The hospitality industry has become extremely competitive and there is a high demand for quality hospitality professionals. Apart from the challenge of finding good employees, what are those particular skills that hotels are more and more needing their staff to posses? What certain skill sets might open up opportunities to somebody in the industry? Let’s have a conversation ...

In this conversation we are joined by:
Andrew Chan : Founder & CEO at ACI HR Solution;
Craig Cochrane : Senior Vice President Human Resources at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts;
Juliette Lim : Vice President, Human Resources at Wharf Hotels;

What are the key qualifications that hotels are looking for today but were not needed 5 years ago?

Andrew Chan: “I wouldn’t say not needed, but in recent years I certainly have seen a higher demand for people with digital marketing experience and sales candidates with strong financial acumen. Digital marketing is taking over the ways of traditional marketing and if you’re able to show that you’re able to build a powerful social media presence for yourself or for a brand, you’re able to stand out. Language skills and requirements have probably evolved with market demands too, so a second language is very much seen as highly advantageous nowadays.”

Craig Cochrane: “There is an increased demand for digital skills than there was five years ago and it is now necessary for employees to have all of the previous qualities that were required, plus the ability to work in a fast paced digital environment.”

Juliette Lim: “Digital-savvy: With technology changing the business landscape today, the ability to use technology and be techno-intelligent (mobile apps, QR Codes, online messaging platforms, online advertisements etc.) when reaching our customers through lean and rapid communication channels is key to running our business successfully today. There is also basic expectation to be proficient in using social media (Wechat, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook etc.) for communication with internal and external customers.

Data Analysts:
Hoteliers today must possess the ability to use data intelligently; the use of advanced analytics to decipher trends in order to accurately forecast projected future results.

Environmental Advocates:
With more awareness in environmental issues, hoteliers are making conscious efforts as a community to reduce pollution more than ever; from no plastic to using biodegradable products and proper recycling, there is a radical move from different hotel companies wanting to lead the curve in reducing waste, and having employees who embrace these values.

What kind of qualifications will hotels be looking for in management positions in the next 5 years?

AC: “As the hospitality industry becomes even more competitive and hotel owners demand higher returns from its investments, I see general managers with an MBA or strong finance background trending. Notwithstanding other parts of hotel operations, but commercially strong executives are in high demand. Commercial acumen is all about the know-how and those that exhibit deeper understanding on how the industry works, insights to the upcoming trends and ability to identify new markets – they add value to the business. Additionally, given the rise of social media, being tech savvy is an added requirement. Technology is a two-way street that benefits both yourself and your business as a whole, and being able to share information and engage with clients/customers effectively – that’s definitely an added required bonus at this day and age!”

CC: “The digital shift will continue and will just become an expected part of the job. In 5 years from now it will be essential that leaders in the business are able to surround themselves with a great team and motivate them towards what needs to be done. This is not a new concept of course, but the probability that you can succeed as a leader on your own talent and intelligence alone is getting less and less as our business gets more complex.”

JL: “With the changing job landscape, jobs that are in demand today may no longer exist in the next 5 to 10 years. Processes will then be completed through artificial intelligence, machines and robots. The workforce will become more disparate through globalization and culture diversity will take a new leap through industrialization of new economies. With these in mind, future hotel managers need to:

Understand digitization and embrace future trends:
New technology will create new challenges, conflict and opportunities that will threaten or enhance the existing workforce at the same time. So management teams need to not only embrace these new technologies, but to be proficient in managing the changing relationship between people and the emerging use of digitization.

Achieve more with less:
With technology increasingly replacing manual works, and decreasing levels of younger generations choosing hotel industry careers, it is essential for hotel management teams to operate on a leaner and more effective structure with fewer headcount. They need to lead the change by developing workforce which is multi-tasking and highly efficient on multi-dimensional processes.

Eye for Talent:
With a smaller workforce, every employee counts. The strongest employees would be those with critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills as the complexity of matters accelerates. Managers need to have the ability to identify these abilities and stay abreast of emerging trends, and be equipped with tools and assessments to accurately locate, evaluate, hire and develop employees with these talents.

As workplace dynamics shift to technology, performance management of employees will too, be shifted. Managers will have to create work environments that focus on results and output, rather than where and how employees work. The workforce will be moved from an office-based clock-in clock-out regime to total autonomy and accountability through performance and results.

Strength in Tension-tolerant Collaboration:
With more millennials and Gen Z entering into the workforce, and the hardworking baby-boomers retiring, the shifting demographics poses a higher risk of conflicts and differences leading to disharmony and tension in the workplace. Managers need to be vigilant and skillful in managing generational differences and promoting a collaborative culture.”

Everyone says the biggest challenge is finding good staff - what are you doing in particular to address this problem?

AC: “All too often I see hiring managers focus too heavily on skill-based assessments when interviewing or qualifying staff and spend too little time considering a candidates’ personality or attributes he/she might bring to the organisation. At the same time, I see little to no investment and/or focus spent on marketing and branding a company to potential employees. Hotels in particular can be stuck on the traditional, but now more than ever, I see a need for more radical approaches when it comes to redesigning the workforce and the approach to talent acquisition. Acquiring talent is a long-term view and it focuses more on getting the right talent versus recruitment at large. Although it might seem time consuming finding the best candidate, but in the long haul, it saves money and time as it avoids the process of training a person who’s ultimately going to leave.”

CC: “We are working on many different levels to find and retain the right people. We work with hotel schools to get the brightest young talent on board, we are working constantly on our employer brand to let hoteliers know how great we are to work with and we invest in learning and development for our people. We also walk the talk when it comes to developing our own talent from within and for the last 5 years we have filled more than 75% of GM and above level vacancies with our own leaders; this obviously appeals to those outside the company who would like to be part of that growth. Coupled with that we also follow a rigorous and globally consistent recruitment process to ensure that we have greater knowledge of the people we invite to join us – this process consists of interviews, assessments, reference checks and, where appropriate, trial days and other immersive activities.”

JL: “Be ahead of the curve – find the right leaders to nurture their own teams. The “right” leaders need not be the most experienced, nor the most intelligent nor have the best background; but the ones who are the “right fit” for the organization. At Wharf Hotels, we want leaders who are vibrant, forward-thinking, resilient, creative and strong in leading change and building teams. With the right leadership in place, we can ensure that they will be able to find employees who can bring the company vision to fruition.

In our upcoming HR Conference to be held in our Niccolo Chongqing next month, we will roll out a Certification to train all our HR leaders on “TalentFit” – where they can use pre-employment assessment tools to identify and select the right candidates based on their suitability to the role defined.”

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in a job interview?

AC: “I’ve probably seen them all! But my pet peeve is probably when candidates don’t properly prepare for an interview or has no interest in the job they’ve applied for – it’s a total waste of everybody’s time. With proliferation in mobile usage, I’ve personally have had candidates text and even answer phone calls during interviews – needless to say, they did not get hired.”

CC: “Ha, I have seen a lot! It’s not the ‘worst’ thing I have seen in a job interview but something that certainly sticks out was this poor gentleman who came to see me once and he was afraid of heights (my office is on the 39th floor of a tower) but he didn’t tell me. As the interview was progressing he was sweating and kept inching his chair away from the window, where it was positioned, and towards the door. I thought he was just nervous. After 15 minutes he was so nauseous that he got up and ran to the restroom. When he came back he told me he couldn’t stand to be near the window and we moved to an internal meeting room with no windows and did the meeting. I felt so bad for him afterwards and he didn’t even get the job!”

JL: “Candidates not prepared for the role interviewed for; no prior research done on the company or understanding the expectations of the role, and believing that it was an easy job to do. Overly confident and undermining the challenges of the role presented.
What are you doing to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities?”

What are you doing to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities?

CC: “We work with a number of foundations and institutions in various countries to provide opportunities to people with disabilities. It’s one of the areas where we as a hotel company can make a difference – there are so many different jobs in a hotel that we can provide opportunities for a variety of people.”

Do you have any suggestions on how employers can provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities?

AC: “Look towards implementing some form of flexibility into the workforce and re-designing some of the roles within the organisation that employees with disabilities can excel at. Companies need to be realistic with what they can and can’t offer with a diversified workforce and makes sure proper systems and training are in place to ensure success.”

Thank you to Andrew Chan, Craig Cochrane, Juliette Lim for joining our conversation.

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