Occasionally we are all truly inspired, yesterday we were fortunate to discover the letter below from Dr. Hilary Cooke FIH. We were even more fortunate when Hilary allowed us to publish it, enjoy…
This is an open letter to all parents – and grandparents, aunts and uncles…and teachers. Yes, definitely teachers too.
You see, NOW IS THE TIME TO actively encourage your young people to enter into hospitality as their profession of choice and my purpose here is to give you some evidence-based reasons why…
Firstly, I feel compelled to do this. The urge is so strong it kept me awake last night until it was done, because I happen to know that research exists suggesting that 60% of you out there would actively discourage your children from considering hospitality as a career choice. The main reason seems to be that you have an outdated impression of poor pay and unsociable hours. Your beautiful, talented and much loved children deserve properly informed and up to date advice on their careers and this might take me a while, but please stay with me and read on…
Firstly, what started me off on this was attending the 26th Hotel General Managers Conference, organised by the Master Innholders. For the last 2 days, I have been privileged to be in the company of about 500 of the best professionals in the business and representing stellar organisations and operations that anyone would be proud to be part of. Looking around the grand ballroom at the InterContinental O2, I was inspired and humbled in equal measure and that state always moves me. It also creeps up on me frequently, and at times overwhelms me with gratitude at the charmed existence I have enjoyed through my chosen career in, and associated with, hotel management. So, I feel compelled to share and it seems that NOW IS THE TIME TO…
That feeling of inspired gratitude might be created through an expertly executed plate of food, a beautiful interior, a fabulous view from a bedroom window, or a mere act of genuine hospitality that makes me feel welcome. Some time ago, I was working for the Master Innholders, doing what I love most developing their future leaders. It was Christmas season and Park Lane was in all its festive glory. The promenade at the Dorchester had an exquisite scaled model of the hotel, made entirely of gingerbread, with sugar taxis and a perfect Ferrari parked up in the miniature front. It had been lit from the inside by some dedicated and inspired maintenance engineers, working in collaboration with the talented pastry team. The flowers throughout the hotel were simply beautiful and styled by the (then) 23 year old head florist. I was being paid to do work I love in such surroundings of talent, tradition and team work.
It happened again then, that overwhelming feeling of privilege and joy that this is my world and has been for over 40 years. It’s not my hotel, but boy did I feel proud by association. I was so overcome that during a break on that grey and dismal December day, I phoned my parents to thank them for encouraging me to follow my heart and find myself in my career. My beloved father answered the phone and I am so pleased I made that call because that opportunity ceased to exist soon afterwards, and he is sadly no longer around to tell important stuff like that.
So you see, if I don’t write this letter now, I may deprive you as a parent of taking a similar call in 40 years’ time from your grateful child for encouraging them to lead such a fulfilled, fun and exciting life! If you are a teacher, I guarantee you will be fondly remembered and toasted with champagne in years to come for giving that one word of encouragement, so please do it.
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
I realise that I may present as being a bit sentimental about all this, but you see I simply love my tribe and this industry, and it makes me feel sad that other people might be deprived of the opportunity of sharing this magical experience. Especially if the reason they are put off is because of fake news. That’s a sad waste in my book.
Seriously, it is not just me – ask anyone who has found their right place and you will get a torrent of passion and love for what we do. There are lots of us out there. We just don’t have a loud enough collective voice (yet) to drown out an outdated and ill-informed perspective of our lifestyle and industry.
So that’s the first reason for encouraging them, because passion, love, privilege and inner pride are pretty vital elements of working life – and as they are likely to be working for longer, then even more so.
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
OK, so let’s bust some more myths while we are here and still talking to each other. Let me explode to smithereens the one that educationalists seem to cling on to about the kids being on track for good grades and that somehow, they would be demeaning themselves or squandering their talents by entering our world. PURLEASSSE! Have you the tiniest idea about just how intellectual and scientific running a successful hotel actually is? Or do you think we all just hang around in reception in second hand suits waiting to greet people with a limp handshake, like a sort of underpaid Tim-nice-but-dim figure?
Let me assure that collectively we are a very smart bunch of professionals in multiple fields, often multi-lingual, and need the sharpest brains and the best trained minds to take us forward in the future. Not only chefs and waiters and the visible roles you will see in a hotel, but analysts, accountants, operators, crafts people, cleaning specialists, change agents, leaders of large teams, operational managers, engineers, technicians, sale people, digital marketing whizzes, strategists, designers, creators, entrepreneurs – the list is endless and the opportunities outstanding. We can cover a whole MBA syllabus in a month in a hotel and a whole stage 3 syllabus just with a pizza as a topic of learning, (I’ve done both) so please let that one go.
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
Equality, inclusion and diversity? We practically invented it, been doing it for ever and share best practice with other industries who are way behind our curve. We have brilliant women in very senior positions and continue to work on it so that we are even more proactive on equal opportunities at board level. We are not there yet, but my goodness are we trying. If the academic route is not your child’s forte, then there are multiple career paths that they can follow and gain full support to achieve their full potential with apprenticeships on offer at all levels and a wide variety of disciplines. Neuro-diversity, disability – bring them on too while you are at it. As hotel people, we may be commercial and clever, but we are also kind and caring in spades. We love people you see – it’s in our career DNA.
Engagement and employee welfare? We measure it carefully, regularly and rigorously. We also have one of the best and most generous employee assistance and benevolent associations in the world in Hospitality Action, capable of proactively assisting anyone in anything from post trauma counselling (when bad people do bad things in our neighbourhoods and we have to protect our guests) to a minor concern about someone else’s well-being. We care you see – we actually CARE!
Learning and development? Plenty and then plenty more on offer. Our learning and development teams are well trained and dedicated people that are the envy of other sectors. (We know because they try and steal them so often.) If you or child are not given some form of performance review and structured development opportunities within a year, then you are simply not working for the right people. Don’t blame the industry, move on to someone else who does it properly. Be a race horse, not a donkey. Tell your children, pass it on.
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
Life experience and travel opportunities? We are a global industry and hotels exist in every corner of the world – how long have you got? Fetch an atlas and stick a pin in it at random – that’ll be a hotel then.
How am I doing so far? Oh yes, still to come and be busted, that well-trodden argument about pay and hours. It’s true that we don’t tend to work 9-5 and weekends are part of our landscape, especially in the early days. However, we don’t often have to travel in rush hour either and can always get a haircut or appointment at the time we want one and Christmas shop without queuing. A mid-week lie-in is pretty nice too.
The main point here is that, you really need to compare us and what we offer with other industries and opportunities. You may be seduced by the idea of professions like medicine, law, teaching and accountancy, but I am at the time in life where I am witnessing my own children, nieces, nephews (lots), friends of my children and children of my friends, all at various stages of managing the boulders on their own career paths as they progress in their world of work. I am stunned at what other sectors do to their people and how little they care, the hours that these young people work and how little they are paid or appreciated in many cases. It’s not all roses out there either I can tell you.
OK, so I hear you say “but a trainee solicitor will earn a lot of money later in life once they qualify,” and my reply is that you clearly need to get out more in the company of some qualified executive chefs, restaurant managers, general managers and any hotel or hospitality people who are at the top of their game. They earn pretty well and believe me, they are a lot more fit, fabulous and fun to be with! They choose better wines too.
Seriously speaking, the earning opportunities are there, and they are comparably generous and rewarding with other sectors. You just need to put the effort in to the early stages and it will come right. Hotel management is always pretty near the top scoring in any Government survey on happiness too – so double bonus.
As an industry, we know that we need young people to join us. We have sleepless nights worrying about it and proactively planning how to reach them. But actually, I think it is equally true that young people need us if they want to thrive in life, love what they do and develop and grow technical and personal skills that are simply not on offer in other sectors.
Hopefully I have made you think about our industry differently and in turn you will encourage just one young person to consider us. If you want to know more, then just contact me, a hotel in your area or Springboard UK and we will literally fall over ourselves to invite you in to our lovely world and share our passion. We’ll probably even give you tea and cake because we value hospitality.
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
Thank you for staying with this and reading to the end.
But the biggest thanks of all to all those immaculate, elegant, kind, clever and awesome colleagues at the conference who inspired me to write this. You rock!
NOW IS THE TIME TO…
Say a HUGE Thank You from H&C News to Hilary for allowing us to publish this stirring tribute to Hospitality.