As luxury hotels struggle to hire and retain talent, a new north star sell is necessary. Turns out great luxury brands create an incredible, well-rounded style of leadership. The appeal of caring for people will always remain relevant, even as AI disruptions ripple through other industries.
As I sit with general managers and hoteliers around the world, there is a common lament: hiring. At the luxury level, a new crop of talent that lives and breathes the industry is difficult to find. The perception in the job market is that jobs in hotels or hospitality are an easy way to get yelled at our abused by feral guests, and laid off at a moment’s notice when conditions turn.
This situation sounds dire, but it is the reality. And as more luxury properties come online in additional cities, competition for talent gets more intense: You need good people to deliver value to justify the ever-increasing room rates. I’ve long argued about what happens when you don’t have the talent to back up your huge average daily rates: Significant dangers to the brand and reputational chaos can ensue.
The industry builds great people and hospitality creates some of the best leaders I have come across in all of my experiences in business and technology. Leaders at the likes of Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental have a melange of rare abilities: They often have high emotional intelligence and are well-versed in the challenges (and opportunities) of the human terrain.
They are also astute operational leaders as hotels have a lot of moving parts in the day-to-day. And those that can oversee this, but also improve and innovate, add a lot of value. Importantly, general managers and other leaders that grow up in hospitality have a worldliness about them. They can interface with a variety of cultural operating systems and ways of thinking, and also drive consensus and align stakeholders.
When we think of the C-suites in other industries, they are often occupied by either financial wizards or people who have had their heads buried in code. A good hotelier can see the broader picture, both with strategy and also with building and motivating teams. The human touch is the differentiator to make a great leader.
So, I think the industry needs to make a better “sell” to the potential hoteliers of tomorrow about what the industry can do to shape them. When you take a promising candidate, not just from a top hospitality school like Lausanne, but just someone with the right attitude and mindset, a global career can be unlocked. Recently I met a Tanzanian chef who went from being a porter on Kilimanjaro to working at one of the best hotels in the world, Nihi, propelled by his can-do attitude and kindness. I met a recent Ukrainian immigrant in New York, who was noticed serving coffee at a local business by an astute manager of Aman New York who hired her as a hostess in its luxurious environs. Both are thriving.
The sell here is simple: Caring for people is, and will continue to be, a noble profession. And the act of doing it can build the types of skills that are incredibly in demand in the world right now. Sure, artificial intelligence will cannibalize a lot of things and wreak havoc in many spheres but it turns out that human interactions in the physical world, care, kindness, and attention to detail will always be relevant.
Sometimes people look to the likes of McKinsey, Bain, and other large companies when they are looking to build a global career. But I think promising graduates should also consider the great hospitality brands to forge arguably a more dynamic and well-rounded experience, not just discounting cash flows and working spreadsheets, but engineering for guest comfort and delight.
And when you work around the world, you develop your own style that is infused by different places and cultures. Turns out that can be pretty rewarding.