There is a desire for change and a need for industry to act as one

Recent research by EP indicates that many question whether the landscape of professional development bodies is as effective as it should be

One of the most fascinating aspects of this deep and long recession is that the traditional institutions and structures have struggled to be effective during a period which has challenged everyone, and which is seeing a new generation begin to emerge. EP has worked closely with a group of new emerging leaders and there is no doubt that that industry possesses some exceptional talent that will take it forward.

However, it is fair to say that this new generation have felt “detached” from industry bodies and would like to see change.

In August, EP conducted some initial research on the landscape of professional development bodies in industry. The research was with three industry groups:

  • Industry leaders – CEOs, MDs and Chairman
  • Emerging Leaders
  • Industry professionals at all levels

Why did we conduct the research?

We were prompted for five reasons:

  • As the research results came to state, the vast majority of seasoned professionals believe that there are between 10-20 industry bodies linked to professional development. The actual number is in the region of 156, which is nonsensical. In a period of austerity, this needs to be questioned as surely some should be able to come together, save money and work together to deliver real results.As one leader often says: “If you started with a blank piece of paper, you would not start here.”
  • 75% of the workforce required for 2020 is already working in the industry. Logic suggests that if this 75% was truly supported and developed, it would naturally attract the extra 25% required, but also improve the overall picture.
  • There is no doubt that there are some superb programmes and work being undertaken, but the message gets lost. Why?
  • For the last fifteen years, we have been involved in debates on where are the next generation of leaders. There are two points that have arisen in relation to this:
    • Firstly, many of today’s senior leaders have been in leadership positions for twenty years. They are, by nature, twenty years more experienced and knowledgeable than when they first came into a leadership role. It is natural, therefore that the gap between today’s leaders and the next generation is wider than in previous times. How do we bridge this?
    • Secondly, the talent is there, just as it has always been, but is this asset being as well developed as in the past? A whole generation of leaders grew up in an era when training was of primary importance. Consider, Forte’s scheme; the famous Savoy training scheme; Kenley House and Gardner Merchant; J.Lyons; British Transport Hotels and so on. Is the industry as committed today?As we conducted the research, we held a number of focus groups with emerging leaders and one of the most common pieces of feedback was: “Before I came to the meeting, I had to Google who the professional development bodies were.”
  • The emerging leaders group that we have worked closely with do want to see a different picture to the one that exists currently. They want to see change and modernisation. It makes sense to listen to their views and open the debate so that the ground is prepared for when they become leaders. It is natural that after fourteen years of boom and prosperity, and four years of recession, that the overall structure needs adapting and change.

It is only correct to note that there is general confusion over who and what an industry body is when connected to professional development. One can argue it is important to define, but it is equally important to recognise the confusion. The need for clarity is one of the core points that arises from this debate.

There is no doubt that there are many great initiatives and work is being undertaken from the spectrum. Many bodies are praised. This is not an attack on their work but without doubt the message gets lost, there is too much noise and it is not co-ordinated. One of the most common observations is that “I get asked for money every day by one body or another and there is no transparency and reporting back, so I just delete.”

It may be that the issue is just one of better communication but if so, then this debate is worthwhile.

The Research

During a period of recession, it was expected that the research results would be negative, but the overall picture presented back was surprising. This was that the current landscape was not fit for purpose for the 21st Century.

  • The vast majority of respondents do not believe that individuals are well represented by the industry bodies. This figure ranges from the 70% to higher depending upon the group (ie emerging leaders, senior leaders, industry professionals).
  • Over 65% still believe that the image of the industry is still the primary issue that needs to be tackled.
  • Over 60% believed that industry issues could be tackled far better. The majority do not believe that industry bodies work effectively together.
  • Over 40% believe that the skills shortages are still a major issue to be tackled.
  • Over 60% do not believe that industry bodies are well enough funded.
  • Only 13% of the leadership group believed that the industry bodies worked well together.
Heather Gibson, editor, EP magazine

Emerging Leaders

If we then breakdown the results to the emerging leaders group, the following results appear:

  • 79% feel that individuals are not well represented by industry bodies.
  • 79% believe employers are not well represented.
  • 55% are unsure as to whether they would renew their memberships, partnerships or sponsorships.
  • There was little comment on leading industry bodies as compared with the other two groups. Their answers were far broader and hard to break down and included: St. Julian Scholars, IOH, Springboard, EP, BHA, Savoy Educational Trust, CIM, learnpurple, People 1st, The Hospitality Guild, Hospitality Action, Master Innholders, and Restaurant Association.
  • The economic environment is seen to be the primary problem facing the industry (41%) followed by skills shortages (34%), attracting staff (32%) and image (30%).
  • 60% believe that these issues could be tackled either better or need significant improvement.
  • 62% do not believe that the bodies are well enough funded.

Of course, all research can be questioned and distorted. EP was very aware of this point, so we set out to test these results with both a series of focus groups and one-to-one meetings, in order to listen and compare these discussions to the data. The meetings were conducted with both emerging leaders and seasoned industry leaders.

Far from undermining the research, the commentary confirmed the need for an open debate as to what is needed, and how can effective change be actioned.

The research has deliberately remained confidential whilst EP conducted feedback sessions and only now, after a whole range of private discussions, to de we bring this debate to industry.

Yes, there will be those that will question our motives but the reality is that:

  • a. We have a whole number of emerging leaders who are prepared to talk openly on this issue and in a constructive fashion. They were positive about the industry and its challenges. But they wanted to know where they could find greater support and help. During the research EP came out as one of the leading bodies in supporting this group. A rewarding result for EP but not right.
  • b. We have been humbled by listening to some of the talent that is coming through that do want support. It is also consistent with EP’s work with supporting young entrepreneurs that we often communicate about.
  • c. There is not doubt that there are many great initiatives and work being undertaken from the spectrum. This is not an attack on the work of the bodies but without doubt the message gets lost, there is too much noise and it is not co-ordinated. One of the most common observations is that “I get asked for money every day by one body or another and there is no transparency and reporting back, so I just delete.”It may be that the issue is just one of better communication but if so, then this debate is worthwhile.
  • d. The industry has just seen the launch of the Edge Hotel School – a great initiative that was 14 years in development. The industry has asked for such a school for many years. Logic suggests that all the bodies should be actively be supporting this new school as it could be a role model, but of the 156 development bodies how many are?
  • e. Even those that disagree with the raising of this issue, privately accept that there needs to change and a better approach. We are asking for a debate that asks the industry to review and listen to what the talent coming through are saying, so that we can really ensure they are supported and developed.

Next Steps

EP will be hosting a number of larger discussion forums with both industry leaders and emerging leaders in conjunction with the leading professional bodies, so that we can develop and evolve this debate in a sensible and constructive fashion.

Yes, we will be questioned and criticised but there is no doubt that there is some superb talent coming through that do not feel that are supported once they reach a certain level. This is also supported by the number of discussions that everyone has heard which asks: where are tomorrow’s leaders?

Let’s finish with an often quoted comment;

“I was well developed until I reached general management level and now there is far less interest or input and I do not know where to turn or go.”

At the end of the day we are asking industry to look at the big picture to make sure we are preparing talent in the right way for the future.

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