Facing difficulty in attracting, retaining manpower

Nina Varghese

The comparative low wages and long hours are the two main deterrents to new people joining the hotel industry.

Chennai, Nov. 20

Despite salaries in the hospitality sector going up by 40 to 50 per cent, hotel companies are finding it difficult to attract and retain skilled manpower, let alone talent, say hotel industry sources.

Poaching by cruise liners and IT companies, of skilled manpower from the hospitality sector, has forced hotel companies to take a hard look at staff welfare, human resource practices and, of course, better remuneration.

The comparative low wages and long hours are the two main deterrents to new people joining the hotel industry.

A junior manager or supervisor in a three-star hotel today earns anything between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000 per month from the Rs 4,000 per month three years ago, said Mr M.O. Koshy, Vice-President GRT Grand.

Today BPOs are hiring people with specialised domain knowledge and the starting salary for a fresh graduate would range between Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 per month, industry sources said. But with just one or two years of experience, a person could get about Rs 18,000 per month.

Staff from hotels are also being wooed by cruise liners. According to the job sites, the salary offered for a waiter ranges from $2,500 to $4,000, while a busboy (assistant to waiter) can earn $1,500 to $3,000 depending on experience. IT companies are also hiring personnel with experience in the hospitality sector as facility managers.

The long hours that the junior level employees clock in at hotels have also been an issue. A senior manager at one of the five-star hotels said that young people are not willing to work long hours more than 16 hours at a stretch.

Rest, relaxation and social life have become important, he said.

Recognising this need, companies are starting various staff welfare measures, which include picnics, outings and other bonding activities. For example, Mr Koshy said that at GRT hotels employees are trained in soft skills. In some hotels, employees are encouraged to be multi-skilled. According to a recent survey by the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association, the attrition rate is about 15 to 20 per cent, which is equivalent to that in other industrial sectors. The survey said that many hotels are not only paying attention to the professional aspect of good HR practices, they are also conscious of the social side.

A number of hotels inspire their staff by awarding employees of the month and the year, rewarding outstanding services, celebrating birthdays and organising staff picnics.

Some hotels and chains give cash for occasions such as weddings and for education of employees' children, while others look after housing needs of employees. Some hotels maintain day-care centres for infants and run transportation facilities for employees.

Such HR practices raise the motivation level of the staff and cement their commitment to the company, the survey said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 21, 2006)
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