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The importance of being ready

Sandra Kelly, UK Director, People 1st International

According to the latest government announcement, the hospitality sector won’t start to open before early July as it currently stands. And, when it does special measures will be required. Clearly, this means careful preparation and planning, as employers will need to re-train staff and put in place new health and safety procedures. 

As the country gets back on its feet, this will be a mammoth task across multiple sectors. Over the past month, I’ve had numerous conversations with HRDs and senior L&D professionals in hospitality, tourism, retail and travel, and the consensus is that investing in the relevant training is essential. Many have also started other preparations, such as increasing regular cleaning, ensuring staff are protected, together with new technologies designed to help limit customer interaction with workers.

Here are some key take-aways from this period to help optimize business readiness:

Training, training, training: This will be key to restoring public confidence in the short-term. We have developed a new 'WorldHost 2020' programme – Keeping customers safe, which will focus on three key aspects; the working environment, peoples behavioural changes and health, safety and hygiene. 

Technology is key:  Invest in technology as well as technology training. As an example, Azzurri Group is working to allow customers to pre-order and pay without any contact with waiters. This investment mirrors our research with NTG (Next Tourism Generation Alliance) that highlighted the increasing demand for staff with digital skills.

Redesign for agility: We are hearing from employers that their people plans will evolve to be more agile, so that they are better equipped to deal with any unexpected risks and unforeseen future events. This is likely to mean new organisational design, as well as an increased focus on good management practice and flexibility. 

Think ahead: The best HR practice I have heard recently is where there has been a really strong focus on personal development plans for furloughed workers, both to help drive their own personal development, but also to prepare them for new business practice as businesses open up again.  

Decision making is essential: Strong leadership and decision-making skills will also be critical. Agile, confident leaders who are responsive to change will be in a better position to make quick and effective decisions for their businesses.

Use the re-set to make things better: Strong corporate social responsibility policies will help with investment, support and recovery packages. Reinforcing governance and best practice will provide protection for investors. And an increased focus on sustainability and green issues will address potential concerns from employees, customers and other key stakeholders. 

Stay close: We have seen fantastic examples of creative collaboration in this period. Hopefully, one take-away from Covid-19 will be the tangible benefits of working in partnership with other organisations as well as with other sectors.