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Prof. Conrad Lashely: “Train the managers”

21.05.2012No Comments

FELU has hosted Professor Conrad Lashley from Oxford Brooks University, facilitating a two day module on HRM and Quality management, the fourth module of the Tourism and Hospitality Business academy. Professor Lashley has enriched the programme with proactive engagement from the participants explaining their specific roles in the process through a series of case studies.  Having come to Slovenia for the first time, he found it charming and hospitable, considering returning perhaps another time.

The aim of this module was to showcase the importance of appropriate HR management techniques in the tourism and hospitality sector. Highlighting firstly the need for identifying social aspects of the learning styles for employees and how to build on the strengths and work on the weaknesses. “It is crucial to know who you are dealing with when managing people.” Adding that the majority within this sector are activist learners according to extensive surveys that he has conducted and the key is in developing reflective practitioners for this business.

Going through the module, labour turnover and associated costs were identified as a major problem, where the industry needs to tackle the correlation between training and performance. Not asking enough questions leads to lack of measurable results and in the long run falsely identifying labour and investment as a cost, rather than an asset.

Presenting several case studies from his actual work with the commercial sector, it was clear that there are several methods for successful management varying from the nature of the business itself and how it strives to accomplish its competitive edge. To emphasise one, using group dynamics and working as a team; for example with quality circles is just one way of successful team leadership that is required from the managerial perspective. Key being in quality management focused on working with the employees rather than being overly task oriented.

On the other hand, keeping in mind that Branding is of great importance when communicating with your customers, plainly meaning that you are setting certain expectations which your customers may relate to and knowing what their needs are. It is not all that simple though; since keeping in mind the cultural differences and limitations when dealing in a global market is not to be overlooked.

Find out more in the interview from Aleksander Brankov, a member of FELU’s “EF-news” team.

1.    Employees in the tourism industry and the increase of IT solutions, how would you describe the current trends?

Obviously, IT has had an impact, making services more efficient and cheaper. Nowadays, you may well do everything online. However, I see limitations to this automatism, since fundamentally we’re dealing with hospitality and that implies human relations and emotions.

2.    Are front-line service providers facing any notable changes regarding customer satisfaction?

If we’re talking about staff, it all comes down to proper training, developing skills and proper rewarding. There is a problem with incompetent management, who sees people merely as costs. It should rather invest in loyalty and performance, developing employee satisfaction. There is a notable tendency towards automation, not building a competitive edge.

3.    What is of key importance for acquiring and ultimately, keeping the competitive edge?

Having to choose one out of many ways to do so, I’d definitely say, encouraging customer relationship building. I’ve been working closely with many companies and would like to point out an example of JD Wetherspoon, a British Pub chain and hotel business operating about 835 pubs in the UK, whose employees are being reward for memorising the favourite drinks of at least 100 customers.

4.    Customer satisfaction orientation and business process management, what about employee satisfaction? Is there a way not to neglect one or the other and if so, how?

The key to ultimate success is in managing in a more inclusive way; the employees should feel that they are contributing and share their wisdom. You might be surprised how many great ideas can come up from your employees, dealing with customers on a daily basis. It is a fundamental starting point, to take care of satisfaction in the work place firstly. Happy employees make happy customers.

5.    In general, does management possess the tools and techniques needed to be successful?

One of the main weaknesses is poorly trained management. A great deal of work has to be put into making them more professional at their job and having realised that their main focus should be dealing with people rather than tasks in order to be successful. They should be able to ask the right questions.

6.    Do their employees have the skills and knowledge and what are those?

It’ll vary from case to case while the major pattern appears to be in the failure to train them appropriately. The majority of training is done to meet the legislative requirements such as health and safety instead of paying attention to customer care, allowing them to understand and meet the expectations of their customers.

7.    Having come to Slovenia, you have probably experienced the hospitality and hospitableness first hand, what were/are your first impressions?

I would have to say that my experience was very pleasant. I found the staff to be really friendly and moreover, having dined in a nearby restaurant in the city centre, the service was excellent regardless of the fact that the staff had their hands full due to a full restaurant of guests.

8.    How would you evaluate Slovenia’s tourism industry? What potential do we have and are we harnessing it?

I’m not really familiar with the situation in Slovenia, in order to develop tourism; service quality is of key importance. In the UK at least, there is far too much liberalism. Back in the days, there used to be a levy, a certain percentage paid by the industry that was later on given back to the companies that invested their money into training. I would recommend a licence for practice that should be determined by proper training of the employees.

If we assume that the tourism industry in Slovenia is on the lower end of the curve, evolving from local recognised brands of hotels for example will retain the need for major brands as the volume of tourism increases. Brands are all about setting expectations for your customers.

9.    Would you have any recommendations for improvement and what role does the Faculty of economics have in this manner?

Ultimately there is a need for confrontation with issues such as high labour turnover rates or the fact that there are numerous organisations that don’t even bother to measure those and all the substantial costs associated with this problem. There is an enormous price tag put to hiring and training, not to mention the working hours spent by management in securing new job posts.

Naturally, the specialists have to be trained in order to train and those come from the faculties. It should play a great role in providing the future managers with the tools and skills in order to guarantee progress. Also, there should be much more common involvement between the industry and academia where initiatives should come from both sides.

10.  You are an advisor on hospitality and tourism to the Australian government, If you would compare Australia and Slovenia, what would you emphasise and what in your opinion is the difference?

Well, Australians tend to think that they’re a long way from the rest of us. Firstly, they invested about $30 million for promotion, to attract tourist from the old continent while they’ve been let’s say a bit short-sighted about the Confucian background tourists and this, they have to change. In Slovenia on the other hand, the market is right at your doorsteps.


Aleksander Brankov, efnews

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