With tourist arrivals shattering records in Australia, you could do worse than a career in hospitality. If you’re the right kind of person, there might just be nothing better. I was, and still am that kind of person. When I took my first job in a hotel, I immediately thrived on the guests, stories, and problem-solving at the heart of the industry. I’ve played many different roles in hotels since then, and the passion has never abated. Yes, the hours can be long and unpredictable. Sure, there are good and bad days. But the thing is, travel captures people’s dreams and aspirations like nothing else can. The industry has a kind of magic about it, and a talented hotelier feeds off that energy.
So why does our industry have a reputation for high turnover and difficulty attracting the right talent? A shortage of skilled labour is widely expected in the coming years as new hotel stock is added in cities across the country. The Australian Tourism Labor Force Report 2015-2020, prepared by Deloitte, is a 100+ page breakdown of the opportunities and challenges we face in this booming hotel market. In its summary of key findings, the hospitality labour problem is described in the following words:
“With the current cohort of workers appearing to be relatively new to the sector, retaining them and providing them with the right experience will be crucial for the sector in overcoming its projected skills shortage. Attracting more workers to the sector and demonstrating career pathways will also be important in meeting projected shortages.”
The need to sharpen our focus on the employee experience comes, in large part, from understanding the symbiotic relationship between positive work cultures, positive guest experiences, and overall hotel performance. As every hotel manager knows, the costs of high turnover are both tangible (recruiting, training, skill building, etc.) and intangible (low levels of morale and job commitment, frustrated leadership, loss of routine, and lack of career development). We ignore these costs at our peril.
A 2010 study from Griffith University suggested that for the average hotel, the tangible cost of replacing executives and managers was A$110,000 per year, while the cost of replacing operational staff was A$10,000. The study suggests that intangible costs could be even higher, noting that: “Hotels generally regard high turnover as part of the work-group norm and employees frequently hold the belief that they are entering jobs with limited career development opportunities.” What an indictment of our industry !
These dynamics must change if hotels are to capitalise on the rapid growth of tourism in Australia; meeting the demand hinges just as much on building a healthier work culture as it does on building new hotel rooms. New and existing employees need viable routes of upward movement and a stronger sense of career sustainability.
One of the key ways to provide this is via education.
Whilst experience and a great attitude is vitally important to job success, certificates and degrees do hold weight in the hospitality industry, and will be increasingly valuable in years to come. Degrees in hospitality are available at William Angliss Institute, the University of Queensland, Griffith University, La Trobe, Edith Cowan, and several other prestigious universities. Degrees can often be completed in two or three years with a combination of classroom, online, and field experience.
Qualifications of course are not just for the entry level people. Good hotel managers should be aware of the best educational opportunities in their area or that ongoing education can be gained online, such as the two-year Bachelor of Hospitality Management from CQUniversity, or the three-year Bachelor of Commerce/Hotel Management from Edith Cowan University.
Prospective talent should also know that earning certificates and diplomas in hospitality-related areas (e.g. hospitality management, commercial cookery, bartending, etc.) can also be accomplished while earning on the job. My first qualification at William Angliss came from studying part-time whilst working full-time. It’s not for everyone, but it does allow students to apply their learnings in an immediate, real-time environment.
Short courses, conferences and other training opportunities can also boost the confidence of your staff, allow them to explore their interests within the field of hospitality, and also boost their confidence in the industry. Even allowing staff to complete courses of interest that may not directly apply to their immediate job says that their employer cares about them and can see the benefit in further education.
Overall, the costs of poor recruitment and poor retention should be just as much as concern to us as say commission levels paid to an OTA. Outlining viable pathways to success (such as flexible work scheduling to accommodate classes two or three times a week) is the most important thing we can do to build confidence in the industry as a long-term career choice and hopefully encourage good people to join, and stay, with us.
With Australian tourism forecast to continue its boom in the next decade, and the number of new hotels coming on line set to match, the tourism industry is a great place to be for anyone looking for a long term career. The question is, do they know it?
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