By Kunal Vasudeva
Integration of soft skills in the hospitality industry is not new. Soft skills are intrinsic to hospitality, but they have always existed in a more tacit manner. Acquiring soft skills in the customer centric industry is almost non-negotiable for hospitality professionals as well as aspirants. While they were always considered a valuable set of skills, it is only now that we are addressing how significant they are, are how proficiency in soft skills is as obligatory as hard skills.
Consumer behaviour is changing more rapidly than ever in the new world, and the industry needs to catch up. This demands for a stronger set of cognitive skills in professionals who can understand consumers’ state of mind and offer them a sense of calm, control, assurance and stability. As organisations realise the relevance of soft skills more, they are investing in training their workforce to enable the formulation of a long-lasting bond between customers and the brand. In addition, they are also modifying their recruitment process to select applicants possessing human skills. The impact these skills have on an individual employee not only enhance their performance but the overall performance of an organization.
Soft skills are vital for employees to keep pace with their organisation, customers and workflow. Initially, skills that facilitated critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, cultural engagement, and work management were considered to be picked up while on the job. Companies would spend a lot of resources on training employees and equipping them with the right set of soft skills to enhance their performance, elevate brand value and maximise monetary gains. Today instead of spending money on training employees, companies are going for selective hiring and investing the extra funds into technology so that routine work can be automated or outsourced to machines. This way, companies can augment the quality of their service as well as brand value.
Traditionally, companies would assess candidates on hard skills during recruitment. Hard skills are linked to the technical know-how of things and are skills required to perform a job well. These skills usually demand the acquisition of knowledge, and are seen as associated with an individual’s intelligence quotient. On the contrary, soft skills are associated with an individual’s emotional quotient and broadly include interpersonal, human, people, or behavioural skills. These were earlier seen as subsidiary to hard skills to be successful in management positions. Over time, they have claimed a more formidable place in organisations, as now organizations look for these skills in candidates applying for even entry-level jobs.
The importance of soft skills is recognized by industry leaders, who see value in soft skills and claim these to be as crucial as hard skills. In fact, people from hospitality make for great leaders across industries. To leave a mark and create a special bond with consumers, brands are looking for candidates with unique human capabilities who can adapt to changes, are culturally aware, manage dispute escalation, handle conflict resolution and create a positive environment both for guests and colleagues.
The role of education institutes is paramount here, who are also adapting by putting a greater emphasis on soft skills. They are helping students develop crucial life skills such as analytical abilities, communication skills, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, adaptability, integrity, optimism, self-motivation and resilience. A recent industry forecast published by Deloitte Access Economics stated that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 and that the number of jobs in soft-skill intensive occupations is expected to grow by 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations. The study further added that 70% of all future job profiles in the non-technical area would be made up of human-centric capabilities.
Hospitality institutions are also equipping industry aspirants with ‘Hospitality Intelligence’. This includes interpersonal skills such as emotional, social and cultural intelligence, as well as intrapersonal skills such as critical thinking, self-management, productivity, proactiveness and commitment. These skills lay the foundation for building strong brand loyalty and customer relationship. A blend of these skills will enable professionals to excel in areas of relationship management, crises handling, information delivery, and quick decision. Going forward, these skills, which will impact the future of work, are set to grow in importance and application.
The author is co-founder and COO of Indian School of Hospitality.