Demand for skilled revenue management talent is on the rise, however, positions are difficult to fill across the accommodation industry.
While this is a good problem for talented professionals seeking employment – the big question is, “what has happened to a lot of our industry’s talent?”
In 2014, I wrote about both ends of the spectrum in relation to the revenue management (RM) talent conundrum. On the one hand, back then, we were starting to see a dynamic cultural shift from a rooms division and mostly reservations function to a recognised and critical commercial business discipline in its own right. At the same time, many properties were still without a dedicated and trained professional skilled at analysing and optimising the perishable assets they managed.
Revenue Management is an integral commercial business function that applies to all businesses (large or small) that sell a perishable asset. This can include accommodation rooms, conference space, dining space, car parking, airline seats, theatre seats, stadium seats, rounds of golf, and cruise ship cabins.
Historically, there have been sub-optimal internal reporting structures, a lack of understanding of the value the skill set can deliver, limited career pathways, low investment in training, and remuneration challenges. Without the correct underpinning support mechanisms and operating framework for these roles, the talent pool begins to reduce, burn-out occurs, and opportunities elsewhere become more appealing.
Fast forward to the present day, opportunities elsewhere have risen in recent years as other industries become more advanced or have caught up with integrating an RM culture into their organisations. Many such organisations looked for existing talent outside of their traditional hiring pipelines.
Further, corporate entities such as OTAs have secured skilled accommodation revenue management talent over the years, and opportunities also increased across the holiday park sector, consulting firms, industry tech companies, airlines, transport, and storage. More recently, opportunities have also increased across asset management companies.
The advancement of technology also led to the increased availability of remote working opportunities and the ability to work from home. This was strengthened further during the pandemic.
Discussions across some industry circles also point towards the increasing trend over the years of clustering revenue management roles as one possible contributing factor to a leaner talent pool. Cluster roles, if structured well, can bring increased operating efficiencies. They can also present challenges for the individual property who feel they may not be getting their fair share of attention, time, and focus.
Further, cluster roles tend to remove the focus on RM off property, leading to onsite staff becoming less exposed to the discipline, and who could have developed an interest in this area if RM was more visible to them.
Traditionally, pathways to senior management positions were through food and beverage and rooms division (front office) management roles, often bypassing RM talent altogether.
There has been a shift over the years with more RM talent moving into General Manager positions, which has been fantastic to observe, and the emergence of broader commercial roles, Group Directors, and Chief Revenue positions. However, these roles are still very far and few between across the wider industry.
Placing a junior to mid-management level emphasis on RM is not an ideal internal structure in most instances, nor does providing a senior role title such as “Director of RM”, without embracing the role as part of the senior leadership team, commensurable with other senior leaders. This simply does not recognise the value a well-trained RM staff member can bring to the financial performance of a property,
Such a mindset limits the benefits this discipline can offer both in terms of candidate quality and the operator’s financial performance, where revenue and profit optimisation subsequently suffer as a result. Experienced RM professionals craft and hone their skills over time and understand the value they bring to the business.
The impact of the pandemic has further diluted the RM talent pool, with many roles sadly stood-down out of necessity, including many that may have been trained and developed as part of the succession talent pipeline. This forced shift out of the industry has seen some RM talent employed in other industries where their transferable skills have been utilised in other roles, and who are now not ready or able to return as our industry emerges from the pandemic.
There is also some concern about ongoing job security, as we do not have the demand consistency with any certainty as yet, and this is likely to take some time.
There are many challenges facing the industry and many things to focus on. Staffing is a critical issue facing many sectors, not just RM talent within the accommodation industry, however, losing more and more skilled revenue management talent is not ideal for an industry attempting to re-establish itself post-pandemic.
A couple of interim suggestions might be to consider offering roles on a contractual basis until such time that stability returns with some certainty. Or, consider hiring a candidate remotely, at least as a short-term measure, to ensure you are not missing out on capturing opportunities until you find a suitable candidate. Furthermore, review employment policies and consider what may be a deterrent moving forward compared to other job opportunities and their employment terms available in the market. This should also include a review of your work from home and/or hybrid working conditions, where possible.
Finally, train your people! The Australian Revenue Management Association (ARMA) has been serving the industry for over a decade with a dedicated focus on upskilling industry professionals in this critical commercial discipline and providing quality education pathways for employers.
Melissa Kalan is the founding director of Australian Revenue Management Association