Internships and the Benefits to Your Hotels

By Kim Hehir VP of Strategic Planning, The Leading Hotels of the World | October 28, 2008

According to a recent study conducted by tourism and training agency Cert, around 105,000 recruits will be needed in the tourism and hospitality industry over the next five years. An analysis of the employment and training needs of the sector found 25,000 recruits would be needed across a wide range of disciplines. An additional 100,000 vacancies would arise as a direct consequence of continuing labor turnover within individual businesses over the next five year period. Most growth is likely to be confined to the latter half of the period, mirroring employment prospects within the overall economy. The number of recruits required by each sector should peak in 2006, when hotels and restaurants alone will require more than 11,000 new employees. To retain staff, the industry is starting to improve its human resource management, particularly in areas such as pay, flexible working hours/days and career development.

Increased demand for skilled recruits is going to continue to be a challenge in every hotel. Therefore thinking creatively and drawing upon the resources of regional hospitality institutions can be extremely helpful in overcoming these challenges. Internship programs, for example, save not only recruitment and hiring time but also prove to have financial benefits. In addition to fulfilling temporary staffing needs, Internship placements prove to have long term return on investment by having a "readily available hiring pool" for full time positions after the student graduates. With the current labor statistics it is too risky to wait until the last minute to recruit. The internship program helps us get a jump.

One case study proves the financial benefits. A student was hired by a Leading Hotels of the World hotel in his last semester for three month internship. The management internship was a rotational position covering hotel operations, in the dining room, and housekeeping departments. Duties in the dining room included assisting the restaurant manager in daily operations, as well as working on special projects, such as tracking in-house guest forecast of future demand. Duties in housekeeping included training in different duties and shifts, simply shadowing floor supervisors. At the end of the program the intern was able to provide management with an overview of hotel operations in a report that summarized key learning points as well as recommendations for new inventory tracking systems. The overall recruitment and training cost including a 2 week orientation for the intern was 1,500 USD. During this time the student was able to learn, assimilate and relate to the company culture, forming a commitment to hotel's brand, mission and vision. After the completion of the three month internship, he was offered a full time Assistant Manager position upon graduation. By investing in the internship program the hotel was able to save on a permanent hire recruiting cost; average of 250 USD/hire; training cost; average 2500 USD/management training, and bring in an employee who buys into the hotel's culture; priceless.

Kelly Reyelt, Assistant Director of Human Resources from The New York Palace quotes; "Interns bring in new energy to the team. They can look at status quo situation and give recommendations on how to improve the existing system. Not only do they help with special projects but they also bring in fresh perspectives and cutting edge technology and systems into the job". The New York Palace had five summer interns in summer of 2004 and will fill two of its full time positions this year with past interns. If the student proves to be a good fit during the internship, it is easier for the hotel to decide which permanent position to offer them in order to create the highest degree of success both for the hire and employer.

The hotels should bear in mind that taking advantage of an internship program is more than hiring for a "temporary position". Even though the student will help fulfill immediate staffing needs, they should also be given challenging assignments and projects to help hotels gauge the student's problem solving and analyzing talents. The employer should be aware that even though the intern's immediate goal may be to get a permanent line or entry level management position; they are being trained to become the General Managers of the future. Therefore, it is the employer's challenge to stimulate the learning and career development of these future leaders by assigning special projects that will benefit both the intern and the hotel.

Generation Y also known as the Millennial Generation born in 80's is our intern age group at this time. They are known to be inner driven, striving to get ahead. They are generally outspoken and they represent the largest pool of young people in the job market today. In fact, that total number on Generation Y population is expected to reach 78 million. If you ever found yourself thinking; "they don't work as hard as we used to at that age" maybe we need to question the way we manage them. Carol Verret of Carol Verret Consulting and Training says "When confronted with a performance issue, the employee will sometimes just stare at the manager as though he or she is from another planet - in a way, the manager is from another planet if he or she is over thirty. What's even more frustrating to some hotel managers is Generation Y's total disinterest in 'sucking up' and tendency to bluntly tell the manger and other employees exactly what they think of a situation. They don't even care if you fire them - although they will seldom give a manager the opportunity to terminate them, they just leave!" So, how do we prepare ourselves to get commitment from this generation?

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