The pandemic now seems like a thing of the past. But, to date, restaurant and hotel bosses have had a tough year. Some 700,000 hospitality and f&b workers threw in the towel on average each month in the past year. Bars, cafés and eateries are 40 percent workers, short relative, to the total number of employed before covid-19. Workers in hospitality are leaving for various reasons, from fear of infection to better opportunities elsewhere. But one big motive is burnout. Psychological exhaustion is more often associated with hard-charging investment bankers and other professionals.
The industry is witnessing a great resignation wave, where not only recruitment is getting affected but also admissions are being hampered. India is suffering from a huge labour shortage as workers quit their jobs over wages, benefits, and working conditions which are all notoriously poor in the hotel and restaurant industry.
The Great Resignation era
According to Nisha Singh Chauhan, Sayaji Raipur's, HR manager, for hospitality positions, hiring has historically been a challenge. The perception of long hours and low pay has long been cited as the main deterrents for candidates to avoid careers in the hospitality sector.
“The "Great Resignation" brought on by the pandemic, during which 3.5 million people left the workforce (the highest rate of any industry! ), over one-third of them worked in the hospitality industry, has only made it harder to find employees. A recruitment nightmare has been created for the hospitality industry due to the high demand for workers, the exodus of current employees, and the lack of interest from potential candidates. The hospitality sector has twice the average industry-wide staff turnover rate,” Chauhan added.
Jobs like service associates, housekeeping staff, front office employees, and commis chefs have higher turnover rates. Additionally, the industry is not getting trainees and new talent due to the lower admissions to hotel management institutes.
“However, the good news is that there are still professionals out there who are expressing interest in returning to the industry and who are also receiving favourable responses from the hotel management institute for new placements,” she further commented.
Switch in industry
Multiple employees decided to switch industries and upskill because of the uncertainty associated with the hospitality industry. To put it simply, people need more stability, and the volatile tourism industry, while experiencing recent surges, is anything but reliable.
The age with the highest amount of exiting employees is that of the Millenials. Employees between the ages of 30 and 45 experienced the highest turnover, while this honour usually belongs to the demographic between the ages of 20 and 25.
There is a staffing shortage as a result of the business's growth following the third wave of Covid-19 and the normalization of operations and working hours. Although there is a persistent staffing issue in the industry, it has become more acute as a result of the sharp rise in demand for leisure and travel.
Many pain points needs to be addressed
Today’s shortage of staff can be attributed to several compounding factors. Traditionally an industry with long and irregular hours, former employees are not willing to come back to their old jobs due to the increased workload owed to, precisely, the lack of staff. The reputation held by the industry and its careers – that of low pay, long hours, bad benefits, and poor work-life balance – also affects the perception of potential new hires and exacerbates the difficulties in hiring and keeping talent.
Additionally, over the past two years, there has been a greater emphasis on mental health and flexible work schedules, which talent acquisition teams from all industries have observed to be among the top priorities of current job seekers.
However, according to Supriya Pandita, HR Manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Pune-Chinchwad, it is a mix, the available opportunities in the market are more and there is a variety of options to explore, which includes other sectors as well. “We have seen an optimistic recovery pattern across industries this month. It is heartening to see travel and hospitality lead the way, along with several other industries,” she commented.
Staff crunch still persist
Similarly, in the villa hospitality segment, they were always running all units to max capacity during Covid as people preferred long stays. Staff position was only affected for two months during the first wave. “We attracted staff from allied hospitality and travel sectors like big hotels or airlines. These folks have now tended to return to their old jobs. Fresh graduates eager to learn and join the workforce have learnt well and replaced them. There is no staff crunch if you have planned well for attrition and how to integrate technology and work from concepts for people who aren't guest facing,” Ramit Sethi, founder at Seclude informed.
Students are afraid to enroll in hospitality courses
But for hospitality institutes, things are not as rosy as it seems. If sources close to the IHM system were to be believed, just over 5,000 seats could be filled at the end of the spot admissions out of the total 12,500 seats on offer for the flagship three-year BSc programme.
While a few metro IHMs from the Central pool could manage 80 to 90 percent seats many of their counterparts in tier-2 cities had a difficult time managing even 50 percent admissions this year. Sources revealed that Central IHMs in Guwahati, Gurdaspur, Srinagar, Shillong, etc. had a bad time this year with less than 30 percent of seats being filled at the end of the admission process.
According to Bhupesh Kumar, principal at IHM Ranchi, there are certain factors affecting this. “Dignity of skilled labour in the Industry, remuneration and HR policies, work days and hours, outdated course and no elective or options for specialization, NCHMCT the pioneer body of HM not being recognised by AICTE or UGC, Ministry of Tourism and Mhrd not being on the same page for Hospitality education, hotel Industry is not recognised as an Industry by the lawmakers are few of the factors that students are losing interest,” he said.
Hope is the new light
Chef Balendra Singh Director Institute of Bakery and Culinary Arts ( IBCA ) feels that the pandemic developed a sense of fear in students to opt for the hospitality sector because it has been hit hard during the ongoing pandemic. “As the world is getting back on track, all of the industries are trying to revive in full swing and are offering a wide array of careers. Likewise, shaping an outstanding career in the Hospitality sector will be viable in the post-Covid world,” he feels.
He further commented that irrespective of all the ups and downs the hospitality industry has gone through, it has managed to come back on track by starting operations as people have started travelling, using hotel accommodations, etc. And now, there are umpteen career options for students but yes still, students need proper counselling before they enrol in their desired program.
When it does come to new hires, the development stage is critical for retention. Leadership programs should be adopted that give fresh employees a certain level of guidance.
It's been estimated that the sharp decline and exiting of employees can cost an owner up to 30 percent of their revenue over a year. This is a huge negative outcome for something that could be remedied with the use of some simple strategy changes and upgraded attention toward human resources.