With the new business models in the sector driven by technology, it’s imperative to have both soft skills and technical know-how. In the backdrop of the requirement of the new skillset for the new-age businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, the interview highlights recruiting trends and challenges faced by HR in the hospitality industry. People Matters interacted with Dinesh R, Chief Human Resources Officer at OYO.
Q1. What are the key HR challenges you’ve faced in the hotel industry? How do you plan to deal with them in long run?
The important factor to be looked into is the speed at which the hotel industry is growing, so there is the delta between the rate of growth in the industry and the rate of growth at which people can get potentially trained and join the industry. This delta is fairly significant. The biggest challenge is to get people trained in the short duration with the help of systems and software.
In order to solve this challenge, we have set up four OYO institutes, which are physical institutes across different cities. There are 5 virtual OYO skill institutes; they are geared up to train people on basic hospitality skills in a short span of 3-4 weeks. We focus on inducting people with the right aptitude, not necessarily right skill-set and further put them through necessary training ensuring they are ready to take on their roles. There are lots of people, who are trained but cannot work for 8-10 hours due to some limitation. But they are willing to work for 3-4 hours. We want to leverage such talent pool as well and look forward to widening our current talent pool.
Q2. OYO has been the largest recruiter from IHMs this year. What approach do you think industries should adopt to build a strong talent pipeline? Also, if you can highlight few hiring/ recruiting trends?
For a strong talent-pool, it is important to be clear about the essential attitude or aptitude you are looking for. We strongly believe in hiring for “will” over skill, except of course in specialized domains – for example, data science or kitchen duties. It is essential to convey a clear roadmap of expectations and opportunities. This needs to be integrated into the onboarding or refresher training before the candidate joins. How the new resources are trained and managed will have a positive impact on the performance of both the employees and the company. Employee- retention is also a key organizational metric. Employees should have access to in-house professional development programs. This enables recruiters to show veterans and new hires how successful people in the industry have advanced.
With our significant growth-plans for the year, we are looking at a huge pool of recruits with core hospitality-sector skills. In a way, we are transforming from a pure-tech company to a Hospitality company that delivers a best-in-class service experience. With this objective, we went to premier hospitality schools and educational institutions to hire the right talent. We received an overwhelming response with over 155 potential hires who have accepted our offer. At OYO, a majority of our hires this year will be in the core hospitality sector - such as high-quality hotel management professionals - both freshers and experienced people, and F&B specialists among others. We will continue to hire data scientists, technology specialists, and operations staff for the business. To make the process more transparent and simple, we have created a recruiting app, where anyone can apply.
Q3. Why do you think the focus should be shifted from tech to soft skills? Why are soft skills essential? Any other inputs on the same?
I don’t think it is an either-or situation anymore. Soft skills-focus has long been the appropriation of the hospitality industry. In the last few years, there has been heightened tech adoption in hotels - not just to aid the hotelier but also the consumer. To sustain and succeed in today’s hospitality industry one needs a combination of both soft skills and technological acumen. Soft skills help spark and strengthen emotional engagement and connection which is so essential to hospitality business, while technology will aid and enable guest-interaction and timely assistance, thus complementing the overall experience.
Q4. What challenges hospitality Industry is facing in HR - especially new age blooming hotels which need to compete with legacy hotels?
Over the past few years, the arrival of online travel agents, price comparison sites and apps have changed the hiring trend for the entire sector. With the new business model in the hospitality sector driven by technology, the only way forward for all progressive hospitality organizations is to integrate soft skills, technology and the adoption of the right business model. The company which gets it right will be the one to watch out for in the hospitality industry. Technology and people are the main two pillars of delivering a consistent, standardized experience. Hospitality industry's most critical problems are employment-related. Labor and skills shortages are amongst its top 10 challenges. Lack of written job descriptions is also an industry-wide problem.
Q5. What are your views on global transformation of the recruitment industry?
In the last decade, there has been a massive change in the way companies are hiring. Digital tools and social media are playing a huge role in identifying the right mix of people and hiring them. E-recruitment is a significant trend but the overall role of technology in managing employee life-cycle processes has grown immensely. With new-age businesses and a young millennial workforce to cater to, the HR function has also to revamp and update the guide-book to reflect the nature of new working styles.
Q6. How has HR leadership community evolved in last 5 years and what have been key learning moments of your career so far?
The HR community indeed has evolved in last 5 years. Nowadays a lot of companies are experimenting and getting onboard non-HR people taking up HR roles. Global companies like Amazon and Google itself have HR leaders who are not typical HR. I would like to share three key learnings from my experience. First, ownership of any aspect is very critical in startups whether in recruiting sales etc. Second, talent is the most important aspect in any company. It is very essential to get a right person onboard for the particular position. People who can create exponential value by doing certain things are most important. Third, the way we treat customers we should similarly treat our employees as well.