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Are we gearing ourselves to prepare the hospitality employee of the future?

The biggest challenges in 2024 are economic uncertainty, supply chain issues, cyber-security, digital transformation, the war for talent, and increasing customer expectations. Lets delve into the last two mentioned, namely, the war for talent, and customer expectations.


Hospitality is a world in constant evolution and, compared to the past, hotels have to be continually renewing adapting to the changes taking place. Shifting guest expectations in tandem with emerging technological developments has compelled the hospitality industry to evolve at a hitherto unseen fast pace.


Today’s guests seek authentic, meaningful, and sustainable experiences especially in an increasingly connected and digital world which traditional service roles find hard to cope with - despite the personal nature of what hotels must deliver remaining relatively unchanged.


Many believe that not only will AI help the hospitality industry deal with the challenges of labour shortages and costs, but that the most positive outcome of AI will be its ability to reduce the routine tasks currently being handled by employees and thereby allowing staff to have more time to focus and excel at delivering great customer service. We’re talking  here about upselling to cross selling, maximizing the revenue generated by all spaces, loyalty and customer engagement, implementing different departmental metrics and KPIs – where every frontline guest or customer facing employee is a potential point-of-sale.


For all that to occur, hotels need to recognise that employee and customer engagement must have the same importance as sales, marketing, and financial goals and it has to be included in the senior management agenda. Only then will employee and customer engagement get real traction.


Then there is the urgent requirement to train existing frontline staff to gain the necessary skills to work with AI technologies and for them to come to grips with addressing the ways AI might change their jobs. Generative AI burst on the scene so abruptly in 2022 that many companies are still playing catch up.


Hiring new staff for front-line positions will need to be similar, (if not to some extent), to that of making C-level hiring decisions. Start by selecting candidates based on intrinsic personality traits rather than specific skills, as skills can be developed over time. The search must focus on attracting people who possess finely tuned emotional intelligence, can be both genuinely empathetic and assertive as the situation calls for. They now act as mentors and guides - no longer confined to mundane service roles.


Evaluate each candidate’s socio-cultural awareness. Are they able or do they have it in them, to be able to engage in meaningful conversations, serving as cultural interpreters, where  they share insights into the local culture, nature, history, and more. Only then can they forge meaningful long-term guest connections.


Nurturing these competencies, will unlock the potential for unparalleled guest experiences, strengthen brand value, and contribute towards shaping the future of the hospitality industry.


Shafeek Wahab – Editor, Hospitality Sri Lanka, Consultant, Trainer, Ex-Hotelier



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