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Recruitment: Hidden talents

Derek Issacs, January 15th, 2019

The hotel job market is competitive in terms of available talent. If hoteliers are to improve guest experiences and, in the long term, increase hotel revenues, then new recruits need to be savvier than ever before, with those melding job experience and higher education qualifications faring well.

Kathy Sorenson, the regional director of HR, Premier Inn Middle East, says that a huge deal of talent is hidden among the large number of job seekers. “The quality of talent is this year’s biggest recruitment challenge.  Recruitment meetings need to be firm and tight. You need to know what it is you are looking for in terms of capabilities and skill,” she said.

Over at the Fairmont Dubai, Mary Redman, HR manager, is looking for “forward thinkers who can assess a situation and make smart decisions. Our hotel has the ‘Heartist’, which, for the Accor brand, means they also act from their heart when making that decision. This is the redeeming factor for new recruits.”

For Kaustav Sen, the director of human resources and training Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island and Staybridge Suites Abu Dhabi Yas Island, hiring recruits who have worked for other brands in the UAE tops the list. “They need to be trained, understand the local work ethos of the UAE, and have worked with foreign guests.” Add this to an MBA and the “experience becomes better value, helping drive hotel results. Higher education courses give recruits a new dimension, new thought processes, new learnings and new benchmarks,” he said.

Michael Newnham, associate dean of Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) which offers an MBA in Hospitality Management, acquired a master’s in training when working as the director of training development for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in Hong Kong.  Boosting his confidence in his ability to do his job effectively, Newnham said:  “I thought no one on the planet can challenge me on the theory and practice of training. It was an empowering experience.”

Sorenson gives “absolute credit to anyone who completes an MBA programme while working.” She said that the critical thinking element [of an MBA] reflects in the work and project work. “The business environment is very fast in general, so the business skills that you gain are really helpful.” Redman also recognises the benefits of higher education. “Looking at the big picture, I’d say there are specific roles where an MBA would be most beneficial.”

Good news abounds for recruits whose sights are set on climbing the career ladder, regardless of their role. “Everybody can become a GM,” said Sen. “Pathways are in place and IHG supports everyone who has the right potential. It is that extra mile they bring that makes a GM role and an MBA can also help this journey.”

Newnham believes that anybody undertaking an MBA degree has got a longer term view of their career beyond their current role or area of responsibility. “So many people might choose to specialise in HR or marketing, or might choose to move into a GM role but either way the knowledge of an MBA is beneficial. You are either going to be using those skills in the longer term as your specialist function or as a generalist or you have an awareness for the business systems,” he said.

Newnham believes that experience, internships and higher education qualifications play a part in landing a dream job.  An MBA programme can, when coupled with experience, provide a link to career advancement and a deeper knowledge of the inner workings of a hotel. But are time and cost required to invest in an MBA programme seen as obstacles?

Newnham said this is not necessarily the case. For example, the EAHM MBA programme can be undertaken on a full time basis or through a more flexible approach over two or three years. Clearly costs are involved but Newnham believes the return on investment has to be considered over the long term. “Students that may have pro-active personalities or have a longer-term vision or aspirations are going to see the payoff or are going to achieve those longer-kind of goals,” he said.

Hotel HR managers have clearly got their work cut out if they want to recruit the kind of talent that can help enhance guests’ experiences and develop revenue generation skills. In turn recruits are having to be that bit savvier in terms of the experience they have gained, their acquired knowledge and being smart thinkers.

It  will come as no surpise that anybody looking to enter the hospitality industry must be outgoing, well-groomed and be mindful of how they deal with people.  “It’s a realistic expectation,” said Sorenson. “But what I find is that new recruits are looking to fast-track up the structure, in order to get to the top. However, they are not so strong yet.”

According to Newnham, adding an MBA to this mix can further add revenue generation skills to recruits expertise. “Whatever you are doing you have to be contributing to the financial goals of the business. Whether a student is studying finance, marketing, and so on, they have to focus on the company’s top line. They have to have engineering understanding, financial understanding, and so on.  It all links together to enable the employee to achieve their KPIs, which will be aligned to the financial objectives of the business,” he said.