Upskilling is the key to success

As many struggle against the New Normal, the global health crisis of COVID-19 is proving to be an ideal opportunity for hotel staff to upgrade skills and stay relevant with the latest industry practices.

Sarbendra Sarkar Founder & Managing Director, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts

Up skilling: an endless process

Education and learning continue indefinitely throughout our lives. The business environment is such that it keeps evolving, so the learning aspect of hospitality has to be given the utmost importance to keep staff at the top of the management of hotel services. Therefore, training and development have become essential for a hotel to offer a supreme service standard to guests.

This aspect of upskilling staff is an ongoing process, keeping the momentum of unlearning and learning as per the current trends and customer demands. Given the fact that training is a process carried out over a period of time, it is a tedious task for hospitality companies. Attrition is the major challenge in upskilling the staff. Upskilling has long-term payoff for a hotel property.

That said, we try to make learning and development a continuous process. Cross training is also taken into consideration. These measures ensure that staff are constantly learning and improving their abilities, which eventually reflect on our service standards. It also helps us nurture future managers and expands the scope of promotions. As we open new properties, we are always in need of personnel who understand our service standards and brand ethos. Those who perform exceedingly well are given more responsibilities, offering them a rise on the career ladder.

Upskilling is not restricted to technical skills. Training and knowledge offered to our staff help them gain a sound understanding of discipline, know the culture of our work, improve performance, meet and interact with people/ guests, and, in general, learn about being hospitable in whatever they do. Understanding new technologies and smart understanding, all help them become complete hospitality professionals, and to achieve this, upskilling is a necessity.

The good thing is that, today, there are numerous opportunities to learn, be it online or offline. We encourage our staff to indulge into learning under the guidance of their reporting managers and also learn online through various soft skills tutorials available easily. Upskilling is critical for success, not only for an individual but also for an organisation. It becomes the barometer of success. Therefore, at any given point in time, upskilling is paramount to meet industry and customer demands who seek quality stay, which is dependent on quality service professionals.

Sethumadhavan R. Director-Talent and Culture, ibis New Delhi Aerocity

The key to revival and recovery

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” How relevant does it remain in today’s scenario? COVID-19 has impacted almost all industries adversely, with hospitality being the one that has suffered a massive setback in the short term as well as the long term. Having said that, what drives hoteliers is the positivity and the passion with which we work every day and the smile we carry when meeting our guests. Heading towards a recovery, the last quarter has been good for the industry as hotels are opening positions like never before and the teams have more options to choose from and make a career. But hold on, are we looking at the same skill set as pre- COVID-19 or have we changed our lenses?

This pandemic has played a role as a ‘catalyst’, necessitating the most rapid transformation of the workplace and businesses. The hospitality industry is no exception, and rather than constantly reinventing its wheel, thereby meeting the requirements of today while preparing for the future and ways of new age hospitality, we are building new knowledge and new ways of welcoming and serving our guests. The new age of hospitality emphasises constant skilling to remain relevant. If I may take ibis New Delhi Aerocity as an example, we set an example for many when our talent and culture head of this hotel started cross-exposure with operations, eventually heading operations for one of our units down south. So was our L&D director, who had left to take on a first-of-its-kind position as the guest services manager, overseeing both F&B and front-ofhouse operations. Upskilling, as everyone is aware, is not only to hone your skills for a better tomorrow but also to stay relevant today. Hotels are looking for such talents who can add value to their job description and also adapt themselves to the requirements of ‘today and tomorrow’.

Learning is a lifelong process, and we, as a brand, ibis, have swiftly adapted to the technological needs in demand in terms of contactless check-in processes and dine-in, understanding and adapting to one of the most stringent hygiene practices. We have always focussed on being innovative; multiskilling being our mantra, you could find a chef managing not just kitchen but also talk to the guest about their stay and comfort. Our F&B associates pitch in, in handling front desk wherever the operations gets busy; our technicians are always handy in being multi skilled. Our managers from back of house are always there in operational support-handling luggage, managing F&B operations becoming adept in guest interactions to ensure their comfort level. This systematic cross exposure came as a blessing in disguise where we had to run operations in most optimised manner. Critical thinking, flexibility and adaptability, creative problem solving were the soft skills, we made a mark.

While we focused on upskilling our employees, we also invested in enhancing their mental wellbeing. During these uncertain times, a spike in stress, anxiety, and burnout levels amongst employees is a very common challenge for most businesses. In view of this, we have been focussing on emotionally engaging with employees through various channels, such as regular communication with the team, checking on their and their family’s wellbeing, seeking the opportunity to provide any assistance they might need, and, above all, making them realise we are there for them and that together we will pass through this current phase of crisis. To better support our teams during this time, we rolled out several initiatives intended to keep them motivated. We launched a 24×7 Employee Wellness Assistance Plan (EWAP). Employees were and are still encouraged to reach out and ask for professional help if they need it through the Accor EWAP, which provides several services that are confidential and free for employees and their family members. We had a series of webinars and virtual sessions conducted and an anonymous counselling mechanism with therapists to ensure that our heartists (that is how we call our staff) were being taken care of.

With pride, I conclude that upskilling and reskilling are part of our brand DNA, and technological advancements are here to stay, allowing us to remain a relevant and preferred hospitality brand.

Sarbendra sarkar

“Training and development have become vital for hotels to offer supreme services”

Sethumadhavan R

“We, as a brand,have swiftlyadapted to thetechnologicalneeds in demand”