Survey insights that explore how the hospitality industry is currently offering both opportunities and drawbacks in the eyes of today’s young hospitality students. If the post-Covid labor shortage is to pick up, all key stakeholders must collaborate closely to refresh areas ranging from curriculums to working hours.

Worker shortage in the hospitality industry – A chronic problem

The hospitality industry is a people business and a labor-intensive industry that produces a considerable number of direct and indirect jobs worldwide. The attraction, selection and retention of “top talent” is therefore important. It is currently a major challenge faced by employers within the industry.

Traditionally, workers have pursued lifelong careers, working in one industry and, in many cases, one company for their entire working lives. More recently, this traditional model has been replaced by “patchwork” career structures in which workers frequently change employers within their industry, and many switch industries altogether. Against this backdrop, the hospitality industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage and employee turnover is one of the most critical challenges faced by hoteliers.

Temporary and part-time employment, as well as shift workers, are common characteristics of employment in hotels and this affects service quality. Moreover, factors such as digitalization, changes in customer needs, population demographics and the Covid-19 crisis have influenced the current state of the hotel labor market. The reputation of the hotel industry as an employer has remained mixed. On the one hand there are excellent practices in some organizations and on the other hand perceptions of poor pay, challenging working conditions, and limited opportunities for growth and development still prevail.

What motivates and demotivates hospitality students to enter the industry?

We wanted to take a closer look at the supply side of the labor market. More specifically, we were interested in finding out what attracts hospitality students to careers in the industry. Traditionally, the factors have the greatest impact on a graduate’s decision to work in the tourism and hospitality industry are the following:

  • Interesting work
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Secure future
  • Good salary
  • Opportunities to serve the community
  • Social prestige

Numerous studies have examined the negative attitudes of potential job applicants toward working in the tourism and hotel industry in several regions. The list of common factors contributing to negative perceptions are listed below:

  • Work-life balance
  • Low compensation
  • Low-skilled positions
  • Long working hours
  • High level of stress
  • Poor working conditions
  • Seasonality
  • Limited access to promotion
  • A changing workforce
  • Limited training
  • Low social status
  • Unqualified leaders
  • Overall low job satisfaction.

According to a recent survey of hospitality students

In order to find out more about what attracts (and repels) hospitality graduates, we recently conducted a survey among undergraduate and postgraduate EHL hospitality students. 437 students completed the survey which focused on 12 factors that respondents found important when seeking employment. In addition, we wanted to know how well they thought hospitality industry jobs could deliver on these factors. The results are highlighted below.

What factors are important for you when considering employment after graduation?

As shown in the table above, our results suggest that a nice working environment, a sense of purpose as well as training and development opportunities are at the top of hospitality graduates’ wish list. Somewhat surprisingly, elements like job security, job mobility and flexible working hours are considered less important.

In the next step, we wanted to find out to what extent graduates perceive that hospitality industry jobs can deliver on the factors they desire. This approach also allowed us to highlight the biggest gaps between what students are looking for and what they believe the industry has to offer. Positive gaps (i.e. the industry overdelivers) are highlighted in green), negative gaps (i.e. the hospitality industry underdelivers) are highlighted in red.

A career in hospitality offers you the factors that you find important

Not surprisingly, hospitality jobs are perceived as offering plenty of opportunities for human interaction as well as job mobility. A university degree is also perceived to be beneficial in the hospitality environment. On these factors, the industry offers more than what students desire.

On the other end of the scale, we find life-work balance, reasonable workloads, high earnings over the length of a career and a nice working environment. In these areas, the job environment that the hospitality industry can offer is perceived to be most severely lacking.

Action time

The hospitality industry already had a labor shortage problem and the Covid pandemic accelerated this issue. It is unlikely that the situation can be overcome unless key stakeholders work closely together. Universities and schools will need to play their role in ensuring students are being given realistic expectations for their first entry job and the type of position available in the industry. Governments may also have a role to play in ensuring the link between fresh graduates and hospitality recruiters. All in all, it appears essential to work more closely with the industry for internship onboarding as well as designing the future curriculum for hospitality students.

By AKDSEO