Are the long hours hoteliers work really necessary?

Business worker with ball and chain attached to foot“Please Sir, I’d like to be a hotel manager” I sheepishly told the careers master. “Good choice, young man, you’ll work long hours, but people will always want to eat” he replied, eyes focused on the next person in the queue awaiting his sage advice.

Good enough reason to join the hotel industry, I thought. Taking advantage of man’s most basic needs should give me a career for life.

But, as hospitality professionals, what do we tell the youngsters keen on developing a career in hotels or catering?

Within the first sentence we mention poor pay and hard work. Then drone on relentlessly about sacrificing their social life and, “Oh yes, the long hours!”.

With these words of encouragement ringing in their ears our potential hoteliers move on to investigate the exciting world of banking, accountancy or information technology. Can you honestly blame them? Even the armed forces sounds more appealing that hotel keeping. You work outdoors, wear a sexy uniform and get to shoot your customers.

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Those of us who have worked in the industry know what a rewarding career it is. We tell others, but we always boast about the long hours. Two hoteliers having a conversation about work is a little like that famous Monty Python sketch about the Yorkshiremen remembering the good old days when they were “lucky” and happy even though they lived in paper bags in septic tanks in holes in the ground.

Try leaving work at 5pm and you are bound to come across some bright spark who will look you up and down and say “enjoy your half day” This is normally after you have put in eight days of double shifts on the trot. If this happens, don’t try to justify yourself, get your own back by putting them on 6am to close on Saturday and a 6am to 5pm on Sunday. Just be sure to wait for them at the staff entrance as they finish their weekend shift.

We promote a traditional culture in hotels. Our culture tells us we have to work long hours and have no time for a social life, sport or family. The hotel comes first. This has been perpetuated by many generations of hoteliers and is now written into the unofficial lore of hotel keeping.

I hate to quote the old phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” but it also makes him an ineffective manager or employee.

The question General Managers should be asking themselves is how effective are my managers during their working day?

I would wager that if a duty manager was working a standard 12- hour shift, perhaps 6 hours are helping to achieve the aims of the business. The remaining 6 hours is made up of “busy work”. Yes, they look busy in the eyes of the GM but they are achieving precisely nothing.

Wouldn’t it be better for the manager to work a guilt free and effective nine hour day? Shouldn’t managers be concentrating on issues that are more important to the success of the business? Or are we happy for them to “carry the keys”?

Well, it’s time we made some changes. Are the long hours really necessary? Are our managers and other professionals being given a life sentence or a rewarding career?

Shouldn’t we be training competent heads of department and supervisors so managers don’t need to be there “Just in case”? Then Jack the duty manager might get a chance to spend time with his neglected family. Or at least get an opportunity to create one.

Thoughts about the lifestyle that comes with being a hotelier? Can those in the hospitality industry achieve a good work/life balance? Share your opinions in the Comments section below.

About the author 

Stephen HickmoreStephen Hickmore studied hotel management in the UK, graduating from Clarendon College in Nottingham with the National Diploma in Hospitality Management. Stephen was recruited as a graduate management trainee by Trust House Forte hotels and went on to complete a further years training in several of their three and four star full service hotels. Stephen obtained his first management position as Banqueting Manager at the Dukes in Kings Lynn at 20 years old. By a twist of fate, a year later, he was transferred to set up the personnel and training department at THF’s only hotel in South Africa, the Parkview in Durban. After three years Stephen returned to the UK with THF, but after a year returned to South Africa to join Southern Sun Hotels. Stephen held positions in Human Resources Management with the group until joining the world of Hospitality recruitment and HR consultancy 20 years ago.

During the past 17 years Stephen has established recruitment consultancy and search firm “Hickmore Recruitment”. Hickmore Recruitment works closely with key players in the industry to identify hospitality professionals. More information can be obtained at www.hospitality.co.za.

In the last ten years Stephen, with partners, branched out into another new venture “The Hospitality Solutions Company, H.S.C”. HSC specialises in outsourced staffing solutions for the hospitality industry, as well as a popular job board www.hospitalitymojo.com

Stephen can be contacted on [email protected]

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