A skills-led approach to a successful reopening
What stands out during the Covid-19 health crisis is the importance of skilling employees effectively and with purpose. It underpins many emerging business recovery plans and is crucial to creating a more resilient and agile tourism industry, better positioned to cope with the unexpected. Skilling a workforce, whether furloughed or active, has supported both business and employees because looking after its people will be rewarded by customer loyalty and will attract the best and brightest future talent.
The speed with which businesses have had to adapt and change culture, structure and even core product or service has highlighted the need for critical social skills integrated into job roles at all levels. In a bid to restore consumer confidence and get their people up and running as they prepare to re-open, employers are taking this skills-led approach to both managing the transition back to work as well as being ready for customers.
HR and training departments are reworking entire organisational structures- moving to online, flexible working- in order to maintain strong links with employees, clients and suppliers where honesty, empathy and transparency have been crucial and appreciated throughout the pandemic, even if difficult to hear.
“Continued communication is key to help staff transition back. We believe every colleague has made a contribution to our long-term survival, whether that has been accepting furlough or working throughout. We acknowledge this regularly, to create a cohesive supportive community, with one goal. In uncertain times, people want reassurance, confidence and security and to be treated with integrity.”
Melanie Quinn, Head of Sales and Customer Relations, Clyde Travel Management
Organisations supporting employees and looking after their mental and emotional wellbeing will be best prepared. Maintaining strong links between workforce and business will strengthen an already loyal team, invested in and committed to supporting difficult but unavoidable business decisions. Those companies that don’t treat employees with respect and consideration may well find their brand is irreversibly damaged.
“I do think a good employer brand and culture is paramount to a successful business and for those employed by that company to truly believe you have their best interests at heart but also for those employees to have a good understanding of what it is you are up against as a business owner.”
Mel Phaure – Blue Cube
Preparing employees with the skills needed to operate in the new norm will, of course, benefit both business and staff. A workforce ‘ready to go’ is essential for a speedy reopening of one of the hardest hit industries. Consumers are eager to book day trips, hotel stays and meals out so many businesses will hit the ground running. But also, giving employees purpose and direction will positively affect their mental and emotional health and position the employer in a favourable light.
As bars, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions begin to open, there are encouraging signs consumers are willing and enthusiastic to escape the confines of their homes but they are wary and seek reassurance that all possible precautions have been considered. Two thousand people aged 18+ took part in a poll commissioned by People 1st International into behavioural attitudes and factors impacting a return to leisure activities The consumer survey noted there are five top influencing factors affecting their desire to return to such pursuits: crowd levels; ability to social distance; confidence in infection control measures; cleanliness and hygiene and, finally, confidence that staff have been trained in these measures.
Meeting these demands requires careful planning and utilising physical spaces safely whilst ensuring employees understand the latest guidance and how to confidently communicate with customers and their newly emerging expectations. Training in such measures is critical for a successful transition and, moreover, a consistency in training across industry would further drive consumer confidence.
The ability of leaders and managers to boost motivation, morale and productivity will be key according to more than three-quarters of respondents in People 1st International’s recent skills impact and recovery survey with over 500 UK employers. Managers need to be equipped with critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills to manage uncertainty as well as ensuring their teams feel confident and engaged. Other interpersonal skills and behaviours identified by employers are a more proactive approach to customer service (90.8%), developing new techniques such as active listening (80.8%) and persuading people to change their attitudes or behaviours (74.9%).
Relevant, recognised training is needed to drive consumer confidence across tourism businesses as they reopen, as well as tailored learning journeys to close moving forward. Businesses need to be proactive and reactive, adaptable and flexible in order to be ready for any unknown. An HR strategy that develops employee’s cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills and their flexibility and resilience will strengthen business and position them well for future challenges.
“For staff we are currently adapting our ‘Confidence & Effectiveness’ and Emotional Resilience training sessions, into an online format. Some sessions share techniques and interventions with staff to be both aware and care for their mental health and some courses for managers on how to support their teams during this transitional and sometimes stressful period.”
Lucy Clough, Group People Director, Hays Travel
More than half of employers identified the need to support the recovery phase with an industry-recognised, transferable, virtual training solution. In addition, almost two thirds (64%) endorse the creation of a recognised symbol, which can be publicly displayed to reassure customers. Such transparency was also highlighted in the consumer poll where more than half (54%) of consumers want assurance that staff have been trained in these new measures.
To meet this industry and customer need, WorldHost 2020 was developed to provide a bitesized, e-learning programme which prepares service professionals for front-line duty. This badge of commitment aligns to government guidelines and meets the professional standards for service operators, instilling confidence in both business and consumer.
Being prepared for an evolving workplace is essential. Investing in people, the human capital of the organisation, and in talent development has never been more imperative. Decent, rewarding work with equal opportunities from employers who build resilient business models with effective crisis management mechanisms and strategies will underpin the future success of tourism.
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