"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to humbly suggest that in this new age, with the accelerated change, with the pace of disruptions increasing, we cannot afford for HR to play the defence strategy. We have to go on the offensive; we have to create our own future," Manpower Minister Dr Tan See Leng said at the launch.
- with inputs from Arina Sofiah
Singapore's Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng launched the Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) for the Hotel Industry today (Thursday, 18 May 2023), at the Hotel Human Capital Conference 2023 attended by HRO.
Jointly developed by Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), the JTM is supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Hotel Association, and the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU), in consultation with 105 hotels and eight education institutions.
The JTM identifies how technology as well as global and local trends will impact job roles and skills over the next three years, and will serve as a guide to employers and employees on the skills and talent needed to remain competitive, innovative, and sustainable.
On the whole, the JTM will support the continued growth of the hotel industry, and allow the industry to seize new opportunities with a future-ready workforce.
According to data shared by WSG and STB, the hotel industry in Singapore posted an encouraging year amid stronger demand for leisure and business travel. Zooming in, the average occupancy rate (AOR) for the first quarter of 2023 was 78%, which "compares well" against 2019’s pre-COVID AOR of 87%, while the average room rate and revenue per available room are higher compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Additionally, the hotel industry contributed more than 20% of the country's total tourism receipts (TR) last year, and employed 44% of its tourism workforce as of December 2022.
Commenting on this in his speech at the event, Minister Tan affirmed: "To sustain growth and meet consumer demand, the hotel industry must press on with efforts to continue to transform and build up capabilities.
"The Government will continue to give our unwavering support."
What the JTM for the Hotel Industry entails
The JTM identified four megatrends that will have a profound impact on the nature of hotel jobs:
- changing guest expectations as lifestyles evolve,
- an increasingly competitive landscape, and
- changing workforce aspirations.
It also assessed 87 current job roles, of which 40 are likely to be redesigned. Out of these 40, seven are expected to require extensive redesign due to increasing automation enabled by artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and robotics.
These roles include sales coordinator, reservations officer, and housekeeping coordinator roles. Meanwhile, the other 33 roles still require human intervention but may be augmented by technology, it was shared. These roles – such as engineers and housekeeping managers – require moderate redesign to equip job holders with new knowledge and abilities.
Next, the remaining 47 job roles continue to be highly dependent on human intervention but will require some upskilling. For example, it was added, an operations manager who uses property management systems should acquire new capabilities in consumer intelligence and sustainable procurement to develop strategic plans.
As shared further, with the JTM, hotels could also reconfigure existing jobs by "stacking”, i.e. merging job roles and equipping jobholders with new skillsets. Jobs can be combined horizontally across different functions, so that employees can focus on value-added tasks: for instance, a catering sales coordinator and assistant events executive can be stacked to become a sales and events associate.
Hotels can also merge roles within the same function: for example, a reservations supervisor and reservations agent can be stacked to become a reservations specialist.
'Hotel of Tomorrow'
To inspire hotels in their transformation journey, the JTM has envisioned the 'Hotel of Tomorrow' – where hotels are destinations in themselves, creating value with and for the community through novel concepts and thoughtfully-designed spaces.
This vision is influenced by three emerging areas: sustainability, technology, and placemaking.
Taking a closer look at the three areas:
- Sustainability: Hotels should hire talents in sustainability, who can combine their green credentials with a keen business sense and financial acumen. They can create sustainable experiences and chart the hotel’s sustainability journey.
- Technology: Hotels should hire and create roles for technophiles who are data-driven and innovative. These talents can develop guest-centric experiences and improve productivity.
- Placemaking: Hotels can offer new roles that create meaningful experiences in partnership with the community.
"Collectively, these give the hotel industry a competitive edge, while creating new and future-ready job roles," it was noted.
On this point, Minister Tan added at the event: "Apart from creating new and exciting job opportunities, I encourage employers in the industry to consider how you can continue to enhance and instill the excitement in the existing roles so that you can attract new talent and better retain experienced workers."
Currently, 135 hotels, employing more than 18,000 local workers as a whole, have committed to the JTM. One example cited is Pan Pacific Hotel Group, which is piloting a three-year workforce transformation roadmap to achieve business and manpower outcomes. The Group will also redesign roles, implement new initiatives to reimagine hotel operations, and address manpower challenges.
Apart from the above:
- STB and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), WSG, and SSG are also helping hotels retain and attract talent through job transformation.
- WSG has revamped its Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Tourism Professionals, to support the hotels, MICE, attractions, and travel agent and tourist guides industries. The CCP will serve all tourism professionals across roles, comprising 100% on-the-job training, with optional facilitated training for existing workers and new hires. The CCP will also develop the capabilities of existing and prospective tourism workers to take on job functions with emerging skillsets in areas such as sustainability, wellness, and placemaking.
About 1,500 workers from 60 hotels have participated in WSG’s CCP for Hotel Professionals since January 2020.
- WSG has also extended its volunteer Career Advisors initiative to the hotel industry. To date, over 360 volunteers across nine sectors, including growth sectors such as electronics, healthcare, logistics, ICT, and sustainability, have been trained and appointed.
The above-mentioned initiatives are in addition to ongoing programmes including STB's Training Industry Professionals in Tourism grant scheme, WSG's Support for Job Redesign under Productivity Solutions Grant, the Tourism Careers Hub by STB, NTUC, e2i, and WSG, and more.
Appealing to HR leaders to embrace the job transformation journey, Minister Tan shared: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to humbly suggest to you that in this new age, with the accelerated change and the pace of disruptions increasing, we cannot afford for HR to play defence as a strategy. We have to go on the offensive – we have to create our own future."
During a doorstop interview following the launch, Chris Teo, 2nd Vice-President, Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) and Chair of the Hotel Human Capital Advisory Committee, elaborated on the potential challenges facing the industry in undergoing transformation, how SHA will be working with HR across hotels to encourage the uptake of the JTM, and how the infusion of technology in the industry and job roles will help Singapore retain its status as a Tourism Hub.
Right now, under human capital, the main objective is to bring human capital into the industry, Teo shared. "We need people – we need to attract people to the industry in a new way. Your hotel job is no longer about shift work."
Instead, he added, it is now about keeping flexibility, putting hours together, and how to tap on Singaporeans who don't really understand the industry, and to create more awareness that there are new things to do in the industry. "It's not just purely [about] selling a cup of coffee. It's more than just service."
"And that will take time. This is just the beginning of it, but we see it as a very positive change for the industry."
Encouraging HR to take up the JTM
This is where the flow of information is very important, Teo notes. While the opening up of the market brings the need to deal with operational matters and certain issues, it is crucial that members [of SHA] continue to be informed. For instance, through house calls and visits, making personal contacts, or mini discussions with the industry.
Importantly, it also comes down to ensuring the staff involved in the transformation journey are engaged and on board.
"It's a constant process of engagement. And we do a lot of that. Even at our hotel level, we make sure our HR are correctly engaged with each employee to make sure that when it comes to job transformation, they are reskilling, going for classes, and so on.
"You have to understand that we are not changing the job skills or whatever, for no reason or no purpose. And I think gradually, the employees will feel the change and see the benefits of it. It takes time. Like I said, it's not changing someone's comfort zone or getting them out of their comfort zone. It's never going to be an easy task.
"But it takes time and it takes a lot of personal contact to do that. And it's our responsibility also, as owners and operators, to make sure that we have the right HR practices in place. Again, it's a human industry, right? We're not just dealing with machines, and everyone is in a way a little bit different individually.
"So yes, we do encourage them. We provide incentives for reskilling, and the benefits will be there in the future.
Maintaining the status of ‘Tourism Hub’
Here, Teo shares, the infusion of technology in the industry will be helpful in areas such as analytics and looking at the market data, as well as planning, especially with Singapore depending greatly on inbound tourism to support the industry.
It also comes back to the manpower situation, wherein the industry will be able to become more efficient in deploying manpower resources in its capacity. That, he stresses, is a big push to adopt.
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All photos / HRO