Home Hospitality Training and Education in the Services Sector – Time for an Overhaul

Training and Education in the Services Sector – Time for an Overhaul

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“The future workforce has to, therefore, compete with smart machines and persevere to get smarter, which simply means they must develop superior skills, bandwidth, and knowledge.”

Technology is literally and figuratively reshaping the world as we know it. The global economy is now, more than ever, dependent on innovation, disruption and reimagination to re-create the manufacturing, services and agricultural sectors. The challenges are not just limited to finding new sustainable and environment-friendly approaches, but extend to the why and how of “smarter ways of doing”, to remain relevant and ahead of the competition.

Among the key three ‘M’ resources – namely, Men, Money, Materials – conventionally speaking, the services sector continues to depend on human resources (whereas manufacturing is now almost totally automated). However, there is a noticeable change in the way in which human resource is perceived, as compared to machines (with all its salient advantages in a set environment) to keep pace with the 24*7*365 business phenomenon. Constantly changing and unpredictable needs and demands of the millennial consumer, spoilt for choice, are driving manufacturing and services sectors to automate any and every aspect of the work sphere that are replaceable from man to machines for speed, agility, and low cost. The future workforce has to, therefore, compete with smart machines and persevere to get smarter, which simply means they must develop superior skills, bandwidth, and knowledge.

I see the possibilities of super humans being groomed from the emerging tech savvy cerebral younger generation, who have acquired superior skills compared to the previous generations at corresponding ages. Thanks to immersion at a very early stage, say at toddler level, to state-of-the-art hardware and software, the gen-next may be able to learn and train only with a total upgrade of syllabus and curriculum of schools and colleges, which need to equip themselves with new multi-functional and expert (not trainee) skill sets. Talking about the hospitality industry, service techniques and management approach will have to undergo drastic changes to cope with the highly automated IOT and AI ecosystem in most manually replaceable tasks. The New Norm is all about smart learning, enlarged span to broaden the scope of capabilities and capacities of individuals.

Smart Talent, powered by cutting edge tech skills, is emerging as the new smart work force that will drive services in a far more efficient and consistent manner, circumventing the very nature of the services business which by nature is unpredictable, high variance and very individual specific – calling for flexibility along with efficiency. Herein lies the significance of a future-oriented approach to education, training, and development to build a new generation of “Smart workers”, equipped with smart skills and adequate theoretical knowledge.

No longer can organizations only rely on those who have risen from the ranks through the shop floor. Time has come for India, so heavily dependent on its services sector, to come up with a disruptive plan to alter the basic educational approach – right from primary school up to college levels. There is no choice. Livelihood skills now have to be brought into the mainstream of school syllabus, as job-oriented training is the need of the hour. Labour reforms and a culture of respectability – with dignity for every skilled job – will go a long way to attract high calibre school and pre-graduate college students to technical and skilled jobs.

“Time has come for India, so heavily dependent on its services sector, to come up with a disruptive plan to alter the basic educational approach – right from primary school up to college levels”

Let us delve into one of the most promising, high potential yet uncomplicated segments of the services sector – tourism, hospitality and travel. Millions of trained, skilled young men and women can be employed in the hospitality sector by bringing about intensive focus and adopting game-changing modern technology to educate and skill a huge number of young teenagers in technical subjects such as culinary arts and facilities management. Automation in operational management to drive efficiency while empowering individuals to acquire multi-skilling capabilities. India must experiment – at least in urbanized cities and towns, with tech-enabled education and skilling in professional employment – in industries like hospitality and tourism by targeting the dropouts or unschooled work force to go through practical, easy-to-learn classes with a high dose of practical sessions on the shopfloor.

The future of hotel management colleges, services management programs, craft centres for certificate courses, will all be altered to accommodate inclusion of experiential, live shop floor learning simultaneously. With consumers gaining deep knowledge on every aspect with exposure through the internet, a new generation of guests will raise the bar in terms of situational management. Industry-academy interaction will take place almost on a daily basis as most techniques and established conventional methods will become redundant, forcing the pace of learning to almost real-time innovation. Future campus recruits have to be billable from day one to fill in the frontline guest-facing productive vacancies, as no hospitality (or for that matter any services or product-driven firm) can afford to carry unproductive trainees for months to settle down by trial and error. Attrition rates are bound to be high with incumbent executives or associates feeling the urge to move on, switch jobs and roles in search of new skills/learnings in a new environment. It is inevitable, more so because most of the next generation workforce will aspire to work for themselves as entrepreneurs at some stage.

Fundamentally, training and coaching a smart new generation calls for a paradigm shift in the infrastructure of educational institutions, as well as an overhaul of syllabus and faculty. Career planning will be replaced with entrepreneurial planning, development and deployment within the organization to retain key players.

Mr. P.K. Mohankumar is a hospitality veteran of 45 years, Ex-COO Taj Gateway Hotels and Ex-MD Ginger Hotels. With a unique experience of having worked in all four hospitality segments – Luxury, Premium, Mid-Market and Economy – Mr. Mohankumar is an industry professional with hard-core Operations expertise.

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