There needs to be a stronger focus on future talent

It is argued that it was a former great business battle which changed the outlook on investment. Is this true? What else influenced investment? What is needed now?

The industry has enjoyed a long history of success which was based off a whole generation which received a level of greater investment, support and opportunity than younger generations are able to access today. There is a need to now act on ensuring new and stronger frameworks are being placed into place to give those of today, the support enjoyed historically.

EP has hosted numerous discussion forums and debates on talent and it is commonly said that that the industry, itself, will not invest in new frameworks. The expectation is almost that others will create both the new frameworks and the funding in support of industry but one has to ask what is the logic for this? Why doesn’t the industry, as a whole, invest more into its future talent and into frameworks? Why is this the case when many continue to struggle to find and retain great talent?

It has become a common discussion that there has been increasing concern about the standard of hospitality education in the UK. Student numbers have fallen as have the number of hospitality based courses. There have been growing tensions. In 2019, we hosted a number of discussions on this topic with both industry and higher education and the situation has arguably become worse; and yet there are many who argue that the structure is good enough. On what basis, especially when one looks at the facts?

The UK Hospitality industry has shown its strength to work its way through the pandemic. The one thing that it does need is talent.

In a recent conversation, it was noted that the industry’s commitment of investing in talent has been in gradual erosion almost since the Granada takeover of Forte back in 1996. It is not that there is a direct correlation but the rise of Granada’s power and influence changed many mind-sets across hospitality which saw a greater focus on driving revenue lines and cutting investment in many key areas including training.

The industry did change in the late 1990s and by the early 2000s, there were many senior industry executives who argued that business had become so competitive on margins that investment in people had become a luxury. The result was that investment naturally eroded and has fallen, in relative terms by over 50%.Add in the influx of cheap and easily available labour in the early years of this century and of course, the whole issue was overlooked and management philosphies hardened.

It happens but today there is a need to change and start to reinvest back into the structures which support the future. Of course, talent is our future. However, the issue is more complex as it also about the industry once again trusting in youth. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, most high flying talents would expect to have reached director level in their 30s. Today, the average age has increased by close to 20 years. The average age of a CEO is 62 today. It was 48 in 2006.

Younger talents today are emerging from University with levels of debt which can be close to £50,000 and it is harder than ever to make strong progress to senior levels. Of course, it is an overall landscape in need of overhaul and yet still there are many who argue it is not in need; that there are greater priorities. For many companies, it is still a challenge to rebuild but the industry as a whole needs to think bigger on this important of issues.

At the end of the day, talent will find its own way and will find success. It is coming as will change. Already many experienced leaders are beginning to step away post pandemic and new talents are rising into position. The bets are that, in ten years, the picture will look very different to the narrative today. The question is whether more can be done today to support the transition?