It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; staying on top of emerging trends and having the flexibility to take advantage of them is an important part of running a successful business.

For those of us working in the hospitality industry, it’s essential.

So, when we read a recent JLL article about how “Hotels are stepping up their efforts to give back to local communities in response to increasing pressure from travellers”, we thought we’d do a bit more investigating.

First of all, here’s the thing about JLL, aka Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated.

JLL are a global commercial real estate company that was founded in the UK and has offices all over the world. It also has a Hotels & Hospitality division that regularly publishes data and op-eds related to our industry. However, because it’s almost always information that’s coming from a real estate and investment management perspective, we tend to skim over it when we’re looking for news our clients and readers might find useful. Let’s face it; times are hectic enough. The last thing you need when you’re running your own hospitality business is to be bombarded by e-junk that won’t help you find the talented staff you need to make your business outstanding (Hint: we can) but will mention the words ‘portfolio management’ and ‘cost and risk mitigation’ so often your eyes will glaze over.

This time, though, JLL’s latest article does contain some nuggets that we think are important. Also, even though it’s focused on hotels, what the article talks about is relevant to every other business in the hospitality industry – restaurants, bars, leisure facilities, suppliers, and even leading recruiters of first-class hospitality candidates like us here at Prime!

Plus, many months ago, the “Travellers will aim to travel and eat more sustainably” section in Hilton Hotels’ 2022 Emerging Trends report went into quite a bit of detail about this too. So it seems like a subject none of us should ignore.

The nuggets

  • recent survey of travellers found that 58% want their trip to benefit the local economy.

Consumer consciousness is rising. Almost half of hotel guests are now aged between 18 and 36, and they want to know where the leadership of hotels stand on social issues. Just as importantly, they want to stay at the hotels whose social values align most closely with their own.

It’s the same for employees. People want to work for companies and employers who share the same values they do. (I’ll talk a lot more about that in a moment because what we found out when our investigation took us down that rabbit hole is the secret setting-your-business-apart-from-your-competition ingredient that we believe every hospitality employer should know about.)

  • Many tourists are already travelling with intent.

Again, JLL says ‘tourists’, but if tourists are travelling with intent, you can bet your customers and clients are choosing where to spend their money with intent as well.

What does ‘with intent’ mean? According to JLL’s Global CEO of Hotels & Hospitality, Gilda Perez-Alvarado, “Hotels are starting to cater for the more socially minded guest by sourcing from small local businesses, seeking out local guides, curating authentic, off-the-beaten-track activities and championing community projects.”

According to Hilton Hotel’s Senior Vice President of Food and Beverages, Tom Walters, it also means that “Food and beverage communities have developed closer ties to their neighbours, who helped them get through the pandemic, and that is increasingly reflected in their menus, producing more local and sustainably sourced dishes and experiences than ever before.”

If you can show your socially conscious customers that your hospitality business is doing the same thing and/or upholding a social value(s) that they strongly believe in themselves, the emerging trends tell us they’ll want to support you.

  • It’s not just hotel guests that have reservations… hotel staff do, too.

Completely different reservations, of course.

Reservations about how their employers and leaders run the business they’re part of.

The World Travel & Tourism Council has reported that, at the height of the pandemic, up to one million hospitality and tourism jobs were being lost daily, with many leaving the industry for good. JLL’s Perez-Alvarado also points out, “most of those job losses were women, so in terms of the impact that has on society, it’s pretty massive.”

Of course, the one million jobs lost per day that the World Travel & Tourism Council quotes is a global figure. As far as the UK is concerned, the Hospitality Industry and Covid-19 research report published in May 2022 by the House of Commons states, “From January-March 2020 to October-December 2021, the number of workers in the accommodation and food service sector fell by 3.6% (90,000). This compares to a 1.3% decline in jobs across all industries.”

The result is the same, whether we look at the emerging trend globally or just in the UK. Ex-employees either haven’t returned to our industry because they have reservations about how they were treated and how their leaders were leading, and a significant number of employees who are still working in our industry are feeling the same way. This is also a big reason why many hospitality employers find it extremely difficult to hire new staff, even though there are still many unemployed people looking for work. In the words of Jessica Jahns, Head of Pan-EMEA Hotels & Hospitality Research, “Increasingly, operators need to focus on a holistic employee recruitment, training and retention experience, as well as paying the minimum living wage.”

If you’re one of our clients or a regular reader of our articles, you’ll know that our advice is to do much more than that if you want to attract and retain the best team members. In our opinion, the biggest part of the “recruitment, training and retention experience” (to use Jahns’ words) is regularly demonstrating how much your employees are valued. That includes offering more competitive pay rates, more career development opportunities, and a more supportive workplace culture.

  • With environmental and social impact under evermore scrutiny, and in the face of chronic labour shortages, embedding social practices into your workplace can attract talent and global travellers.

I’ve paraphrased that last nugget a lot. JLL’s actual advice is that investors, lenders, and operators need to address the emerging trends by “coming together to look at ESG as an integral part of their risk management.”

Please stick with this because the secret ingredient I promised is coming up very soon.

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance. Probably the easiest way to describe ESG is by lifting this quote from the tax, audit, and advisory services provider KPMG’s website:

“Your stakeholders are increasingly informing their decisions based on your environmental, social and governance credentials. Consumers are choosing brands for their ethical behaviour and their record on climate change… and governments are implementing regulations requiring organisations to increase transparency in areas such as diversity, equal pay, carbon emissions, and modern slavery. That makes your ESG efforts crucial to long-term value creation and growth.”

In other words, your stakeholders – i.e. your customers, your staff, your suppliers, and everyone else you work with – want to know your social values. If your social values are the same as theirs, they’ll be much more likely to walk through your doors and keep coming back.

This leads us to the secret ingredient that, we believe, could set your business apart from your competition and make recruiting and retaining staff a lot easier.

ESGs are an investor thing, but we did a bit more digging and found out there’s a United Nations-backed equivalent called SDGs that they’re encouraging businesses like yours all around the world to follow. The UK government wants you to follow them too. When 193 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UK was one of the first signatories.

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 goals/values that aim to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, tackle climate change, and make your business more profitable and successful. (Okay, the words the UN and the UK government uses are ‘more sustainable’, but it’s the same thing.)

Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman called them “the biggest business opportunity of our lifetime.”

Here’s what they look like:

The good news is, you don’t have to do all of them. To start, choose the one or two goals that connect most closely with you and your team members and take it from there. You can always add more goals later. The important thing is to take action on at least one of them and let everyone know that’s what you’re doing.

Why should your business follow the SDGs?

Because it meets the emerging trend that most customers want to support hospitality businesses that uphold social values. Most staff want to work for businesses that uphold social values too.

Think about it. As a customer, wouldn’t you be more inclined to eat in a restaurant, drink in a bar, or stay at a hotel that is focused on the SDG of ending hunger, promoting gender equality, protecting our oceans, or standing up for peace? If you wouldn’t, that’s fine, but there’s a mountain of research out there that says a considerable number of customers will.

It’s the same for candidates seeking hospitality roles, employees already in roles, and suppliers. All of them would prefer to work for/with hospitality businesses that hold similar values.

Following an SDG or two could, over time, benefit your business immeasurably.

How do you do it?

Look at the 17 SDGs closely. The chances are there’s at least one SDG you’re already contributing to and didn’t even realise (if you’re a restaurant, SDG 3, ‘Good Health and Well-Being’ is hopefully it!)

In that case, what else could you do to support that SDG?

Also, it’s vital to let your employees, customers, competitors, suppliers, and the outside world know you’ve got an SDG that your business is actively committed to achieving. When you do, it shows how seriously you’re taking your business, and it demonstrates the responsibility you feel towards everything from the future of your local community to the future of our planet.

Your customers, employees and suppliers will appreciate that.

What if you don’t already follow an SDG?

That’s easy. Just look at the list of 17 and concentrate on the one or two that really strike a chord with you. Even better, get your team members involved and find out which SDGs they’d like your business should follow. Choose one or two and then start implementing them.

Finding out which SDGs your team members connect to, instead of imposing the SDGs you think your business should follow onto them, is a powerful way to get them engaged and excited about what you’re all doing. That’s because the SDGs you select will relate most closely to the values they care about. Every day, they’ll know they’re upholding a social value that’s important to them, and that sense of pride, commitment, and job satisfaction will shine through in everything they do.

But what if some of your team members, customers, etc., don’t care about your chosen SDGs as much as you do?

It doesn’t matter. For example, suppose your customer is more passionate about SDG 7 (‘Affordable and Clean Energy’) than the SDG 1 (‘No Poverty’) your business is following. In that case, they’ll still want to support you because at least you’re demonstrating your social conscience by upholding a value they can understand. The fact you’re following an SDG and taking positive steps to make the world better is what’s important.

It’s the same with any team member whose preferred SDG differs from yours. If they can see you sincerely care about the SDGs you’re aiming to achieve, if they understand why you care, why they should care, and see the benefits that come from achieving that SDG day in and day out, they’ll be motivated to follow it too.

What’s critical is this: whatever SDG you select, you must follow it wholeheartedly. Don’t just pay it lip service. Explore all the ways you can make that SDG part of how you do your business does things and make the changes accordingly. If your SDG is ‘Zero Hunger’, maybe you could donate the day’s unpurchased food or soon-to-be-out-of-date ingredients to a charity that’ll distribute it to shelters and disadvantaged families? If your SDG is ‘Quality Education’, maybe you could support a local school meals programme? Be creative, use your imagination, and ask your team members to help you.

That might all sound like a lot of hard work, but the rewards you’ll reap will be worth it.

Two of the biggest rewards will be more customers and happier, more motivated and productive employees, with the added benefit that when you’re ready to recruit new team members, all the cream-of-the-crop candidates will be keen to apply.

Because every day, you’re demonstrating that you’re a hospitality employer with genuine social values.

That’s why, as a hospitality recruiter who talks every day to candidates about the kind of hospitality employer they want to work with, we think the SDGs will help you meet the emerging trends and be the secret ingredient that will set your business apart.

Whenever you’re looking for the very best new staff who share the same values you do, Prime Agency Recruitment can find them. Give us a call on 020 7580 4398 or email info@primerec.co.uk, and our expert advisors will help you assemble a winning team to make your business more successful than ever.

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