By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Coronavirus has presented hotel companies with a no-win scenario, at least in the immediate moment, forcing them to make impossible decisions about laying off or furloughing valuable team members with no clear sense of when they might bring them back onboard. Loyalties are being strained and broken, leaving some veteran sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals confused about their future and their place in an industry they love.
Where do we go from here? When recovery does happen and brands, ownership groups, and management companies need to staff back up, how do they reconnect with the employees they let go? How do those employees rejoin their companies with clear eyes and full hearts?
These aren’t questions we can sweep under the rug. On a recent call for the HSMAI Foundation Board of Trustees, we took advantage of having brought together this accomplished group of hospitality professionals to ask them about what we’ve come through as well as the road ahead. Among their responses to the question “What is the greatest lesson that you have learned over the past two months?” were these:
- “The passion for our industry and the importance of relationships with our employees and clients.”
- “It’s critical to put people first, and to collaborate.”
- “Compassion and care and taking time in making decisions regarding associates pays off.”
- “That it’s about the people and we must prioritize, put human lives first, economy second.”
These answers not only sound good but are very true: Our industry lives and dies by its people. But we also asked Foundation board members what advice they would offer to someone who has been furloughed or laid off or to hospitality students just beginning their career — and some of those responses were uncomfortable but no less true, including:
- “Stay positive and make use of this time to better yourself professionally and personally.”
- “Skills you learned for hospitality are universal for all industries.”
- “Be flexible about what you do next.”
- “You may have a plan, but it has to be flexible. Stay vigilant, open minded, and find opportunities that provide transferable skills.”
- “Build relationships, update your profile, be humble, and get your foot in the door. Use contacts and be flexible.”
In other words, it’s on hotel professionals themselves to stay sharp and adaptable — and on hotel companies to understand that the people they’ve let go aren’t sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. They’re hunting for their next opportunity, and there’s a good chance they’re not just looking in hospitality. It’s on all of us to create a way forward that acknowledges that, while companies did what they had to do to keep the industry alive, many furloughed and laid-off employees feel hurt — and likely will even if and when they’re reactivated or rehired.
But bringing people together is what we do, and this situation is no different. As it happens, our Foundation has a role to play. Its mission is “to elevate the overall caliber and performance of sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals in the global hospitality industry by driving initiatives that will attract new talent, develop emerging talent, and engage existing talent.” Through the Foundation we’ll be exploring the completely upended landscape of industry employment, including talent development and retention — for hotel companies and individual professionals alike.
“We have to acknowledge the current situation for what it is by facing the brutal facts, staying connected with our communities of guests, clients, and coworkers, and having faith that things will evolve for the better in the new normal,” said HSMAI Foundation Chair Agnelo Fernandes, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of revenue for Terranea Resort.
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.