By Katie Davin, CHSE, Associate Professor, College of Hospitality Management, Johnson & Wales University, and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board
In order for our industry to continue to grow and thrive, we’ve got to continue to attract high-quality talent to the field. The pandemic has made this even harder than it already was, as many students and recent graduates may be rethinking their career plans as they have watched the hospitality industry struggle throughout the pandemic. So, how do we bring in new talent? Members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) discussed their thoughts on a recent call.
First, as salespeople, we need to be able to sell the hospitality industry as a great career opportunity for young people. To do this well, we need to figure out what they are looking for, showcasing all of the opportunities they have, and reaching out to them as early as high school. “Our industry has so much more to offer than just working on property,” one SAB member said. “We don’t do enough selling of that. We have to change that perception.”
WHAT ARE YOUNG PEOPLE LOOKING FOR?
If you’re actively working on recruiting new talent, you need to understand that up-and-comers in the field are a different generation with different needs and priorities than what you may have had at that age. “As an industry, if we don’t evolve, we’re going to have a really hard time recruiting the best people,” one SAB member said. “They’ve had different experiences than us, and the focus on living life and not just working is really important to them.”
Another SAB member added that he thinks that the industry is doing a good job at finding out what students are looking for. “Everybody has their reasons for getting into this industry,” the member said. “We want to find out what the youth is looking for today and what we can use to hook them. We have to find the need and then adapt to those points.”
One of the biggest things that younger people are looking for is a decent work-life balance, something that can be difficult in hospitality but is absolutely possible. “People think that they’re not going to have a life if they get into hospitality, that all we do is work and their personal life gets put to the side,” a member said. “And I think the one thing that we’ve really learned through the pandemic is the importance of having a sense of balance and not just saying it, but actually demonstrating it. It helps to show that there are people like us who had to work really hard to get here but still have time to do the things that are important to us in our personal time.”
When it comes down to it, what every young professional is looking for is a good opportunity. They may have different individual priorities, but they want to grow and share their perspectivesThe opportunities to grow in the hospitality industry are limitless, especially as many companies are trying to do things differently post-pandemic.
“We have to really sell the fact that there’s a lot of opportunity to start from scratch and to build something even better than it was,” one SAB member said. “And then also, that we need their help to do that. We need their minds and their new ideas.” Another member added: “We want to pepper in that young, fresh, new perspective, because that’s actually what helps us accelerate new ideas and innovation.”
Even if the industry is slow right now, SAB members agreed that all signs point to a better future. “You don’t need to believe a lot to believe that the long-term future is very bright for hospitality,” one SAB member said. “All the other companies are trying their hardest to create experiences, and that is literally what we do every day. You don’t need to take a big leap to say that people are going to get back to that as soon as possible.”
Several SAB members pointed out that many new hospitality employees today got there because they either grew up around the industry or attended a college with a hospitality school, so they were able to learn about the industry and what it can offer. What we need to do is make sure that more students realize this — starting with high school students.
“Even for people who don’t go to college, there’s a career path for you,” one SAB member said. “There are so many entry-level positions in hospitality, even if you’re undecided you can come in and work in a variety of departments and learn and grow so much.”
One SAB member said that because there wasn’t a lot of education around the industry where she grew up, she didn’t learn about hospitality as a career until she moved to a touristy town and fell into it, which is why she thinks it’s critical to hook high school students. Another SAB member added: “We do a robust outreach with high school and college programs, and we just need to continue to be diligent about getting the word out. We have to tell our own stories of how we started and get people excited about it. It’s grassroots, getting out and talking to people as much as possible.”