“Talent” in the Hospitality World

A Comprehensive Look at How an Overused Word Applies To the Hotel Industry

By Larry Mogelonsky President & Founder, LMA Communications | May 18, 2014

Originally, I had set out to write a short, inspirational manifesto about the nature of innate talent versus the merits of hard work. But as more and more evidence mounted, I realized that there is a lot more behind the word 'talent', especially when applied to the hospitality industry. Even though the simple conclusion, in a strict business sense, is that hard work and dedication to one's job will always trump talent, the real answer is mired in gray.

For starters, how would you describe a 'talented hotelier'? Does this modifier imply the same attributes when compared to that of a talented athlete or a talented entertainer? Can the term even be applied to the world of hotel operations and management? If you'll have me, let's take a closer look at some of the lurking qualities of talent to see if perhaps there is more we can do to foster the talented hoteliers among us and improve our own skills to the point where we too might be labeled as 'talented'.

Destined for Hospitality

When trying to decode the hidden contributors to talent, it's inevitable that one delve into the lives of many disparate and prolific personalities from the annals of history. A common thread you might find through various accounts, biographies and memoirs is that a person is described as 'destined for' a certain profession where they would later flourish. This implies that, rather than being a tabula rasa, an individual can somehow be preternaturally earmarked for a given occupation from birth. Whatever your beliefs in the existence of fate and divine machinations, there is conclusive evidence showing that to be 'destined for' something – and thus to be talented in that something later on in life – arises from environmental influences in our early childhoods.

A classic example: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In retrospect, it's easy to say he was destined to be music talent incarnate, writing his first digestible composition by age six before crafting dozens of masterpieces throughout his teens and early adulthood. Alas, though, this is a naïve conception of the man.

To understand Mozart, we must also know his father, Leopold. As a work-from-home composer and teacher, Leopold was skilled in both music and mentorship – two insurmountable gifts to a child's sponge-like mind. With Leopold as a resident musician, a day in the life of infant Mozart would be one brimming with melody, so much so that Mozart's brain would learn music's structure and rhythm intrinsically similarly to how we learn our first language. Aside from mere noise, the walls of Mozart's domicile would also pulse with Leopold's own insatiable enthusiasm for orchestral oeuvre – a passion that rubbed off on his offspring. Lastly, as an experienced teacher, Leopold would know how best to train his soon-to-be-prodigal son, having wrought out the kinks in his instructional approach over the years of tutoring other children.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.