Industry Comes Together to Discuss the Future of the Workforce in Hospitality

At the 5th edition of BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Awards and Summit, luminaries in the hotel Human Resource segment and educationists come together to reflect upon the future of the workforce in a sector worst hit by job losses.

Moderated by Yateendra Sinh, YS & Associates Sarl Switzerland, the 14th session of IHA 2020 brought together industry stalwarts to discuss the future of the workforce in the hospitality sector; changes in training modules and much more. The esteemed panel included Dilip Puri, Founder & CEO Indian School of Hospitality; Kamal Kant Pant, Principal & Secretary, Indian School of Management, Catering and Nutrition, Pusa, New Delhi; Dr. P.V. Ramana Murthy, Executive Vice President & Global Head, Human Resources, IHCL; Major Rajesh Chauhan, Head of Human Resources India, Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group; Sanjay Bose, Executive Vice President - HR and L&D, ITC Ltd, Hotels Division and Gurmeet Singh, Senior Area Director of Human Resource South Asia, Marriott International. 

With poor occupancy levels and low business since the onset of Coronavirus, it was clearly spelled out that the hospitality industry is going through massive amount of job losses. Underlining the same, moderator Sinh set the ball rolling by asking the critical question of the state of retrenchment in India. 

Responding to the same, Major Chauhan said, “Despite the best collective efforts of all the stakeholders to protect our hotels and minimize the impact of crisis, Covid19 has compelled us to let go of some of the people. And such decisions are not limited to just us but also to our competition. There has been a huge amount of talent spillover.”

Agreeing with Major Chauhan and emphasizing the need for balance amidst survival, P. V. Raman Murthy noted, “It has been pretty tough for us all when it comes to balancing business and talent. We need to manage the manpower costs as it is high in hospitality. So, unless we manage manpower costs, survival itself would be a problem.”

Resonating with Murthy’s words, Gurmeet Singh said, “We started the process of rationalizing our manpower costs right from the month of November, when the news of Coronavirus came in from China. We let go of people as a part of our right sizing exercise to see how the business will unfold.”

On the question of retaining talent during the ongoing pandemic, Kamal Kant Pant stated, “There is a lot of talent coming in but we don’t know what to do with it.”

On retaining talent, Major Chauhan remarked, “It is a good fear to have as it keeps us on our toes. As an industry it makes us look outside and get the best practices into the hotel industry. Youngsters today are looking for work-life balance and as an industry it can be tough to push that through. Students seek a return on investment, a job and an ego boost as a manager. As an industry it is our responsibility to set the expectations right”. 

Expanding on the same lines, Dilip Puri said, “All the geographies are struggling with jobs. I think when the business picks up whether in the short or the long term, the ‘talent’ will do a lot of cherry picking and choosing the kind of employer it wishes to join”. 

“During this time of crisis, a lot of organisations have demonstrated where their values stand and I think the talent all across the world and not only India is going to pick organisations which probably have more value which are deeper for people than letting people go in the first instance,” he added. 

Highlighting the need for a common employment portal under an overarching body for the graduating students and furloughed employees from management and other levels, Puri presented a humble request to the present HR Managers from the hospitality industry. 

Agreeing with his suggestion, Major Chauhan said, “IHG has initiated ‘Stay In Touch’ programme as a database and similarly created an alumni network.”

Speaking on the need to retain talent, Sanjay Bose remarked that a majority of graduates are not getting viable opportunities in the hospitality sector thereby gravitating them to alternatives industries. As a result, making it difficult for the industry to lure talent back. He said, “As other industries are making it attractive for the graduates, the students may never migrate back to hospitality”. 

Agreeing with Bose’s thoughts, Ramana Murthy noted the need to redeploy talent in conglomerates.

Furthermore, Dilip Puri remarked that historically, hospitality has been a very insular industry. He said, “We hire for our industry and people stay in our industry. This is an Opportunity to make hospitality mainstream”. 

Resonating the critical need to hire fresh talent and retain employees, Gurmeet Singh said, “If you provide millennials with a career they will come to you and if you provide the right atmosphere, they will definitely come to you. A strong emotional quotient is tied to hospitality and we must utilize it”. 

Speaking on the New Education Policy and the evolving subject of hospitality, Kamal Kant Pant noted that more and more students are looking for a niche within hospitality. He spoke about the initiatives he has undertaken to increase the quantity of students that apply for diploma courses in hospitality. With regard to change in curriculum, Pant noted that the two-year graduation course should be expanded to a four-year course. He also emphasized on the need and feasibility to continue study post beginning the career in hospitality. 

Speaking on the required skill sets in a hospitality graduate, Sanjay Bose said, “Industry level talent needs to come with skills such as digital marketing”. He further added that the students today should be equipped with technical knowledge to be more relevant in the changing times as the industry is fast changing and is more technological driven. 

Agreeing to Pant and Bose, Dilip Puri remarked the need for blended learning in times of Covid19. He too highlighted the need for technical knowledge and remarked that his hospitality school has already introduced coding as a compulsory subject. Criticizing the state of internships in the hospitality space, Dilip Puri said, “Interns are made to do menial and mundane jobs which pushes them off the industry. The onus should lie with the companies to give quality opportunities.”

Giving a message to youngsters hopeful of making a career in hospitality, Ramana Murthy said, “Whatever we are experiencing now, the Covid scenario, this shall pass. This is only momentary.”


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