Agility is the key as we recover and rebuild: Vineet Verma

Agility is the key as we recover and rebuild: Vineet Verma

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for the industry to rethink its methodology for sourcing talent," says Vineet Verma, Executive Director & CEO, Brigade Hospitality. Take a look at this exclusive interview to know more about the future of work in the hospitality sector.


The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemic-triggered acceleration of digital transformation across organisations is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. How do you believe the hospitality sector will rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


There is no doubt that various hotel brands will start competing again for inducting the right talent in the industry once the business begins to recover. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for the industry to rethink its methodology for sourcing talent.


Employees are the lifeline of the hospitality industry, and a property, irrespective of its grandeur, is merely a building until its people who work there make it an unforgettable experience for guests. This makes recruiting and retaining the right candidates in the hospitality industry that much more important and a priority. Hospitality companies have learnt to do more with less and the preference will now be for associates who can multitask. Such lean management strategies will help cut costs and help hotels operate more efficiently. Agility is the key as we recover and rebuild.


Hotels that have struggled through the pandemic will be looking for fresh ideas and skilled talent to guide them into recovery. HR teams will have to look at hiring differently and look for staff who can adapt fast, think critically, multi-task, and at the same time, empathise with customers.


In developing a blended workforce, do you believe that the senior leadership is required to bring about a mindset shift within the company that full-time employees alone cannot ensure the completion of work/projects? If yes, how can leadership channelise such a mindset change within an organisation in the hospitality industry?


Hotels will have to drive manpower efficiencies as per the business scenario. The Leadership team will also have to adapt the workforce to different ramp-up occupancy levels. As our workforce becomes increasingly blended, it will be more critical than ever before to foster a supportive team environment. Harnessing a sense of community for the entire workforce (both full-time and part-time) will be essential for the success of our industry.


The leadership and the HR teams will need to find ways to ensure that everyone’s learning and performance needs are given equal importance. They should also ensure that both permanent and part-time talent is engaged. It will be important to communicate effectively and make it clear to your high-performing employees that they can grow with you if they are dedicated to staying with you, and learn the ropes and put in the right effort.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, some companies are going virtual-first while others are rallying to get employees back in-house or piloting a blended working model. Do you believe the office to be an important hub for collaboration, creativity, and innovation?


As with other sectors, hotels are adhering to government guidelines and travel restrictions. While work from home for a short duration may be feasible for administrative roles, it is less so for operations and front of house staff. It is harder to do it in industries that need a physical location or presence.


Working from home comes with its own set of challenges. In our industry, the business is largely dependent on human-to-human contact, with the obvious social distancing in place in the present scenario. It is this human interaction component within the hospitality industry that is an essential dimension influencing guest experience.


Employee Experience (EX) has been typically associated with full-time employees and often goes unaddressed for other workforce segments. With non-traditional talent becoming an increasingly important source of competitive advantage, how can organisations deliver optimal EX for them?


It is important to recognise that part-time and hourly workers are a very significant and integral part of the workforce and that they should be treated as such. In order to maximise the efforts and productivity of hourly workers, employers need to develop concepts for integrating them into the rest of the workforce better and keeping them happy and engaged while at work. Employee engagement is a prime focused area in the hospitality industry. The industry is customer-service driven, which means employees are our sole brand ambassadors. One slip-up can make all the difference between a happy customer and an irate one. Seasoned, trained employees are more experienced in easily providing customers the best experience possible, and the way to keep these employees around and satisfied with their workplace is to keep them engaged.


Providing experience to our part-timers, casuals and contractual labour and interns is very critical. The Industry should be more focused on this, by including such category employees in the Rewards & Recognition activities, tailor-made training programmes, making them a part of the day-to-day employee engagement activities and grievance re-dressal sessions. These are some examples that can foster an inclusive environment.


With older talent rejoining work post their retirement, we are witnessing a more age-diverse workforce than ever before. How can organisations foster intergenerational collaboration and cohesion given the different types of work arrangements (from full-time to freelance) and work models (from remote to hybrid)?


In today’s world, though many hospitality companies have developed training initiatives for a culturally diverse workforce, few have grappled with age as a diversity dimension. By creating a more cohesive work environment, we can leverage employees’ individual talent to effectively achieve organisational goals. Here, every individual has to work as a team, and a paradigm shift is required to change the focus from individual accomplishment to team success.


The older and more experienced workforce brings with it a huge amount of wisdom that the younger lot can reap benefit of, whereas the older lot can pick up a few tricks and further sharpen their saws by observing the younger and the more tech-savvy lot at work. It is important to foster a creative environment where team members, irrespective of age or seniority, are encouraged to question and brainstorm in a nonjudgmental framework.


Active collaboration between these two groups can be a huge win-win for all!


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