Employee Development

A College Degree is Not a Proxy for What You Can Do - By John Hendrie

For years, organizations have been wired to requiring college degrees for their new hires. College degrees were mandated on job specifications, until challenged by law. Now, in many cases they are shown as a 'preferable'.

LRA Worldwide For years, organizations have been wired to requiring college degrees for their new hires.  College degrees were mandated on job specifications, until challenged by law.  Now, in many cases they are shown as a “preferable”. With the changing size and dynamics of the labor pool, we have learned that a college degree is relevant, but that hiring companies are far more interested in what you can do with what you have learned. 

Hospitality is very much of a traditional business.  Our entry needs are met by “warm bodies”; our entry managerial level often “transient” rather than competitive talent.   Many of our industry college grads believe they have the answers and seek immediate reward and advancement, rather than putting in some time to really learn the business.  That is one reason we have always demonstrated such a high turnover rate, particularly in our middle management ranks.  Folks are just not patient, and the “grass is always greener” elsewhere.  And, Hospitality goes merrily along accepting this high turnover rate, rather than acknowledging that this is really money walking and the continuation of the revolving door theory of hiring.  It is hard to attract talent, when all you pay is minimum wage for entry level management.  Thoughts on retention and reward are few.  By and large, college degrees are seen as beneficial but hardly essential.

Talent for Hospitality operations is not a big secret.  We try to hire for attitude and appreciation for service, attention and care.  Everything else can be trained (if we decide to engage in that investment).  So, we trudge along, accept mediocrity and make due.  Maybe it is time to look outside the box with our sourcing strategies.

Thomas Friedman, in a “New York Times” Op Ed piece on February 23, 2014, shared some of the creative thinking of Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock.  He starts out with some pretty alarming claims, “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless…We found that they do not predict anything”.  Whoa, there goes our traditional, historical perspective right out the window.

Admittedly, Hospitality is not directly similar to Google, but Bork presented five hiring attributes his organization employs to surface high calibre talent.  It is a given that the applicants for technical roles have some skills.  Firstly, they look at general Cognitive Ability - not I.Q., but rather learning ability, processing on the fly, integrating disparate bits of information.  The second facet is Emergent Leadership skills – the ability to step in and lead, as well as the sense when to step back and the cede power dynamic. He moves to the third and fourth attributes with Humility and Ownership.  That sense of responsibility to step into the process, as well as the ability to accept the better ideas of others, ultimately working together to problem solve.  He further talks about intellectual humility, for without this capacity you do not learn.  Lastly and least important, Google considers Expertise.

Just as Hospitality is not a leader in employee development, we also lag in innovation, which opens the doors for the future.  Innovation is a group effort, and as Friedman points out, “…it (innovation) also cares about a lot of soft skills – leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn”.  I would hope our Hospitality organizations have some of that capacity as we on-board our future leaders!


LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit www.LRAworldwide.com.

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