Of all the industries that took the heat in the pandemic, hospitality got sucker-punched particularly hard.

It was an unprecedented chapter in the lives of many hotels, restaurants and bars – and for some there was no sequel. For those that survived, the new normal hasn’t been so much of a bounce back as a bounce forward, into a brave new world where finding and retaining top hospitality talent is more challenging than ever. 

Our 2021 Talent Trends research shows that returning to a career in hospitality is off the menu for many qualified professionals – whose perspectives and priorities have shifted during the pandemic. What’s more, many of those who work in the industry are now looking to leave.

So, what can you do to curb the talent drain and future-proof your team? Top talent in today’s hospitality industry wants strong internal career and learning paths that are visible, well-structured and fit for purpose. Here’s the low-down on how to pave the way to a more appetizing future for top hospitality professionals.

Map out career paths

A career path is essentially a professional growth roadmap with short- and long-term goals. Creating clear career paths is a key step to engaging and retaining top talent – and reducing burnout and dropout. Helping an employee or candidate envision a long, fruitful career starts with looking inwards at the organisation and defining the roles, potential, skills, knowledge, experience and personality traits required for each job level as an employee moves up the corporate ladder. 

From there, it’s about working with employees to see how and where they want to grow, setting the course and direction, and defining the responsibilities, goals and incentives that go along with advancement. Unlike the old-and school vertical career ladder, career paths take a more holistic progressive approach and also encompass dual career ladders, horizontal career lattices, career progression outside the organisation and encore careers.

Building customized career paths is a win-win situation: employees feel valued and therefore motivated to work harder, embrace challenges and learn more skills. Employers and people managers get to assess progress and address gaps in real-time – rather than in hindsight.

Lay on the learning

Helping employees to move along their career path means continuously evaluating and adjusting the support you offer them in terms of their professional growth and prospects. Regularly touch base with your staff to see what they expect in terms of training and mentorship. 

These days, you’ll find plenty of resources at your fingertips to implement multi-disciplinary training programmes – The Hospitality Standards, created by Lobster Ink, a Hosco partner, offers 14 courses and 3 learning paths dedicated to health safety and service standards. 

Such initiatives encourage employees to branch out, flex their minds and creative muscle, network, and emerge as well-rounded hospitality professionals.

The road less travelled by…

Purpose is the beating heart of most hospitality employee searches – and more than ever in the wake of a soul-shaking global pandemic. Focusing on the employee experience involves incorporating strengths-based management practices or even reaching for the holy grail of learning path design: a strengths coaching culture, 

which has been proven beyond doubt to spur retention, sales and profits.

Fruitful career and learning paths are built on ongoing employee input and interaction. Showing candidates and new hires tried and trodden career paths and working with them to develop their own will give hiring managers the edge in attracting top talent into the fold. By the same token, asking brave questions at the exit interview will help you to identify – and in future avoid – bumps in the road.

Getting off the ground

A few simple career path building steps can help you move from a la carte to a la cartography: 

  1. Build a basecamp. Review your company structure and organization and align it with your business planning. Predict and plot out new roles that may emerge as you grow.
  2. Perform job profiling. List the key credentials responsibilities and skills for each role. Add KPIs and consider how you measure success. What makes a high achiever?
  3. Design career and learning paths. Build paths for each department, team or business function. Set goals and factor in the horizontal and vertical moves that can support each employee’s advancement.
    Zoom in on training. Identify professional development needs, and create a timeline and budget for implementation. Don’t be afraid to disrupt the status quo – it may well set you apart!
  4. Roll out the map. Develop career paths with new hires during the onboarding, and discuss them with existing employees during performance reviews in order to assess and align their advancement.
  5. Revisit and realign. Track progress, realign goals and expectations and identify areas for improvement through employee feedback. Train managers to keep their finger on the map with their teams.

Developing attractive, dynamic career paths takes time, thought and resources, but it is one of most valuable and respected investments a hospitality company can make – if they want to stand out as an excellent place to be for employees – and customers.