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GMs Conclave: Ironing out the industry’s manpower challenge

General managers of renowned international and national brands, in a roundtable discussion on ‘The Manpower Challenge’ voice the key solutions to plug the attrition rates faced by the industry
By EF&H Staff Hyderabad

On the second day of 38th edition of Express Food & Hospitality Expo concluded at Hitex Exhibition Centre, Hyderabad, general managers of leading hotels in the city touch-based with each other at the GM’s Conclave roundtable discussion on the rising concern of attrition in the hospitality industry and their dynamic approach to maximise employee retention.
The panel discussion was titled, ‘The Manpower Challenge’. The esteemed panelists were Soumitra Pahari, GM, Mercure Hyderabad KCP; Alok Kaul, GM, Radisson Hyderabad HITEC City; Akhilesh Kumar, GM, Royal Reve Hotel; Peter Pulliattu, GM, Fortune Park Vallabha; Rubin Cherian, GM, ibis Hyderabad Hitec City, and Imran Khan, zonal manager – Operations (South), IntelliStay Hotels.
Noting their views about the challenge that has been existent in the industry for long now, Pulliattu observed that the first challenge is getting quality manpower. “People have moved out to other industries although they pursued a hotel management course. We were in our comfort zones, but now we are moving,” he exclaimed.
Pahari opined that the manpower challenge has always been there in the hospitality industry. Reasoning the increase in attrition rates, he justified, “From 2000-2008, people were looking for a standard of living, now the scenario has changed, quality of living has changed. However, that of people in the hospitality industry has remained the same as in 2000 with intensive work hours, staying away from families, etc.”

Rubin Cherian

Cherian, from AccorHotels too, clarified that the millennials, seeking jobs in hospitality, want fast money. “They do not want long working hours and too much pressure. In Hyderabad which is also known as the start-up city, the millennials have many options here with better salaries, due to which the employee turnover rates have been on the rise in the city.”

Soumitra Pahari

Agreeing to Cherian, Khan said that IntelliStay being a young company, they are still hiring new people and they have seen it as a pattern that the employees do not want to stick to the same job role for more than six months. “They want to grow up fast and want to do quality work and discard monotony,” he added.
To resolve the increasing attrition, Kumar suggested that hospitality companies need to retain and hold on to the overperforming employees who envision the growth of the company year on year. “As the industry is 95 per cent human-driven, attrition will be a concern in the long run,” he echoed.

Peter Pulliattu

Joining the conversation, Kaul nodded, “Yes, change is happening faster than how we want it to happen. Brand loyalty is passe. Customers need fast change. Another challenge that has happened over the years is that a hiring basis isn’t provided. There will be a huge demarcation between luxury and midscale hotels. Regulations have to be put in associations for hiring practices.”

Akhilesh Kumar

Employee retention
The key to decrease the manpower challenge, the panelists recommended, is maximising employee retention by conducting various team-building and rewarding activities. Pulliattu clarified that it is all about the work culture. “It starts with the environment that we provide. We can make it engaging with rewards,” he informed.

Imran Khan

Pahari agreed, “Taking care of the people is needed. They are coming for the first time and they need to have a buddy to share everything with. People are thinking everything about an instance. At Accor, we say to learn every day. Learn, and growth comes faster.”
Kumar reminisced that earlier pouring water in the glass at the restaurant was considered the best thing, but is considered as just another monotonous task by the employees these days. “Hence, for these changing sentiments, we need to train and share the culture with the employees about the importance of each task,” he added.

Alok Kaul

Cherian in this regard observed that for retention, attrition is both good and bad. He mentioned, “At Accor, we have certain development programmes which will check the attrition rates significantly.”
Kaul believes that every brand needs to have something and needs to go ahead and tie up with colleges and universities. “Radisson has started the Radisson academy online, but India is a different ballgame. We think competing domestically. Why do we still have Michelin Star rating for the chefs? The rating shall come from India,” he echoed.
At IntelliStay Hotels, Khan said, “We pride to take culture with the team. We are having training models for all the staff to give them basic training. To be honest we are also looking at setting up an institute, which shall roll out soon in some time now.”

Industry-curriculum mismatch
The panelists, unanimously called out to the private and government hotel management institutes to provide aspiring hospitality professionals with real-time requirements of the hospitality industry like – use of technology for various operations, time management, hand’s on skills, etc.
Pulliattu strongly put forward his point that there should be a strong connection between colleges and the industry. “There was a point of time where we used to hire people from Frankfinn and other private institutes and also people having short-term courses which get them ready for housekeeping, F&B operations, etc,” he stated.
According to Pahari, curriculum and industry mismatch is everywhere. “In the hotel industry, people are still trained in Fidelio while the industry today uses Opera. They are not taught about digitalisation, but instead how they should serve a guest from the left or the right side. The quality of the faculty is also not at par with the market standards. We recruit candidates for their attitude. Their mental stability has to be there for which the Psychometric test is done,” he said.
Cherian too highlighted this point about looking for candidates with the attitude. On the flip side, he justified that the hotel industry is changing rapidly, saying, “Colleges have started sending the students for six months of hands-on training at the hotels. But, the hotels are still getting the meager tasks done by these aspiring students. Hence there is a big gap that still needs to be addressed.”
Kaul pointed out, “The industry’s demand for skilled manpower is huge, while the supply is less. The faculty in most institutes hardly has any exposure to international cuisines. Silver service was always there, but the customer today needs quick service. People still keep logbooks, while the world is operating on ipads and other tech.”

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