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Bridging the Gap between Hotel Management Graduates and Hoteliers Expectations
By Shail Barot
India’s 5,000-year culture, multi-hued religion, pre and post independence history, coupled with wellness and Ayurveda, lure the luxury and budget segment travelers, both domestic and foreign touching 600 million and 6.29 million, respectively, last year. Expecting these figures to almost double in the next five years, as foreseen by our Tourism Minister, our Tourism and Hospitality industry in India is set to move into sports mode.
The tag of an elitist industry needs to be removed from the mindset of the masses by emphasizing the job creating opportunity as well as the foreign exchange earning capability of the Hospitality Industry. According to the Department of Tourism, the industry has created approximately 53 million jobs already and has prospects of creating another 44 million in the next five years. Being the largest employer today, employing 8.27% of the employable, which contributes to 5.83% of the GDP. Right from the unskilled to the semi-skilled, our industry absorbs everybody. Can there be a better job creation opportunity then this?
When a foreigner visits our embassy in his country for a visa to India, the travel advisories released against Indian travel, because of a remote terror incidence in some corner of this huge sub-continent, first scare him. The immediate sell-off is to travel to a neighboring country even though the lure of being treated like a Maharaja is over-powering. Overcrowding and cleanliness both make India unattractive for domestic tourists too. Against all odds, we still service 606.29 million guests. This royal treatment doesn't happen as a matter of fact, but is the warmth of Indian Hospitality provided by our people. One of the primary challenges faced by the Indian Hospitality Sector is ‘Management of Labor’, which not only is the core to this Maharaja treatment, but also is a major sourcing, training and retention challenge.
Effective Personnel Management in Hotels
To meet the expectations of warm and courteous Indian service for these tourists, human resources management (HRM) needs to play an essential part in appointing and supporting talents to deliver superior service quality. Hotels may not have qualified HR managers and adequate employee policies. Furthermore, very few hotel chains approach Hotel Management Colleges for recruitment. As a result, Hotels are always short of trained staff. A solution is to approach Hotel Management Colleges during the campus interviews, as a group of 5-10 Hotel members of an Association.
Educational institutions have provided a systematic process and developed curriculum to assist students in developing skills and accumulating practical experience for their future careers. These courses are directed to match the industry’s requirement for skilled and proficient employees. While the success of a hotel is its quality of service, it is crucial for hotels to hire employees who have sharpened hospitality skills and knowledge and are ready to work with minimal training after employment.
Yet, the career path for hospitality students is even more difficult and challenging than others. Positions in hotels, especially those in the back of the house operations and banquets, are known for long hours and difficult schedules, uncomfortable working conditions and unreal salary scales. It is not uncommon when some trainee staff decides to give up a career in the hotel and prefers to work in a different service sector or even a different industry altogether, which offers a better lifestyle and work atmosphere.
This has become a perennial problem for hoteliers; regardless of the increasing number of students passing out from catering colleges every year, and increased job opportunities in the industry, yet hotels are always short-staffed and waste a lot of resources in recruitment. A solution I recommend is the 'Buddy system' where a new entrant is latched on to an experienced buddy in the same department, to offset this final phase of ragging that a student's career goes through, before he firmly roots into the hospitality ground.
Although hotel schools have prepared students with adequate learning to develop a career in the hotel industry, there still exists a gap between hotel management graduates’ expectations and the reality on the job. Such gaps may discourage job seekers from entering or continuing with their career in the hotel industry. Hoteliers should provide current and realistic information about the working conditions, career advancement opportunities, and job rewards (including salary and benefits) that the student should expect from the hotel.
Being a part of the hotel industry, I would like to draw your attention to some solutions that I recommend. Hotel owners as well as HR executives should visit schools as guest lecturers, especially to those institutes in which their own children study. This lecture needs to be delivered to students when they are in the 9th or 10th grade, when choosing a career option is of utmost importance. This lecture would educate potential hotel management students to understand better, what goes behind a Hotel or Restaurant.
With this article I appeal to all the readers, to conduct a tour of your own property with students who aspire to work in the hospitality industry. Internships and Management Trainee programs need to be conducted that mould a student towards becoming an employee who can roll out the Maharaja treatment to its hotel guest. As an example, ITC group of hotels have a Management Trainee program, WelcomLegionnaire Programme that focuses on evolving entry level hospitality graduates into world class managers. This programme is one of its kind in the world and is financed by the hotels division of ITC Ltd. (http://www.itchotels.in/itchmi/WelcomLegionnaire-programme.html).
With sudden demand for Hotel rooms in India, skilled labour is what supports every hospitality organization. Together with the Association, and by following simple solutions, it is possible to achieve zero manpower crunches for the hotel industry in the coming five years.
Shail Barot can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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