Attracting, training, and retaining talent to work in the hospitality industry has its challenges. This is including challenges in industry perceptions, education and future career growth. Understanding how to make employment in hospitality attractive to youths will be important for the maintenance and growth of the industry. In some regions this is even more challenging due to both social and societal constructs. A major challenge facing the Asian hospitality market is attracting talent to employ in the industry, as it is seen that young people in these countries are not enthusiastic about joining the hospitality workforce.  During “Window to the Future 2016”, hosted by Lausanne Hospitality Consulting at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, a panel discussion entitled “Hospitality Soft-Skills: The People & Knowledge Challenge in Asia” addressed these impediments. Mr. Marcel van Aelst, President of Okura-Nikko Hotel Management, addressed the challenges of hotel employment in Japan, referring to the lack of hotel schools in the country and the hiring norms for hotels : “Traditional hotels do not hire based on education; employees start from the bottom up. Those with formal education do not work in hotels in Japan because they do not want to work from the bottom.”

Convincing young graduates to join the industry is additionally difficult because the industry itself is relatively unattractive, offering low wages, long hours, little prestige, and apparent weak opportunities for advancement. With a heavy emphasis on training and little on formal education, those with degrees shy away in favor of positions that will pay more and offer a sense of pride for both the employee and his or her family.

However, hospitality jobs today can offer prestige and do require education beyond on-the-job training, as demonstrated by the reputations of many hospitality universities in the West. Ms. Suphajee Suthumpun, Group CEO of Dusit International, acknowledged this misalignment, stating, “Universities must up standards to be desirable and acceptable for students- and parents – to raise and improve perceptions.”

It is important to acknowledge that hospitality education can prepare students for jobs beyond hospitality. Raising the standards for education in the sector by demonstrating that hospitality schools can prepare students for life beyond hotels can also contribute to change perceptions and give a touch of prestige to a career in the sector.

Mr. Raymond Bickson, Principal & CEO of Bickson Hospitality Group, acknowledged the inefficiencies of the educational system in India, but said there is great potential for Eastern cultures to excel in hospitality. He used the example of India, which he said embodies the spirit of hospitality, referring to the Sanskrit phrase “Atithi Devo Bhava”, meaning “The guest is God”, and reinforcing, “You can teach someone a set of skills, but you cannot teach someone to be nice.” Understanding the push and pull of service, as well as adjusting habits to tend to how the guest wants to be treated, can present difficulties in any cross-cultural experience. These are the types of soft-skills that are beneficial in all international business sectors, but ones that hospitality schools are especially adept at teaching.

Overcoming the challenges of attracting, training and retaining talent to work in the hospitality industry requires advances in education, but also changes in mindset, which are much harder to overcome. “We all have the ability to change our mind-set – to change our core inner beliefs upon which we base our view of ourselves and of the world. But changing our beliefs is not an easy thing to do”.

Module leader

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Catherine Rey Sales & Marketing Manager at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting

Catherine joined LHC as Sales & Marketing Manager in December 2015. Her role involves developing and implementing the LHC’s Sales & Marketing plan and promote the Executive Education career development programmes around the globe.

Prior to LHC, she worked in the International Education industry for over 5 years both in Mexico and Switzerland, where she moved with her family in 2013. She represented in Latin America prestigious wine and spirit brands within the Hospitality industry for over 10 years. She worked closely with International Hotels, government institutions and corporate executives and multinationals and had to support them in the international implementation of their educational projects.

She is a graduate in International Business from the University of Blaise-Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand France and spent her last year of study in the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business USA. She followed several wine and spirit training both in France and Mexico. She lived in 5 different countries and enjoy multicultural environments where relationships, new ideas, innovation and original concepts are valued. She appreciates being challenged and strongly believe in enhancing the customer experience to growing the business.

While not at work, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband and go for long walks by the lake. She is passionate about wine and like to organize tastings of wines from different regions and countries for her family and friends.