Why is the hospitality industry losing its people to the other sectors? I was at a reputed hospital in Pune recently visiting a relative who was admitted there. I was truly impressed by the upkeep of the premises. As we husband and I; stepped in the lobby we were engulfed in the buzz and energy of sorts but what held my attention was the air of freshness and almost zero defect housekeeping! And this is coming from a hotelier who has worked in operations and has been a trainer conducting audits for over two decades.
Immediately my thoughts went to the unsung heroes of the hotel industry – the housekeeping brigade. They aren’t as ‘unsung’ as they were a couple of years ago, all thanks to the pandemic that brought about the much needed awareness about the silent service. People realized the importance of cleanliness, hygiene and sanitization that were most needed for our well being. In fact we realized that they were essential for our very survival. The elevators were well maintained and the floors shined; the ceiling had no signs of anything that could have been amiss from the keen eyes of a housekeeper. We reached the room that was well appointed and could give any 5 star hotel room a run for its money. Bottled water stood proudly next to the kettle and tea – coffee amenities. Perfect lighting and clean curtains hung on the windows to block the glare of the sunlight. As I was soaking it all in saw the concerned yet happy face of my relative, a sure shot emotion that every patient displays. Who likes to stay in a hospital room anyway? The housekeeper in me felt like seeing the attached bathroom and that didn’t disappoint either. I had respect for the job well done by the housekeeper and every care that was taken to deliver impeccable service. My compliments automatically went to the team.
I can vouch for the fact that the head of housekeeping must have been a hospitality graduate who must have started his or her career with the hotel industry and then moved to the health care vertical. Looks fair enough and it is a great example of expanding ones horizons. But it also raised a few questions in my mind were we losing our graduates and trained resources to other industries. Suddenly everyone seems to need them and why not the knowledge and skill sets that they develop are an asset in every industry.
Compared to other sectors of the global economy, the hospitality and tourism industry is one of the fastest growing, accounting for more than one third of the total global services trade. It accounts for 30 per cent of the world‘s export services. With regard to the supply chain in the sector, one job in the core industry indirectly generates roughly 1.5 additional jobs in the related economy, according to an ILO study.
The millennials or the Gen Z work with a different mindset and have unique set of priorities; they are the ones who are entering the workforce. This generation has choices, in fact spoilt for choices won’t be an exaggeration! They also understand the related sectors such as healthcare, real estate, retail, facilities, travel or entrepreneurship are waiting for them. Many are considering these options, some even going in for higher education to expand their scope of work opportunities. We must not forget though that there will always be a good number of passionate hoteliers who will want to be a part of the core industry no matter what.
With this at the back of my mind I spoke to a group of third year hospitality students, giving it as a topic for group discussion and what they shared with me reiterated by own beliefs. These students had interned with hotels for about 4 months and they had their seniors as well as industry professionals who they consulted or sought mentorship.
What can the industry do to control this mass exodus and retain the trained resources?
The pandemic has been tough for the industry that is just starting to get back to real business but the work force that was needed is somewhere missing. Almost everyone is hiring and there is a dearth of trained manpower and it may continue to be the same or get worse if we as an industry don’t reinvent or adapt to the changing work place dynamics. Areas that require our attention are:
Long working hours
The working hours and shifts have been points of discussion since time immemorial. Hospitality and Tourism are extremely labour intensive and are a significant source of employment. They are among the world‘s top creators of jobs requiring varying degrees of skills and allows for quick entry into the workforce for youth, women and migrant workers. The sector is characterized by diversity, complexity, inter-linkages and fragmentation in terms of employment. Many organisations have started to address this issue but every hotel company needs to structure their shift timings.
Work culture and environment
Consumer demand patterns in hotels require working conditions that are frequently characterized as unsocial and irregular working hours in the form of break shifts, night shifts, or work during weekend or holiday season. These working conditions elevate stress on workers with family responsibilities, particularly women who are the primary care givers to the children and the elderly as well as they are responsible for household chores. Some kind of flexibility in this area will be a welcome change. Flexible work has been adopted by most organisations; it’s time for the hospitality industry also to see how it can be adapted to its work environment.
The salary structure in the hospitality industry is still much less compared to the other sectors and it is one of the reasons why hospitality graduates as well as professionals move to other industries. We must remember that work environment and future growth are the key considerations for young professionals.
Experience during internship creates image of the industry in the minds of the students. If they didn’t like the experience or were not guided properly they decide not to be a part of it and look for other avenues upon graduating. Many go for higher studies which is good for their professional career as well as personal growth whereas others choose to join other sectors that come for campus recruitment.
It’s time the industry revamps the mindset, working conditions and adapts to the modern time workplaces. Hospitality graduates have the right attitude, mindset and the basic skill sets that can be honed further by the industry and build the passion that it demands. This should create a win- win for all.
PS: This article was first published in the ET Hospitality World. Picture is taken from Google with due credits