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Recent studies have proven that employees can be a major source of competitive advantage, but they must be managed effectively and considerately to reap those benefits. The industry presents unique challenges for employees and managers, such as long working hours, stressful customer interactions, seasonal rushes, and working on weekends. On top of these challenges, the industry is currently facing a talent shortage, making talent management even more critical.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of a skill-based talent management approach and provide suggestions for how to implement it in your organization. First, we’ll begin with a key question for this challenging industry:

How can hospitality organizations put their employees at the center?

The first step requires a shift of mindset, getting rid of the notions that put jobs first and treat employees like pegs that fit into a hole. This traditional way of employment is strongly anchored in the hospitality industry, and it looks like this: business advertises a job, hires the individual who best suits that job based on their education, experience, and resume, and then keeps them limited to their department or area of expertise. There’s no personalization or consideration of the individual’s strengths and needs. While it seems logical and simple to manage talent this way, it’s not the best approach for making employees productive and fulfilled.

Putting employees at the center of talent management in hospitality organizations is an essential component of any successful business strategy. It can help improve employee satisfaction, retention rates, and productivity. One way to achieve this is by creating a culture that values and supports employees. Skills-based employment can contribute to this culture by recognizing transversal skills and providing opportunities for growth and development.

Another way to put employees at the center is by providing the necessary resources and tools to perform their job effectively. Again, skills-based methods can do this by identifying areas for training and offering support to grow transversal skills, thereby diversifying career opportunities. When employees feel empowered and equipped to do their job well, and they see themselves on the road to a successful career, they are more likely to feel valued and engaged in their work.

Finally, offering competitive compensation and benefits, along with promoting work-life balance, and fostering a positive and inclusive work environment are all key components of putting employees at the center. Now, let’s look at some skills-based talent management methods.

The Job deconstruction approach

Recently, the idea of job deconstruction has been presented as the future of work, with studies and specialists discussing the benefits for employees and organizations alike. In layman’s terms, job deconstruction is a skills-based approach that requires breaking down jobs into tasks and projects and pairing those with the skills, knowledge, and strengths of employees.

This skills-based method gained traction during the COVID pandemic with the rise of the gig economy and companies such as Google have applied it to create an internal marketplace where people can pick up extra projects and tasks to expand their knowledge and roles.

While this approach may sound appealing, it can have the opposite effect. A recent review by academic scholars shows that it can also have negative impacts when workers feel like they are reduced to the sum of their parts, and not valued for their whole self and unique qualities. Furthermore, in hospitality, the idea of deconstructing jobs is hard to fathom because of the specialized knowledge and skills that are required to perform certain roles.

Let’s take a closer look at how this method may be applied in hospitality organizations.

Structuring hospitality jobs with a skills-based approach

Work in hospitality is traditionally designed around jobs: a position is defined by a title, where it stands in the organizational chart, who it reports to, the responsibilities and tasks, the qualifications that are required to be in that position, and so on.

This approach works well in situations where work is clearly defined, and the profiles of employees are quite standardized. While this rigor is required to ensure service quality, it can create environments marked by routine, lack of flexibility, and lack of mobility, which are unattractive job qualities for most of today’s job seekers and workers.

A skills-based approach to deconstructing hospitality jobs would mean focusing on the fit between individuals’ skills and more specific elements such as tasks or projects, and according to scholars, it starts with these questions:

  • What are the tasks and projects that need to be carried out?
  • What knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes are required to do them?

This deconstruction serves organizational agility, but it can also be very helpful when it comes to employer branding and employee experience. Another aspect of this approach is skills-based hiring, which means hiring talent based on a candidate’s skills and expertise over their degree, resume, or connections.

How can a skills-based approach improve employee experience?

The skills-based approach is based on the principle of capitalizing on people’s skills and their contribution to the organization. By definition, this gives employees:

  • A deeper sense of ownership of their work as their unique skill sets are appreciated and valued by the organization
  • The promise of work that is more catered to the skills that they actually possess and can thus lead to higher engagement and commitment.
  • A chance to craft one’s career by developing specific skills to advance through internal upward mobility
  • Empowerment when it comes to developing a career path beyond the traditional corporate ladder.

What are the key steps to adopting a skills-based approach to talent management?

Shifting to a skills-based approach to talent management is not an easy task as it requires going outside of the traditional frameworks for hiring, managing, and promoting people within an organization. Here are the steps that make the process clearer:

Do a skills inventory and mapping exercise

First, it’s important to conduct a thorough analysis of the current skills in the organization based on these questions:

  • What are the key tasks in the organization?
  • What are the skills required to carry those tasks out?
  • What are the skills that our workforce possesses?

To create such an inventory, it is important to rely on a consistent taxonomy of skills that encompasses the reality of all the skills that the organization requires. The taxonomy needs to be precise enough to account for all the specific skills of the organization, but also flexible enough to allow for the identification of transversal skills, and to consider the evolution of skills over time.

Start using skill assessments

In their 2023 State of Skills-Based Hiring report, Test Gorilla found that skills-based hiring is particularly popular in remote and hybrid working environments. But skills-based hiring is quickly gaining ground in other areas. 79% of HR professionals claim that candidate scores on skills assessments are equally as or more important than traditional criteria in hiring decisions. They also offer insight into nine types of jobs that work well for skills-based hiring.

9. Types of jobs suitable for skills-based hiring

  1. High-volume (high turnover) hiring roles
  2. Technical Roles
  3. Sales & Marketing
  4. Entry-level hires
  5. Senior appointments
  6. Retail roles
  7. Service roles
  8. Administrative roles
  9. Manufacturing roles

Test Gorilla, 2024

3. Work with subject experts & existing frameworks

Building a skills-based talent management program isn’t easy. For example, creating a taxonomy of skills from scratch represents a colossal work, which is why it might be more cost-effective for organizations to rely on existing and dedicated taxonomies of skills, such as this example from ESCO. Such an approach can help map out existing skills, while the level of detail of global taxonomies might make skill identification more complex.

Additionally, since there is (to our knowledge) no hospitality-specific skills taxonomy, an industry-specific approach to skills might help organizations map out their transversal skills and core skills. Identifying these transversal skills and the employees who possess them can be a source of competitive advantage, be it in terms of service consistency and flexibility.

Talent Management Strategy: Are “People” Your Most Important Asset?

The bottom line: Skills-based talent management works

Embracing a skills-based approach to talent management based on identifying and developing transversal skills allows for more flexibility in terms of staffing. With this approach, more people are available to carry out tasks, and more people can benefit from opportunities to try out new things and to further develop themselves and their contribution to the organization.

Research shows that this approach helps organizations gain flexibility and deal with the talent shortage faced by the hospitality sector. First, it can help develop a workforce that possesses strong transversal skills, helping with staffing and workforce planning. Second, it can help attract and retain talent by offering more work variety and new opportunities. Finally, adopting a skills-based approach is a great opportunity for organizations to enhance their core hospitality skills.

EHL Hospitality Business School
Communications Department
+41 21 785 1354

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