The hospitality industry should be seen as a career, not just a job

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Hotel service providers need to improve their “employer brand” and rethink the way they present their industry to potential new employees, says an industry expert.

Dr Donagh Davern is a lecturer in the Tourism and Hospitality Department of MTU, Cork, former General Manager of the five star Killarney Park hotel and a qualified accountant. He is a member of the Irish Hospitality Institute and participates in hotel inspections for an annual national award.

“In recent years, with the exception of The Doyle Collection, The Marker and Guinness Storehouse, very few hospitality companies have made the annual list of best places to work – which is dominated by primarily financial, IT and service companies. professionals, ”said Dr. Davern.

“The honest truth is that the hospitality industry has a bad reputation when it comes to employment. He has a bad employer brand. We’ve all heard it – long hours, low wages, working when everyone is on leave or having fun; that’s what people say.

He said the slow return of workers before mid-August, while benefiting from the pandemic unemployment payment, indicates a systemic problem for Irish hospitality. Hotels and restaurants have also lost workers who have moved permanently.

The sector is recruiting, but it is struggling to find people to fill thousands of vacancies. Over 4,000 additional hotel rooms are expected to be added to Dublin’s only hotel market by 2023, while in Cork, the recent openings of The Dean on Horgan’s Quay and the REZz “micro-sleeper” hotel on MacCurtain Street represent 187 of the planned projects. Over 1,000 additional rooms planned for the city.

“The sector needs to sell better,” he said. “I heard a hotelier on RTÉ Radio One say that a big problem was the lack of training. No hospitality course that I know of has been filled to capacity this year. The government has given a lot of stimulus packages for these courses.

“This year we introduced a new home economics and business course, which we could have taken four times. On the other hand, we have struggled in the culinary arts and it is because of the reputation of the industry which is unfair because the sector pays well and it is nice to work.

“If you want to recruit and retain the best talent, you need to deliver the best benefits and ask yourself tough questions. What attracted you to your current employer? What are your training and development opportunities? How do you improve the work-life balance of your employees? ”

Dr Donagh Davern, lecturer in the Tourism and Hospitality Department of MTU.

Dr Davern urges the hospitality industry to assess its employer brand and take action to be more strategic in managing talent – both potential and current employees.

“Put in place strategies to offer greater flexibility to your employees, a better work-life balance, a real commitment to their training and development, subsidized health assessments, gym membership, health support mental and financial counseling.

“Are there possibilities to offer or subsidize childcare services? Empower employees to grow in your business by providing tailored training opportunities, a culture of coaching and mentoring. These are some of the benefits that potential employees really want. Take a survey and learn from current employees.

Hotels also face competition from call centers and retail. Meanwhile, several baristas and chefs have taken advantage of the lockdown to open their own mobile coffee or food units, Dr Davern said.

“Hotels are cutting capacity midweek, canceling lunch service, and even shutting down completely for two nights midweek simply because they don’t have the staff to keep up with demand and have to give work. time off to their current dedicated employees, ”he added.

“There are a lot of training places available which remain vacant. The solution now is to assess the employer brand and act to enhance it.

Dr Davern said hospitality employers offer good payment terms, well above minimum wage – otherwise, they know they won’t attract staff. He urges the industry to examine how companies like Google, Facebook and the Big 4 accounting firms present themselves to job seekers.

He also cites restaurant owner Conrad Howard, whose Market Lane group offers his staff in Cork the opportunity to work four long shifts so they can spend three days a week with their families. Market Lane also supports scholarship up to level 7 or 8 in Culinary Arts.

“They see the value of education,” said Dr. Davern. “When I was doing research for my doctorate, I found a hotelier in Cork who was paying the tuition fees of a staff member whose education had nothing to do with the hotel business.

“This staff member was always going to move on, but the hotelier decided that paying his honoraria would at least ensure that he got a good four years of work from this person. Attracting and retaining employees is about being a great employer; these are not statutory things.

Dr Davern quotes a blog he read recently, written by someone looking for a job in the hospitality industry. The blogger spent a lot of time reading the copy of the job postings, in which he found many of the claimed perks more off-putting than appealing.

Dr Davern summarized the key points as follows:

  • Four weeks’ annual leave is not an advantage – it is covered by the 1997 Law on the Organization of Working Time.
  • No one has ever chosen to apply for a job for access to an annual Christmas party!
  • Free parking is not a perk at a hotel in a small town in rural Ireland.
  • Is a laptop really an advantage for someone who needs it to do their job?
  • You don’t have to make much of your “training and development culture” when you only offer the training required by law, ie manual handling and HACCP training.


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