The talent challenge

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association, explores the notion of instilling a caring culture within your hotel business to aid staff retention.

In hotels it is the people – your employees – who are the lifeblood of the business. They are the ones on the front line, taking care of guests and ensuring all their needs are met – whether it’s checking them in, serving them breakfast, or setting up a meeting room to their specific requirements. Those employees understand that providing ‘hospitality’ is essential to their role and relish the chance to make guests happy. Yet, while they are busy looking after your customers, who is looking after them?

It may seem like a strange question to ask but is one we at the Meetings Industry Association feel is important, after the results of a study into mental health and compassion in the workplace revealed that often compassion, understanding and empathy were not being offered to employees of meetings and events business. Respondents claimed that demonstrating those emotions was regarded unprofessional, or colleagues were simply too busy and over-burdened to care.

The survey, carried out with internationally-renowned leadership and organisational development expert Roffey Park Institute, revealed that 75 per cent of people working in the industry had been managed in the past by someone who, in their view, lacked compassion, while a similar number – 78 per cent – said they had seen others miss opportunities for empathy because it wasn’t seen as part of their job.

They were concerning statistics and ones we investigated further, finding out that the lack of compassion in the workforce is due to many things – people feeling it is not professional to express emotion in the workplace and an increasing reliance on technology among them – but overwhelmingly it was simply because colleagues and managers were too busy and over-burdened to care.

While it is understandable that staff are busy looking after guests and doing their jobs, they should never be too over-burdened to overlook a colleague’s wellbeing and it is up to the hotel’s management team to ensure they do by instilling a caring culture within the organisation.

Building a compassionate culture within your business should be as important to a hotel manager as acting on guest feedback, to not only ensure employees are happy and healthy as they go about their jobs, but also to ensure they don’t become disillusioned with an uncaring industry and leave it.

As anyone running a hospitality, meetings or events business knows, the industry is currently facing a staffing crisis, caused by a number of factors and worsened by Brexit, so we need to do all we can to retain those who’ve chosen to build a career within the industry.

These talent challenges mean it is essential that a hotel can not only attract staff but can also retain them. As previously noted, this industry is nothing without its people, so it is essential you do everything you can to make your business attractive to both existing and future employees.

If you are a small independent hotel we understand that you may not have a dedicated talent management team to build a framework for staff, which is why the mia has arranged a series of workshops to help organisations prosper in this area.

The next workshop Meeting the Talent Challenge: Retaining talent through a Compassionate Culture at the QEII Centre in London on 18 September, will be led by Roffey Park and will explore the area of talent management through discussion, small group exercises and practical insights on what leading organisations are doing to attract, recruit, retain and develop their talent.

We hope to demystify this area and provide attendees with valuable information on how they can make their businesses more appealing and compassionate.
Thankfully, the tide is changing and many organisations are becoming more empathetic and compassionate towards their staff, who after all, should feel cared for when caring for their customers.

While respondents said they’d noticed a lack of compassion in the past, the majority of those surveyed said they were now working in a business where they felt it would be acceptable to talk about their problems and would be listened to and helped by colleagues.

And when asked if their current organisation has a compassionate culture, an overwhelming majority of 71 per cent agreed they could discuss problems with their colleagues while just 10 per cent disagreed, demonstrating that the industry is heading in the right direction.

As we move forward to the end of the year we will be helping businesses to focus more energy on creating desirable and rewarding places to work and enabling them to understand the impact that mental health and compassion in the workplace, has not only on recruitment, staff retention and engagement, but ultimately on the bottom line.

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