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Future-proofing hospitality: The imperative of continuous learning

Professional development is key to attracting Gen Z employees and upskilling existing staff

With the ever-changing needs of customers and increasing competition, hospitality and tourism businesses must ensure that their employees are well-trained and equipped to deliver the best possible service.

Nationwide staff shortages across the hospitality and tourism industry may mean professional development is key to attracting Gen Z employees and upskilling existing staff. Research has found that compared to other generations, Gen Z values clear career professional pathways and opportunities for upskilling with professional development.

Originally published in the latest AccomNews print issue. Read it HERE

With this in mind, employee training and development is not only important for improving the quality of service your business offers but also for the ongoing growth and success of the business. Course Coordinator for the Tourism and Hospitality Management program at Edith Cowan University, Joanna Pearce, said that in an era of rapid technological evolution, seizing opportunities to enhance skills and knowledge is paramount.

“Through my work, I frequently encounter enquiries about the most effective education and training pathways for established and aspiring professionals in hospitality and tourism,” Dr Pearce said.

“While there are many training opportunities out there, as a first step, it would be prudent for individuals to undertake some reflection on what their weaknesses are, or areas that they may lack skills or knowledge, to find the most appropriate one for their own individual success.”

While many hospitality professionals hone their craft on the job, Dr Pearce believes there is value in exploring further education.

“Many people who work in hospitality have a passion for it, and they want to get stuck in and get their hands dirty,” she said.

“However, we also need people in our industry who can step back and see the bigger picture. These are sometimes referred to as ‘graduate skills’ or the ability to be a ‘reflective practitioner’.

“These are the people who ensure that your organisation does more than just get very good at crisis management – they will change the way you work to improve things for your customers and your employees.

“Upskilling is an essential part of that ability and is necessary for career progression, as well as opening up new opportunities that were not previously considered or even existed, such as social media.”

Edith Cowan University

What sort of courses are available?

For professionals looking to improve their leadership skills, learn how to manage change or want to move into a different part of the industry, a Master of Business Administration specialising in business analytics, human resource management or marketing could be valuable. For many professionals, though, short courses may be a more viable option as they look to balance work and further education.

Dr Pearce said that for those who may want to upskill in project management, a short course on project management may be the perfect solution. For those looking to explore how their workplace can better utilise new technology, a short course in ChatGPT will ensure your workplace is empowered to fully embrace AI technology.

However, Dr Pearce said that there are a range of degrees and qualifications that are beneficial for hospitality and tourism professionals.

“The hospitality industry needs people with skills in marketing, HR, ICT and HRM, but we also need people to have what is often called ‘soft skills’, such as teamwork, flexibility, listening and problem-solving skills,” Dr

Pearce explained. “This is one reason why hospitality and tourism graduates are also so sought after by other sectors. Technical ‘hard’ specialist skills may get you into a job, but promotion often depends on soft skills development.”

The modern-day university Past university graduates will find the modern-day university looks quite different, with the higher education sector embracing new methods of teaching.

“Most applications and programs have shifted to cloud-based platforms which has also improved accessibility and expanded capabilities,” Dr Peace said.

“Additionally, the evolution of simulation programs now allows students to put their skills and knowledge into practice, greatly enhancing the learning experience. The HOTS Hotel Simulation software allows students to manipulate various aspects of running a hotel, to allow them to see the effects of these manipulations as it cycles through time.

“For example, students can experiment with changing seasonal pricing of rooms, adjusting marketing spend, or undertaking ‘staff training’ and see what effects these have on revenue, occupancy and staff satisfaction levels. Generative AI has also opened up a whole new world of opportunities in the higher education and training sector. The ability for GenAI tools such as ChatGPT and Copilot to create better efficiencies in how people work is really exciting.”

And for students who faced barriers in attending campus to study, flexible learning models allow more people to access further education.

“Learning can also now be done on campus, online or a hybrid of both, creating greater flexibility in access to learning and professional development and allowing students to be in control of their personal and professional development,” Dr Pearce said.

“This has also enabled people who previously may not have been able to study due to distance or family commitments to gain a qualification. However there is also much work to be done to understand the best blend of technology, self-service, and where face-to-face communication may add the most value.”

Edith Cowan University

With the rapid rise of GenAI as well as the challeng facing the hospitality and tourism industry, Dr Pearce said it is more important than ever that workplaces are open to facilitating the ongoing learning and upskilling of staff.

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