Invest time and energy on team members, future employees

In my opinion, for business leaders in any industry, the only sustainable practice worth investing time and energy on is the team members and future employees

Much has been discussed over zoom calls during Covid and now in person conferences (whew it’s good to be back comments!!!). Buzzwords – rationalisation, optimisation, “cutting waste and wasteful practices” permanently, culture change/ WFH and hybrid environments, we survived and we will definitely thrive etc continues to be “leader speak”.

Regret. After temporarily leaving the “corporate world”, I must share my deep scepticism and reticence about these pronouncements. Great for the analysts and stock price movements and PR but are they really a “responsible promise” for the future or just another way of doing business?

Some companies, Lemon Tree Hotels included, have led the way with employee welfare, people sustainable practices and new ESG guidelines. They have set a good example in their approach towards team members – protecting facilities as far as possible, covering family and team members for Covid hospitalisation and organising vaccinations during the trying times. Efforts were made towards ESG practices and the way forward was announced, with a move towards best practices conforming to international norms – along with a clear strategy towards broader digitalisation in the coming three-five years. 

Unfortunately, for all the companies that have moved in the right direction, there are many others that haven’t. They have hidden behind the gaps in law to justify inaction and the garb of not being able to invest during and post-Covid to enable the companies to get financially viable again. 

We, as citizens, seem to be oblivious to the fact that climate change, economic upheavals and political hardline discourse are here to stay. Disruptions will be regular and varied.

In my opinion, for business leaders in any industry, the only sustainable practice worth investing time and energy on is the team members and future employees. Their growth and development and financial security will lead to their unstinted loyalty to help the organisation’s sustainability.  

The impact of layoffs, reduced pay and leave without pay have left the team members disappointed and disgruntled about many industries – hospitality, retail, airlines and travel companies in particular. They had to relocate and return home, face economic hardship and became a burden on their families without being able to contribute in any way, with the additional burden of Covid expenses and no real social cover. 

Most companies, across verticals, feted earlier in satisfaction reviews with staff fell to the wayside. Social media was filled with criticism and employee angst, with the largest companies facing the heat. What a PR disaster. It will take long to get the rankings back for a lot of them.

We are back to conferences and review meetings - worried about attrition and lack of availability of staff members and talent. We are announcing new compensation plans, L&D and growth strategies, poaching from each other as we aren’t able to handle in demand and customer expectations. Another branding disaster unfolding.

Across the industry, could we not have planned better, and 

  • Retained people and paid them fairly 
  • Enhanced their social cover 
  • Invested in raising their learning/ development – teaching them new/ adaptable skills 
  • Looked after their mental strengths

Sure, there would have been a cost – this would have raised the losses and pressured Boards even more. But isn’t that the responsibility of CEO and Boards anyway?

Invest in lean and bad times to grow rapidly in better times – raise the quality and performance of the assets to be able to sweat them better??

Are employees truly an asset (much bandied term in HR gatherings) – seemingly not? The hard asset continues to be valuable and insurable. 

The hospitality industry isn’t learning – not in India, not anywhere in the world. Employees aren’t returning to work, definitely not in our industry or they are demanding change in culture, compensation, future proof practices and growth.

If we are willing to customise experiences to various segments of our external customer – what about doing the same for the internal customer? Help them do better, invest in them – they will look after your customer better – business will grow profitably and incrementally anyway. 

We know this – why not wake up and smell the coffee – Just do it. Other sustainable practices will fall into place with lessor effort. The team will help you.

E-environment is a large subject, take small steps, one at a time – we can’t help the larger world needs – add small drops to the ocean of movement needed. 

S/G – Social and Governance – is all about the internal (team) and close by community – Invest in them, be creative and impactful. The benefits shall be immense.

No platitudes, no procrastination – please, no more. Your sustainability depends on it.

Disclaimer: The commentary is personal in my new role as a roving adviser. Positive statements about Lemon Tree Hotels are not meant for promotion just because I was with them till a few months ago. They are factual. My other thoughts are borne out of my discussions with other brand heads/ owners/ consultants with search/ recruitment mandates as well as chats with thought leaders in hospitality education institutions, in recent conferences. 

In addition, my views are largely industry agnostic, with just some references to hospitality to strengthen the case. This is borne out of research worldwide regarding challenges within the Airline industry (read about airlines cancelling flights due to absence of resources), Retail stores struggling in USA and Europe to quote a few, best known consulting and banking organisations announcing changes in benefits and practices almost fortnightly. The woes are the same!!!

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'


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