‘It has been extremely difficult to find the right talent’

With the pandemic situation easing, a lot of fresh applicants are coming forward to pursue their dreams in the hospitality industry, says Shibil Malik, General Manager, Sheraton Grand Hotel Bangalore at Brigade Gateway

Corrective pricing strategies for rooms and banquets that helped increase the ‘average daily rate’ and ‘average per cover’ aided with the confidence picking up slowly as the initial scare of Omicron went down resulted in the demand going up at Sheraton Grand Hotel Bangalore at Brigade Gateway. This was in 2022. “Pent-up demand helped us stabilise business in a matter of months post-Q1. When compared to 2019, the hotel experienced higher occupancy and revenue in certain months. We also hosted the largest outdoor catering event to date, serving over 6,000 guests in a single day. Weddings and social event celebrations resumed to be celebrated as large-scale affairs. We also relaunched the highest lounge in South India - High Ultra Lounge - an exclusive lounge bar and Horizon, a premium Pan Asian restaurant in 2022,” shares Shibil Malik, General Manager at the property. 

Surrounded by celebrated landmarks and a short drive from Kempegowda International Airport, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway offers five-star luxury in a vibrant travel destination. Elegantly appointed accommodations feature amenities including luxury bedding, four-fixture bathrooms and scenic city views. Talking about the main challenges posed by the pandemic, especially in hiring right talent for the hospitality industry, Malik says, “The hospitality sector has remained relatively stable despite the tough economic times over the past few decades. The last two years have been an exception due to the pandemic. It has been extremely difficult for the industry to find the right talent. Unavoidable right-sizing efforts undertaken by hotels posed a challenge to rehire as many hotel workers went on furlough and returned to their homes and took to other responsibilities in their hometowns. As the travel and tourism industry rebounds, numerous operations are matching or surpassing pre-pandemic customer demand. We can already see signs of the situation easing and this is slowly changing the confidence of the young aspirants and they are getting back to the industry. We are witnessing this change and notice a lot of fresh applicants coming forward to pursue their dreams in the industry.”

To address this challenge, Malik suggests that shortage of skilled work force in hotel industry is an acute challenge especially after the pandemic and business returning to pre-Covid times. “The pandemic has undoubtedly posed a challenge to the entire structure and operation of the industry. However, it has also provided us with an opportunity to reflect and view with fresh eyes and ideas. Out-of-the-box strategies which take into account current industry trends are essential for overcoming this challenge. This includes changing the perception of working hours from long shifts to flexible shifts, introduction of part-time jobs in hotels, collaborating with hotel management institutes to jointly promote the industry as a modern and vibrant career option, and implementing staff engagement activities are a method for retaining and hiring talent,” he says, adding that using employee referrals has been of great help and they are incentivising their own associates to take part and support in recruitments. This has been a great way to secure new hires. 

“We have focussed on employer branding and telling the story to attract fresh talent. Hotels have started to adopt various digital strategies to bring in right talent during this time. They have launched various digital campaigns to spread awareness about the various job opportunities in the industry. Hotels have also begun to use virtual recruitment platforms to source and hire candidates from various remote locations,” he says.

On the evolving role of GMs in the hospitality industry, especially post-pandemic, he says, “They must act as role models, be flexible and demonstrate positive and adaptable work attitudes. In addition to keeping their teams engaged and motivated, managing crisis and resilience-building is part of the expertise required by the ‘post-Covid’ GM.” Malik adds that the General Managers should be capable of thriving in uncertain times and in chaos ensuring business survival and prosperity. “They should also have entrepreneurial skills to identify new revenue streams. Ability to adapt quickly and being decisive and providing solutions to their teams so that the operations can run smoothly. In times of uncertainty, everyone in the hotel looks up to the GM and one needs to possess the right attitude and skills to manage volatile conditions. New-age GMs must adapt to innovative methods to motivate, engage and inspire all associates,” he feels.

Throwing light on the recent initiative of extending opportunities for candidates even without prior experience to learn and work in a five-star property like Sheraton Grand Hotel Bangalore at Brigade Gateway, Malik says that he strongly believes that attitude is more important than skill because it is critical for aspirants to have the right mindset to face everyday challenges. “Skills can be obtained through training and experience, having the right mindset is of utmost importance. We have been giving a lot of emphasis on training new hires and ensuring proper on-boarding before the associate is put on the job. Each department has an assigned trainer who supports in training new resources and we have a buddy system where a knowledgeable associate shares with others their valuable expertise,” he shares, adding that a part-time programme was recently launched at the hotel with great success. 

“We have 15 part-time employees who have joined us in the first batch. These associates have no or limited experience in hotels but are keen to learn and explore how life is working in a hotel. They enjoy flexible shift hours and some work only on weekends. Their schedules have been planned in a way that works well for both the department and the part-time associate. Some of these associates have already approached us for a permanent job,” says the GM.

On how he communicates with his team as a leader, Malik tells us, “It is the GM’s job to set clear directions for their teams and they must be able to articulate their vision clearly. They should be committed to supporting their teams towards achieving success. Building trust is the foremost driver of employee engagement. The idea is to create an open, supportive and professional work environment that is constructive. We have both a formal and informal structure of communicating with our teams. This includes regular catchups with the leadership team, town halls and monthly feedback sessions organised for the rank-and-file associates to help get a better understanding of both what is working and what can be done better.”

The hotel has an open-door policy at the hotel and the entire leadership team including the GM are approachable and have regular conversations. “This helps in building trust and keeps you updated with the latest. We also have formal Employee Recognition Programmes in which monthly awards are given to star performers as well as employee engagement activities such as regular treks to help the employees take a break from work, team building and creating a bond for ease of communication,” shares Malik.

Sharing his plans for 2023, Malik opines that the year seems to be promising, with strategies aimed at increasing occupancy and average daily rate by 20 per cent. “We intend to fill in the gaps on talent front to ensure that we are able to manage the anticipated surge in demand this year. Team Sheraton is preparing to manage and cater Aero India 2023 and IMTEX 2023 events. The year has started on a positive note and we are confident of witnessing see a significant increase in hotel occupancy and demand which will be strongly influenced by the increase in international travel,” he says.


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