Industry Update
Opinion Article12 March 2014

Boat Holes

By Ignacio del Riego Cuesta, Director of Learning & Development at Oryx Rotana Doha

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del Riego Cuesta

One day, sharing some ideas with a General Manager he told me that a hotel is like a boat. A boat that has many holes on it… and is always going to have. The point, he said, is to know which holes you want to fix at any given time, accepting that there are still other holes affecting the performance of the boat. GMs have a big picture perspective in order to get the boat to its final destination. Prioritizing and allocating resources is one of the keys for business performance. But, what if instead of fixing the holes we are just stepping on them to stop the water from coming in?

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Recently I launched a survey to ask seniors from hospitality industry like GMs, CVPs, Directors, HODs,

Lecturers… what they would be looking at if they were seeking for Talent in an hotelier. The four factors most chosen were Commitment to the Brand, Attitude, Passion and Technical Skills.

Our captains (GMs) have a problem when it comes to the performance of their boats. The aim is not

being negative but to bring to the table some top priority issues for the person in charge. The hotel industry professionals are not like before any more. These days Talent is getting weak in our business.

Everything is happening very fast. While old markets are still struggling with the crisis, new merging

ones get the attention of International Chains. Many openings are scheduled within a very short period of time. The world is focused in Middle East and Asia while hospitality visionaries have already looked into other markets such as India or North of Africa… and all these new boats in the oceans don´t have the qualification and talent they use to have. Yet more, to reach half of what they wish is already an extremely difficult target.

Location along with "supply and demand law", are the key drivers of recruitment. This has always been

like that, right? Entry level positions are filled with low income expectations´ employees from Africa and Asia. Low salaries but also lack of education and qualification come "in the package". But this was also like that before. Then, what is new?

Hospitality use to get people and manufacture professionals. It was possible to do so because

supervisors and managers had expended also some years to become professionals. A General Manager had before worked as a waiter, steward, doorman… and then captain, headwaiter… An F&B Director had invested a lot of time in each position until mastered it, and get the chance to go for the next level.

These days things are different. The hotel industry is going into a chronic situation which result could

lead to an even less qualified team, lower standards, poor quality of service, lack of passion, short technical skills, demotivation, lack of confidence, bad management, loss of brand identity… lack of commitment and zero loyalty.

These days, employees join with the expectation of getting a promotion within maximum two years. If

they don´t get the promotion they will leave and join another company where they will get the position easily. Same "supply & demand law" applies here. Due to the poor level of preparation and experience available with "low income rate" profiles… we have no limits, steeling employees from each other. Since salaries are quite tight and adjusted (benchmarking), the best option is to offer them a higher position than their current one. This way, we get employees with some skills… and put those in a supervisory position for which, very likely, they are not qualified. The advantage is that they will accept the minimum salary in our salary scale for that position (savings). This will not only bring unqualified people to the team, but also accelerate their growth in position even spending less than one year in the previous one. We can see employees young, immature, unexperienced…definitely not qualified, who are managing teams and even worst… business with big budgets, revenue, manning…

Some still believe that we can find the answer in Hotel Schools. But although we can get highly skilled,

young, energetic, ambitious team members… even if we get the very few students who want to go into the operation and work long hours, get low salary, and accept hospitality conditions… this young great people will shine easily in our team and grow faster than anyone else… taking us to the same point but with well-prepared employees.

Today we have young Department Heads, less than 30 years old. They are missing a bit of

everything… skills, knowledge, experience… but the most important one when it comes to those senior positions… the maturity, necessary to develop others, to grow the industry, to generate value. And, since they moved from here to there without any loyalty, they are not the ones who will consolidate brands and organizational culture. Soon, if not already, a generation of "too early" General Managers will take over from those who are today our reference and role model.

I don´t want to share only bad news, thoughts or concerns. I believe that our General Managers, our

"captains" can restore the "vessel frames" and prevent from having some boat holes. Since supervisors and managers are too busy growing their own career as fast as possible, is the General Manager who needs to make sure this is done properly. Inside the team, in each department, each level, and each grade… there are excellent employees with all the potential to be a Talent. Identify them, create a career plan to grow within the property, mentor and coach them… and the factors will come up: loyalty, passion, attitude, commitment… those employees will get engaged and follow you, work with you and learn with and from you. They will not leave for little extra money or for a quick promotion because they have the belief that they are going to grow with you with safe steps towards a successful career.

Ignacio del Riego Qatar, February 2014

Ignacio del Riego Cuesta

Originally from Madrid, Spain (1972). Studied in École hôtelière de Lausanne(EHL) 2007-8. More than 15 years of Hospitality experience in Europe, America, Africa and Middle East. Currently working as Director of Learning & Development in Oryx Rotana Hotel, Doha, Qatar. Career interest in people related aspects for business development.

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