The sharp-eyed may have seen mega-hotel chain IHG’s recent announcement launching an online learning platform called IHG Skills Academy. The concept being to create a space for IHG and like-minded partners to offer online education courses and opportunities.
So why would a hotel chain, which like so many other tourism businesses are battling in the post-pandemic environment; put such a high priority on education? In short they realise the critical value of developing skills in the business; positioning themselves as an employer of choice and hence becoming a magnet in attracting talent.
Yasmin Diamond, Corporate Affairs EVP, commented, “With 6,000 IHG hotels in over 100 countries … Our IHG Academy programme has been invaluable in connecting our hotels with their communities, providing thousands of jobs … we’re committed to making a difference on an even larger scale … with the help of our incredible partners [and] a new digital format.”
New challenges require new solutions
The IHG Academy has been running since 2004. So what is new? The clue is in the word “digital.” They realise that new challenges, require new solutions and moving away from a legacy approach. Modern LMS (Learning Management Systems) or next-generation LXP (Learning Experience Platforms) use automation and personalization to make skills-building experiences engaging. Match the right course to the right person; allow the learner to take courses at a time that suits their lifestyle; and track progress with state-of-the-art data collection. Such platforms enable the creation of effective and valuable skills development programmes. Also, they do not cost nearly as much as you may fear, with prices having plummeted in recent years.
Why the emphasis on skills?
Recent years have shown a clear trend in skills-based learning becoming the future of talent development. Educational guru Donald Taylor, Chair at Learning Technologies Conference, runs an annual survey of priorities in the learning field. In the last two years “upskilling and reskilling” have dominated the survey at #1, well ahead of all other elements. This correlates with a massive increase from 2019 in Google searches for “upskilling and reskilling.” LinkedIn CEO, Ryan Roslansky also states that his company has seen a 21% increase in companies asking for skills rather than qualifications and positions. This reveals that companies are increasingly unwilling to trust a CV, i.e. honing in on actual skills, rather than hoping that previous posts will act as a proxy for the skills they need.
Moreover, companies who have successfully created a culture of skills development are consistently outperforming their peers. Not only do they become better at recruitment, they also excel at developing existing staff. Your people understand your unique culture and how to work. Critically you already know key facts about them, both as to their technical and behavioural strengths. Such employers give themselves a massive head-start. Skills can be deployed cross-functionally, with staff satisfaction growing as they see their personal development optimised.
What about smaller businesses or SME’s who make up over 90% of travel’s ecosystem?
So should such initiatives be the preserve of giant enterprises, with matching resources? What about smaller businesses or SME’s who make up over 90% of travel’s ecosystem? How can they compete? After all, we are all fishing from the same talent pool. Won’t they lose out? The problem is worsened by the fact that even businesses considered “large” in travel sector terms have slimmed down over the pandemic. So, unfortunately, resources previously responsible for strategic forward planning of talent management, have likely been axed. In such circumstances, travel leaders risk weakness in one of the most critical battlegrounds in the future competitive environment. A reactive short-term approach likely will not cut the mustard for your business in the future. To make matters worse, stats show that post-covid, the over-50’s are the largest demographic dropping out of the workforce. So if your strategy is to rely on passing knowledge down informally from this grouping, you may well be further disadvantaged.
In light of this, what can the vast majority of companies in the visitor economy do to compete?
Here are some simple rules to follow:
- Take advantage of the digital (or hybrid) learning mega-trend. LMS/LXP’s no longer cost the earth and they can springboard your efforts by acting as a delivery mechanism.
- Share resources: Build-your-own can be a long, slow and expensive process. Off-the-shelf solutions are available and provide a framework. The sector is burgeoning and you can always tweak over time to meet your specific needs. By joining a network you’ll meet many other businesses facing similar problems, many of whom can chip in with a speciality you can benefit from. N.B. even IHG rely on partners to deliver their strategic objectives.
- Bottle your super-power: get to the bottom both to the skills your business has, any gaps and what will be needed to thrive in the future. Don’t let your unique skills fritter away. If your business has a super-power, make sure you capture that “grey-hair” knowledge for future generations of your employees; whilst also evolving to meet future challenges. General Motors is a classic case, as they reskill their staff from a petrol past to the electric future.
Finally, you may be worried as to whether your staff will buy into a skills development programme?
Be assured that your teams won’t take much convincing of the merits of investing in them. The Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) MBA found that 92% of employees say that in work professional development is either important or very important to them. LinkedIn echoes this urging employers to, “Support new career paths for your employees.”
Finally, great customer service lies in the DNA of so many travel & tourism companies and simultaneously is one of the skills most in demand on LinkedIn. So you may be tapping into your own goldmine!