Professional development debate – who should lead?

Last week, EP released some of the comments and feedback from industry in relation to our research on professional development bodies. The good news is that 90% of the  response and feedback has been supportive of the call for change and a better communications approach. As one leading entrepreneur succinctly summed it up:

“We struggle to know what is on offer and where to go. Of course, it would be a marvellous step forward for there to be one place to go which will not only tell us what is on offer but what is best in class. I don’t really know of any of the bodies you mention which means that we probably are spending money on external suppliers when we could get better value from industry experts. But surely the onus is on them to tell me about what is on offer or do they expect us to have to work to find out?”

We know, therefore, there is a consensus on what needs to be done, but the next question is who should lead this change agenda and this is where it becomes more complicated. As we have evolved the debate, we have purposefully strived not to be drawn into the discussion as to who should lead this process for two reasons:

1. We wanted to establish the base principle and solutions without the distraction of industry politics and often quite personalised opinions. We wanted to debate on the facts.

2. There appears to be competition between the bodies and once this debate is engaged, then the whole picture starts to have less clarity as people support different bodies. It sometimes does feel that support for the bodies can be tribal rather than logical.

Interestingly, nearly everyone has agreed with our research and findings and the only voices of disagreement have come from within the professional bodies, which is a touch strange as the core argument is to create a structure that improves the present situation. This debate is about structure and communications, not individual bodies and people. The debate is for:

  • An effective overall communications strategy
  • A more co-ordinated approach so that industry is engaged rather than disengaged
  • A simpler landscape to understand
  • Greater support for the great new initiatives that have been launched

But who will lead the change?

As much as we have strived to set out the facts and principles, this issue does now need to be discussed and looked at. We have been consistently asked and been given views on who should lead. We have also been asked as to who we support on this debate. We have also been asked as to which bodies have attracted most praise.

Our position is quite straightforward.

1. The only way to evolve this debate is by working through each stage from A to B to C. There can be no cutting of corners.

2. Whatever the solution, it needs the support of industry. Just as it is wrong to criticise the supply side, so industry needs to agree and support whoever should lead this change agenda. Leadership and change can only take place with industry’s active support.

The Criteria

The key to keep the debate steady is to work through what is needed by a body for the way forward; what is the criteria for the change agenda?

The vast majority appear to agree that:

  • There is a need for a body or a channel that bring clarity, sense and an ease of understanding to the varied options offered by the 156 professional bodies. A body that will bring all the best together from the 156 bodies to ensure that industry works in a co-ordinated way that allows industry to really focus on developing the human asset.
  • A body that can talk for the whole of the industry
  • A body that focuses on individual development and the best professional development approach for all companies.
  • A body can help set benchmarks and guides to the best in class.
  • A body that will really support the best new programmes and initiatives. For example, a body that will ensure that both the new Edge Hotel School and the International Leadership School in Scotland really get profile and support so that they can be role models for industry.
  • A body whose primary focus is on professional development.

Assuming that the majority agree with the above criteria so of all the leading bodies, who meets this criteria best?

The choice is that either we create a structure out of what exists today or we create a new leadership body for this landscape. There is very little appetite for yet another body that may get drawn into the same old problems, so the answer must lie with what already exists.

So what has the feedback been on the bodies?

  • Which bodies have attracted most praise? In simple terms:
    o BHA
    o People 1st
    o HIT Scotland
    o Academy of Culinary Arts
    o Master Innholders
    o HOSPA
    o IOH
    o BII
    o Craft Guild of Chefs

Springboard has been well discussed and it is fair to say views are very split – mainly as the image of the industry is still seen to be the primary issue and the view is that there is as much to do as ever. The research states that over 65% still believe the image of the industry is of concern. One has to ask if this figure was much different even fifteen years ago?

Of course the counter is that until the professional development landscape is really effective, and that the human asset is really being developed, then it is very hard for progress to be made as the image will only change as the whole becomes better. On saying all this, there is little doubt that the industry is more professional and sophisticated than in past eras.

One can argue this from all angles and our view is that Springboard sits one step away as the debate is about developing the skills of those already within the industry – about professional and skills development – which is a different remit to that of Springboard’s which is focused on industry external recruitment and communication to schools, colleges, the disadvantaged and returnees.

  • So, assuming, that the industry has no desire to develop a new body to act as lead, who are seen to be the main candidates to lead the change agenda?From the feedback, this can be split down to four candidates

    o BHA
    o People 1st
    o IOH
    o The Hospitality Guild

So who should lead?

1. The BHA. The BHA is very highly regarded and well supported by senior industry players across the board. It is interesting to note that, in our research, many cited that they were members of the BHA, even though they technically were not – their companies were. This is a compliment to the organisation. However, the BHA exists to represent the interests of companies and employers – not individuals. The BHA is important in ensuring that change can exist and take place and ensure the change does take place, but logic suggests that the leading lobbying organisation for industry is not best placed to represent individuals. It should be linked but separate. Fair?

2. IOH. There is strong argument for the IOH as the HCIMA of old was a strong bonding force in industry twenty years ago and is the recognised industry body for professional development. So it has history and the status. However, membership has fallen and even its strongest advocates will suggest that change is needed. The IOH have just appointed a new CEO and the argument is that change is coming but the question is – can the IOH fill this gap and recapture the lost membership?

3. People 1st – the Sector Skills Council – is a well regarded body but is seen to be an effective strategic body which works well with government but not one that really impacts at ground level – although Women 1st has been an undoubted success. The strength of People 1st is that it is strategic, so should it stay one step removed from the day to day?

4. The Hospitality Guild. The argument for is that it is a relatively new organisation and its partner organisations include IOH, Academy of Culinary Arts, HOSPA, Craft Guild of Chefs, BII and Springboard – so there is a base structure already in place. It wants to work closely with industry to ensure that it exists to lead the change agenda. It does not carry any history or baggage from the past. It has the active support of two major players in Hilton and Compass.

However, it is comparatively new and the industry is still unsure as to how it fits into the landscape.

So if the above logic holds true, then it appears the best two bodies are the IOH and The Hospitality Guild. The answer, therefore, will lie with who is able to bring all the major bodies together to work in a co-ordinated fashion and create change.

But if the above logic is structurally sound, what is now required?

  • Industry to create a new vision and a drive towards ensuring the body that leads will ensure that the industry is world class in supporting the development of the human asset.
  • Industry engagement and active discussion on the way forward.
  • A clear desire for change.
  • For the bodies to work together with the one lead to ensure that the message is clear for industry.

Of course, there are many that will disagree. But who is better positioned to achieve the criteria?

Those that disagree are welcome to the debate because the fear should not be those that disagree with the above. Our fear should be that the present is not debated so that positive change can take place.

For the critics, we would note that this debate is worthwhile if the end result is that:

  • Leaders are truly engaged in development
  • Talented individuals feel that industry is committed to their development; that they feel supported and are able to understand and access the best programmes that already exist today.

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