During my time at hotel school, we were forever being reminded that the magic words for any new hotel were ‘location, location, location’. But, in light of recent events, I wonder if it has changed. Shouldn’t we be thinking about ‘people, people, people’?
It’s no secret. As we start to rebuild the industry, we’re struggling to find labour. There simply aren’t enough people to fill the roles. As hotels and restaurants reopen, we’re limiting our services and often incurring long wait times to cope with not having enough staff to cater for the increasing demand.
And it’s not only the higher demand. As customers eagerly return to pay for their hospitality experiences once again, they’re wanting more value, even greater experiences and generally a bigger bang for their buck. And, while this is happening, we just can’t find the people to deliver these services and experiences. We’re being forced to offer less, exactly when guests are expecting more.
The reality is that many hospitality workers are simply not returning to the industry. They’ve had enough, and I’m not sure I can blame them. For years, we condoned a culture with very long working-hours and low wages. Then the pandemic struck, and our people, who had previously felt part of something larger than ‘just a job’, found themselves being unavoidably let go. They’ve now had time to think it all through, and many have left to find more stability in other sectors.
But I’m not just blaming the pandemic, or Brexit. For many, these things were beyond their control. Even before the pandemic, our industry had lost its lustre and fewer people were applying for roles. We had already started to focus on buying and selling assets with less regard for the people required to run them. We were regularly putting less investment into people, providing less training for their development, and offering lower salaries – but still wanting more and more from them. Little surprise then that we have less new applicants and are driving people away.
Our current model is broken. It simply isn’t sustainable. We need to turn things upside down and rethink how we are delivering hospitality. As an industry, we have contributed trillions to the global economy, providing employment for 1 in 10 people globally. But how should this really look in the future, as we rebuild? Maybe we have a chance now to do it better.
For my own part, I’m trying to bake longevity into staffing. For many of our clients at Luxury Hospitality Consulting, we’re reviewing how we do things, how we hire and how we might create solid systems that both train and inspire teams for roles that can mature as they grow and develop. I believe we need to focus on intentionally growing the right kind of skilled labour, attracting and retaining younger, passionate hospitality professionals, and carefully training them in the skills needed for the future. I want us to be investing in the same people, over many years, so they can continue to grow within their companies and remain relevant. And of course, we need to provide higher pay and more reasonable hours.
We need to start the discussion with all stakeholders and shift the focus to REALLY thinking about the people who are actually delivering the services that we utterly depend on.
The situation is pretty terrible, but let’s find the gold in it. Let’s use the moment of crisis to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think about why we do what we do. Why did you take that first job in hospitality? I got into this business to care for people. And I think it’s high time we turned this lens of care onto our own teams. Let’s come back better.