From education to employment

Why new skills strategies are a top priority for a sustainable workforce

Sandra Kelly

New technologies, socio-economic developments and critical events like Covid-19 are mixing together to create an unprecedented state of flux across many industries and hospitality has been significantly impacted.

This state of constant flux is creating opportunities. And with the Covid-19 recovery revealing a lack of relevant skills in an environment of even more complex business needs and emerging challenges, there is a need to prioritise skills for the future.

Business leaders have to play a new strategic role which combines ensuing business continuity, resilience and growth whilst developing a future workforce that addresses skills shortages now and over the next five years. This workforce has to be inclusive, secure, motivated, skilled and prepared for challenge and change and be empowered. Employees want flexibility, opportunity, secure income, equity, inclusion and transparency. There is a growing focus on social equality, access to opportunity and progression for all.

Business leaders have three options. They can buy, borrow or build the skills they need. Each option brings challenges and considerations.

  • Buying in the skills is expensive and it doesn’t address the growing skills deficit
  • Borrowing the skills through part time, freelance or contractors means ensuring the balance between employees and contractors doesn’t disrupt culture, and again the skills deficit isn’t being addressed
  • Building the skills through internal investment takes time, resource and financial backing but it rewards with talent retention, it boosts morale and generates loyalty and productivity

There are clear societal benefits to building skills internally. Shareholders expect this option and evidence shows the return on investment from increased productivity, retained talent and a more resilient sustainable workforce with high levels of internal progression.

With the industry facing a significant shortage of chefs, front of house staff and housekeepers, a step change is required to develop more responsible managers and leaders who have a social conscience and look after their workforce, where reality dispels perceptions and opportunities are diverse and accessible.

Managers with high emotional intelligence who have remained in contact with their furloughed staff and who have been considerate of their well-being are now being rewarded with loyalty, productivity and an elevated level of customer experience. Driven by a genuine people culture within the organisation, this emulates the people-profit chain. Look after your people, who look after the customer, who will look after your shareholder.

Now is the time to professionalise the industry. With agreement from trade associations and leading employers, it’s essential that professional standards are introduced to validate the competencies and strengthen attraction into the industry and drive retention of talent at every level.

Future skills strategies should be grounded in occupational standards for both apprentices and the professionals who work alongside each other.

Building on the work of the Hospitality Skills and Quality Board to provide recognised, transportable and valued apprenticeship standards for the industry we need recognised, transportable and valued professional standards to drive a diverse, inclusive, progressive and engaged workforce.

This workforce will themselves drive the right conditions for people to flourish because only the best organisations will be able to keep their people from finding a better place to work.

Sandra Kelly, UK Director, People 1st International

Related Articles