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HRM in the hospitality industry – are we on the right path?

By Jaideep Gupta, Hospitality Consultant

Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 15:07 Hrs  [IST]

Perhaps, one of the most challenging aspects of the hospitality industry is management of Human Capital. Although there is a Human Resources Manager who does specific tasks with his team; in retrospect, human resources is the responsibility of all functions in the hospitality industry. This is easily understood if one sees that essentially a manager or supervisor manages people.

It is people that drive the day-to-day work of a hotel, restaurant or any other hospitality enterprise. The word ‘hospitality’ itself suggests that it can be delivered by human beings. The smile, a polite greeting, good food, efficient service – from the moment a guest walks into the hotel to the time he or she leaves – are all delivered by people. Hence, everyone from the General Manager down to the Security Manager is effectively managing human resources.

In India, with the major workforce in the industry being unqualified and uneducated, this task becomes all the more daunting. Hotels and restaurants are mushrooming at a phenomenal rate and hence the attrition rates of lower grade staff has shot up in the past few years. It is not unusual to find that the human resources team is struggling with recruitment most of the time and therefore cannot concentrate on the other important aspects of HRM i.e. Training and Development, Welfare, Succession Planning, and structured Performance Appraisal. This is especially true of smaller hotels and restaurants where the human resources team is small or sometimes even non-existent.

Given the circumstances, what can we do to ensure that an adequate and trained workforce is always available to deliver the levels of service required to differentiate ourselves in the industry and deliver a ‘wow’ experience to our guests?

1.RECRUIT RIGHT – Under the pressure of filling up vacant positions, the HR department try to push through and recruit candidates that have questionable qualities and are unfit for the industry. Background checks are hardly done and even if they are, it is generally a phone call to his or her counterpart in the candidate’s previous organisation or the previous supervisor of the employee. Many times, the feedback is not entirely candid because no one wants to hurt a candidate’s career. However, the suppression of the negative aspects of a candidate’s work can have disastrous impact on the organisation’s impact on guests.

2.PAY THE RIGHT COMPENSATION – Having worked in the hospitality industry for over two and a half decades and in all formats, I have often been shocked at the callous nature of the owners/management towards employee compensation. This is especially true of stand-alone restaurants and smaller hotels which are owner driven. Many of these do not have a structured grade structure and do not maintain correct records of employee compensation. In a bid to avoid paying Provident Fund and ESIC contributions, they sometimes pay the employees in part or full cash and do not issue pay slips. This is a disease that is eating up the industry from within.

3.TRAINING – Training in smaller hotels and most restaurants are limited to showing the staff what to do in a couple of sessions and then throwing them into the job due to the pressure of work. The consequence of this is inevitable – there is no standardised delivery aspect on the job. Service standards go for a toss, employees are incapable of dealing with emergency or critical situations, and they do not have the ability to adapt to the needs of different guests and cannot deliver differentiating service. Unable to cope, they soon leave and the vicious circle of recruitment and attrition is strengthened.

4.SUCCESSION PLANNING – This important aspect of Human Resource Development is often ignored. Whereas, this is probably the most important aspect of maintaining and strengthening a loyal and efficient workforce in our industry. There is never a proper bench that can quickly kick into action when an employee is not available due to an emergency or because an employee has left without notice. If you ask a human resources manager why there is no second line waiting to take over, you would probably get a look which says, “Here I have trouble getting candidates for the job and this guy is talking about bench planning?” However, it is always better to have a slightly excess manpower to ease off the pressure of recruitment and to ensure that a trained back up is available.

5.FAIR PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT – Most organisations do not give due importance to this critical aspect of the human resource management. The annual or other assessment is left to the vagaries of the immediate supervisor and hence is often biased or flawed. The managers hardly have time or the inclination to do a proper and fair assessment of the employee from all aspects. A structured assessment system that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the employee and relates the same to the entire organisation’s needs is rarely in place. As a result of this, good employees are lost because they have not been adequately recognised and compensated during assessment.

These are just some of the issues plaguing the human resources function in the hospitality industry in India. We have a lot to do to ensure that we are able to reach the international standards of service delivery.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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