Big issues in hospitality: leadership, culture and recruitment

 width=eHotelier along with the UK’s EP Magazine was was delighted to co-host a special Think Tank session at Hotelympia last week. The focus of the session was on the need to improve productivity, trust within business and the development of talent. The argument was presented that there is a genuine opportunity for change if companies understand the need for change and also start to think differently about both their customers and their own teams/cultures.

Those present included seven CEOs/MDs, three leading entrepreneurs, key influencers and two former sporting figures.

Key results

The discussion was broad and wide reaching but overall there was a consensus on several key factors:

  • To focus on raising the bar on quality and product so that the hospitality industry does stand apart. There is an understanding that business models in all markets have been pushed and this has caused strain on both leaders and teams. One of the key thoughts is that there needs to be more focus on service levels and the quality of product as this will deliver enhanced experiences and better profits. Hoteliers must move away from a cost mentality towards a greater focus on quality, service and engagement of the customer through great people.
  • To look at how sport and the industry can learn from each other and there is a need to learn new ideas in Leadership & Development (L&D). We need to be broader minded. The example was cited of how a leading hospital and a F1 team worked together on processes and successfully reduced mortalities.
  • To focus more on culture and engagement. There is an understanding that the gap between leadership and teams has grown for a whole range of reasons and this needs to be bridged.
  • To look at recruitment differently and to look at talent rather than CVs. There was a general dissatisfaction with recruitment process and models and there was an understanding that there is a need for increased focus on finding great talent rather than the CV process acting as a barrier. Is there an opportunity to almost create industry talent centres that focus on people and talent first?

The session

The session was opened with a presentation from Chris Sheppardson, EP who made the argument that business environments were not in the best of health and that both social media and the educational system has changed the psychology of many of the young. Therefore there is a need for business not simply to accept these changes but to create strategies that ensure that culture, engagement and talent development are strong pillars within the business.

Professor Peter Jones, Dean of the eHotelier Academy, presented on the importance of leadership and trust and what factors were of primary importance within organisations for both strong cultures and trust between leaders and teams.

Both speakers talked at length on the issue of trust and how it has broken down Ð but from differing angles. Chris challenged whether the trust had broken down through a mix of increased pressures on the young and with the rise of social media which had created a more guarded psychology and enhanced fear of failure. Peter focused on the importance of behavioural traits of leaders and organisations which arguably were increasing pressure within difficult markets.

Both though agreed there was a need for change and learnings as the situation was very concerning.

The L&D of alternative leaders

During the wide-ranging discussion, a core part focused on the lack of trust in leaders that is having the biggest impact on performance. It was argued that once this is broken it is very hard to repair. Peter argued that there are some leaders who are not really leaders because either they have no real ‘followers’, or they are pretend leaders who have been selected to manage. Are leaders being forced to respond to KPI’s and external pressures rather than focus on their customer and play an influential role in the business?

Many agreed that teams used to have more fun or indeed had more interaction in comparison to today with the growth of digital communication channels. Has social media become a barrier that makes people more guarded because the world is more transparent?

A point made in the room was that their influencing leaders were “old school” whose behaviour is what is now considered ‘tough love’. An argument put forward was this was because they only had passion for the customer and the customer’s experience. Another point was that because society has changed, this is now deemed a dangerous leadership approach.

The argument was made that social structure was stopping the development of the young because school systems put too much pressure on students to achieve grades rather than become well-rounded people.

Sporting world support

An interesting point from a former top-level sports player was some of their best team talks were from the other leaders within a club. It was not always the leader ‘of’ but the leaders ‘within’ who were empowered by the opportunity to lead.

Many sacrificed their academic studies to focus fully on their sport. These individuals retire with high quality soft skills, resilience and other effective abilities, but struggle to find work. They should be made aware that these talents are special abilities that can be utilised in the hospitality industry.

Looking at recruitment differently

Has the process and set-up become too restricted and no longer allows creative emerging leaders into the business because their CV doesn’t get through?

There is dissatisfaction with recruitment process because potential talent isn’t getting through. It is time to focus more on the culture of a business and what individuals will suit and work effectively in that team.

About Think Tank events

There is a very strong need to discuss the hard issues in hospitality. EP created the Think Tank events to focus on different sectors within the hospitality industry. The intention is to raise the bar and improve the industry by debating the important issues openly and sharing knowledge with the intention of creating possible solutions. This unique session at Hotelympia covered all aspects of the industry.

For more information or to participate, contact Ben Butler.

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