obvious, the past couple of months have been strenuous for retail to say the least. It has also been hugely heartening to see the industry, retailers-suppliers-staff and so many more, pull together in putting collective thinking caps on to assist vulnerable customers meet their basic needs as well as getting creative to find new and exciting ways to reach and engage with customers.

Hypothetically speaking

What also has to be commended is the resilience, patience and positivity of our grocery retailers and pharmacies in the face of customers’ fears, fraying frustrations and disregard (whether naïve or intentional) for social distancing guidelines. The Government have released their own “Return to work safely” but at 29 pages, how much of it can actually work in real life?

Retailers in all areas have two big questions at the forefront of their minds, a) how to recoup some of the losses from the last few weeks of physical stores being closed and b) how to keep staff and customers safe while doing it?

What we do know is the measures put in place and valiantly maintained by grocery retailers and pharmacies over the last few weeks will now be the standard. But how much further will that go as retailers, and society, move from the hypothetical to the reality of retail in a socially distanced world?

But how will it actually work?

It’s a proven psychological quirk of human beings that we remember those who break rules or social standards and not those that follow them. As a retailer, suddenly everything about your physical store; the store entrance, the width of aisles, the space near checkouts, the density of people in-store are going to come under intense scrutiny. Is tape on the floors, reduced shopping baskets available and plexiglass screens the extent of what’s needed or only the start? Globally, some interesting solutions are being proposed, with Apple and Best Buy trialling appointment bookings for in-store services while IKEA has enabled virtual queuing and remote kitchen planning sessions. While these obviously use more resources in terms of infrastruture and roll-out, it does remove the stress of retail staff being responsible for enforcing physical distancing in store and have the added benefit of a more personalised, premium service.

Communication breakdowns?

Whatever way shops decide to implement the guidance, communicating the new shopping etiquette to ensure adherence without alienating or frightening customers is going to be critical. In-store, again as has already been proven in the grocery sector, non-verbal/ non-direct communication is equally important – from choice of music to tannoy messages to the type and amount of signage. Messaging needs to be transparent and frequent to reinforce rules to customers. Digital communication has proven critical over the last few weeks as social media has been in many cases the only ‘socialness’ people have. It will continue to be crucial as brands strive to extend their influence in the customer journey beyond just the basics and return the idea of shopping to a pleasure activity, even with social distancing in place.

Retail is and will remain a people-centred business and now more than ever it will be crucial that retailers of all sizes put the needs of people, customers and colleagues at the heart of what you do.

Grocery Retail Market Shares

SuperValu ahead of Dunnes as overall grocery sales increase by 17.2%

Grocery sales in Ireland increased by 17.2% in the 12 weeks to 19 April as shoppers adjusted to life under lockdown. While grocery sales in the main are strong, retailers will have felt the effects of social distancing restrictions on food on the go purchasing and other non-grocery categories.

According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, year-on-year grocery growth slowed slightly from March levels to 22.5%. The average household visited the grocers 19 times, two times fewer than the same period last year as people followed Government advice to stay at home. “It’s been a challenging few weeks and we’ve all been grateful for how hard the grocery retailers have been working to keep us fed and watered. In the absence of dinners with friends and lunch on the go, many more meals are being eaten in the home and grocery sales have risen accordingly. But social distancing means people are less likely to be buying categories like clothes, food on the go, and general merchandise. This means for some retailers, the overall picture will be more modest.” explains David Berry, managing director of Kantar Ireland.

David Berry continues:In an effort to get everything they need in one go and cater for all the additional meals and snacks eaten at home, shoppers are adding an extra four items to their baskets each visit, increasing their monthly grocery bill by €118 on average. The change in shopper behaviour adds up to an extra €440 million spent on grocery in the past 12 weeks, but this additional spend is impacting individual retailers in different ways.

Grocery Market Share

In terms of individual retailer’s growth, Lidl was the fastest-growing of all the retailers over the 12-weeks boosting sales by 22.1% and increasing its market share to 12%. Aldi grew by 15.6% to hold an 11.8% share. SuperValu’s large store network meant the retailer benefitted from shoppers choosing to visit outlets closer to home, and was the only retailer not to experience reduced footfall during the past four weeks. David Berry says “Before lockdown, Dunnes customers already spent 80% more than the average shopper each visit at €43.80, which means the retailer has experienced less of a jump in spending per trip than those grocers starting from a lower base. Dunnes is growing slightly behind the rest of the market as a result, but these are extremely narrow margins and only 0.5 percentage points separate the three retailers at the top of the table.”

Online shopping increases while ready meals decline

Not unexpectedly, demand for online grocery soared as people try to limit their contact with others. 10% of Irish households received an online grocery delivery in the past four weeks compared with 6% last year with an additional €20.6 million spent online this month.

Another consumer trend during life in lockdown according to David Berry is an increase in home cooking. “People are turning to cooking from scratch as a good way to keep their families entertained at home. Sales of ready meals are in decline but 50% of Irish households bought baking supplies in the past four weeks, with flour up 52% and sugar up 43%. Those shoppers trying to recreate their favourite takeaway dishes have also boosted sales of ethnic ingredients by 41% and herbs and spices by 61%.”

How to stay healthy when you can’t work from home

As all of us across the country continue to work against the spread of COVID-19, government instructions continue to be to stay home, stay healthy, and work from home if you can. At Excel Recruitment, we work directly with clients and candidates on the frontlines of this crisis dealing directly with the needs of the public. For all these fantastic workers (including our own temp team) in healthcare, retail, warehouses, supply chain and more, working from home isn’t an option. So for those on the frontlines right now: what can be done to mind both your physical health, mental health, and to stay healthy overall?

Healthcare and Nursing Agency

Top 5 tips for your first day as an agency nurse or HCA


Whether you’ve recently begun a job in agency healthcare, just thinking about it or already an experienced relief nurse or healthcare assistant who wants to brush up on the basics, our consultant Kerry Phelan has compiled a handy guide to start you off on the right foot.

Come prepared
Regardless of whether you’re starting work in a nursing home, hospital or any other healthcare facility its always important to arrive ready to start working. Make sure you have your uniform, ID badge, timesheets and any other essentials you need for your working day, and if in doubt contact your recruitment consultant! This is what they are there for, to help you out as best they can.

Show up 15 minutes early
This may sound obvious, but it shows the facility your willingness to learn and work with their nursing or healthcare team. As an agency nurse or healthcare assistant, you are entitled to a full and detailed handover when coming into a new nursing home, ward or service including being shown the layout of the facility and being briefed on any special procedures they may have. Arriving early gives you the chance to get a detailed overview of what’s expected of you, be shown around the facility and hopefully meet some members of your new team!

Ask lots of questions!
Make sure to ask as many questions as you can. The staff on the ward or in the nursing home may presume things they do every day will be common knowledge or may think certain things are obvious when they may not be. They will be unaware of how much you know or don’t know and may take So be sure to ask as many questions as possible. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

Remember your basics
Sometimes in your job as an agency nurse or healthcare assistant, the best thing you can do is the basics. While the senior staff sift through mountains of paperwork or computer systems and the regular nurses or HCAs deal with the specific or niche needs of patients, the small things can often be put to one side. The clients are not expecting you to know everything or handle something you’ve never done before but it is most appreciated when you can make life easier for the busy staff. Such things as assisting residents with their daily care, asking patients about themselves and ensuring that they feel respected and dignified will be most appreciated by staff, by clients, patients and their families.

Always communicate how you feel about any working situation to your consultant. Often as an agency worker, you may be expected to adapt like a duck to water in a facility, or some permanent staff may come across as unhelpful. There is no need to worry though, you can always report any feedback you have to your recruitment consultant, and the best part of agency jobs is you don’t have to go back if you don’t like the work in a particular facility.
At Excel Healthcare we value our agency nurses, HCAs and healthcare workers. We want to make your job as an agency healthcare professional as easy and as enjoyable as possible. We are compassionate and understanding, and will always be here to help you as best we can.

To view our live healthcare jobs, click here



The importance of highlighting HR talent

Senior HR Recruitment Consultant Sean Thomas discusses how the recent CIPD awards served as a reminder of why businesses of all sizes need great HR talent and management.

A few weeks ago, the Excel Recruitment HR team enjoyed its first outing to the CIPD HR Awards in the iconic Mansion House, to recognise the success of great HR managers and teams across the country.

Attending these awards with some of the best HR teams and talent in Ireland, we saw first-hand the positive impact a HR team can have with the right people in place. Many great companies and organisation were recognised for excellent work in their fields, such as Gillian Collins of the Irish Defence Forces, who was highly commended for her work in Diversity & Inclusion. Other companies such as Applegreen and Musgrave were also very successful on the day.

It was a fascinating learning experience to see how modern HR departments are helping businesses and organisations face modern challenges and move forward successfully. One of the awards that particularly stuck with me, went to DPD Ireland for Excellence in HR leadership. The HR talent put a huge emphasis on recognising and thanking their employees for their extra contribution and hard work during the hectic Black Friday to Christmas period. The HR team led a creative & fun-filled 10 day initiative in the lead up to Christmas. They were able to show their appreciation to the team for their extra efforts and commitment while still ensuring the needs of the business were met. Having worked in retail for over 12 years, I know first-hand the extra demand on staff and management during the lead up to Christmas.

As many will be aware last year due to Excel’s expansion as well as a rise in demand from our clients, Excel’s CEO Barry Whelan and I consolidated all of Excel’s HR recruitment capabilities into a dedicated HR recruitment division. This has been a huge success, allowing us to further support our many clients in retail, hospitality and across other sectors. Throughout my career in retail and recruitment, I have seen the importance of a strong HR function in a business, across any sector. This sparked a fascination with the area and prompted me to complete my HRM qualification in order to learn more about the sector and better understand my client’s requirements.

Overall, the afternoon was a great reminder of the value of great HR team or person and the need to recognise them and to support them, within the wider industry, yes, but perhaps more crucial internally within their own organisation. The job of the HR Manager, Generalist and so on, is wide-ranging and far-reaching and the impact is felt across the business not only short term but for the long term organisations objectives.
A very well done to all finalist and organisations that are constantly evolving and always looking at ways to improve employee working experiences.

To view our current live HR jobs, click here:

How sustainability is changing the way retail head offices’ recruit

With environmental impact firmly in the minds of their customers, retail head offices are looking for the talent to help them get greener. Head Office recruiter Sarah Hurley explains more about sustainability….

Unless you’re actively trying, ‘the green agenda’, and messages around sustainability have become impossible to avoid. From most people using a keep cup or reusable water bottle to ‘Veganuary’ shifting from a personal challenge to a permanent lifestyle for some, what was once niche has become everyday. Social consciousness is not just a marketing buzzword but rather a mainstream mindset. Retailers have made it readily accessible and easy for their customers to become part of this ‘journey’ and from this, social responsibility has become a major consideration in buying offices globally.

Fast-fashion businesses are in the spotlight, as their customers become more aware of issues around sustainability in the fashion industry, whilst still wanting to shop the latest trends. For retailers, in order to stay on top, it is imperative that they both make tangible inroads into a greener way of doing business and then convey these changes to their customers. The goal is to make it easier for customers to shop consciously yet to still offer them great value and choice.

To meet this demand, retailers are interested in the knowledge and insight these people may bring with them when recruiting Buyers, Designers and other key head office employees. They want people with about how best to introduce these necessary changes cross-functionally whilst still managing the bottom line.

As these retailers source and sell globally, they produce tens of thousands of garments and transport them by land, sea and air to fulfil their customer’s demands. So retailers’ issues aren’t as straight forward as ditching plastic hangers or using paper over plastic bags. From the bigger issues around supply chain and sourcing to less obvious matters around card types used for labels and packaging, retailers want to ensure their green strategy and message is conveyed at every level and function in their business. This means they are seeking out individuals that possess a knowledge of a product’s life cycle (from factory to shop floor) and its environmental impact, as actions in one function of the business can have a negative knock-on effect on another.

Some retailers are creating specific roles dedicated to analysing the business and make significant greener changes, such as Sustainability Managers/Officers or Sustainable Packaging Managers. Others are adding additional requirements to Buyers and Designers’ existing briefs.

So what can job seekers do to tap into this demand from employers and diversify their experience? As this is a relatively new function within Irish retailers, they aren’t looking for the employees who are the finished article but instead individuals who have perhaps done projects in sustainability in their current role or can demonstrate excellent knowledge or a keen interest in this area. What retailers want is candidates that hold with the skills of a Buyer or Designer etc. such as trend forecasting, sourcing, negotiating, and analytical abilities, coupled with an innate interest in environmental issues and a commitment to work hand-in-hand with external stakeholders to drive sustainability across the broader business.