The hospitality industry needs to get back to basics by identifying and nurturing the next generation of talent, argues David Lund, The Hotel Financial Coach.

More than ever, our industry is facing major challenges in terms of recruiting workers. Given the current unemployment, who knows what will happen when people travel again?

Typically, during a hospitality crisis, we are one of the first industries to fire people from their jobs and one of the last to recruit. What can we do differently this time so that our leaders and managers stay with us, knowing that they have a place and are valued? That’s what this piece is about.

Nobody has a crystal ball and the only thing we know for sure is that things will be different in the future. When we look back over the past decade, there are some clues that we shouldn’t overlook when it comes to the next positive wave.

The last time, 2010-2019, our industry experienced a serious labor market crisis. In many markets it was impossible to find employees for our line positions. The dynamism of our economy, immigration and government programs are largely the engine of our unskilled workforce. Hopefully the powerful have their action together and make it easier for hospitality workers.

But what about our executives and managers? What happened to the key players who are really helping us move the business forward? I’m saying that they have largely abandoned themselves to other industries because they need jobs, period. So we have to start all over again to win key positions and hopefully hold them in the future.

The question is how can we do this? And how can we ensure that it stays that way, so that the next time business falls, we retain more talent than we lose? There is a significant cost involved in training and developing leaders and managers, and we want to make sure we don’t lose all of that again.

I say the only way to hedge against this loss is to invest in its development. When managers and executives see a future for themselves, they are more likely to stay and return. By the time I got through the ranks, we had what I call loyalty built in. No one had a contract to protect their position, but a code of conduct that was followed for people like me who were committed to business.

What I knew and experienced in our industry in the 80s and 90s was what I will call ‘drinking the kool aid’. If you drank Kool-Aid, you were part of the company, and the tell-tale sign you could see were the programs our company had and administered to the people who wanted to keep and develop them.

I know that I speak from my experience and what happened in my company, but I also know that it was the same in many other organizations. As an industry, we were moving in the right direction.

But in the past few decades things have changed. The owners and their asset managers have left everything off the center, leaving out the programs and the investment. The development of the new leadership wave is over.

This is incredibly short-sighted, and brands need to find a way to strengthen their ranks with programs that support investing and developing their talent. When we all worked in a largely owner-managed world, we were able to determine our own destiny much more easily than the world in which brands only fulfill the wishes and desires of the owners.

A commitment to the development of our employees only works if the brand is commissioned and the owner pays. To refresh your memory on how our industry should work, check out The Third Pillar.

It shouldn’t be an option or something we allow it to be removed. Things like strong management training programs (remember – they were like wide leg jeans) and robust development programs that focused on preparing our key members for the task at hand.

Owners come and go. Brands are the stability and glue of our industry, but only if they are really committed to the big picture and the long term.

This may mean that an owner or a management contract is going elsewhere, but the smart operators and brands know that talent will work over the long term. Investing in these and never taking your foot off the gas is the only way to secure a future for us as hoteliers. Self-preservation is the only way to ensure the survival of our industry and is there to deliver what business-minded, profitable owners cannot.

Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

This is an edited version of the an article that appeared on Hotel Financial Coach.