Richard Mayne: Tourism sector needs smarter training

The tourist industry is worth billions to Scotland. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
The tourist industry is worth billions to Scotland. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Whether influenced by geopolitical uncertainty or ­recognition of the long-term business value in effectively managing a talent pipeline, many in Scotland’s hospitality sector are keenly aware of the need to train and retain key staff.

With more than 200,000 ­people reportedly employed in Scottish tourism, it’s unsurprising that demand for ‘smarter staffing’ is an emerging trend.

Annually generating in excess of £8 billion, Scotland’s tourism sector is an economic powerhouse. To help protect this ­market and ensure a high quality guest experience, it’s imperative to consistently recruit, train and retain the highest quality of staff.

Well-trained, professional, attentive staff who have a friendly, helpful demeanour will invariably leave a positive impression – and, in turn, the guest or their friends may return.

However, in a sector renowned for its transient workforce, high staff turnover and occasionally long hours, there are ­challenges to identify, train and retain the best. While the hotel ­sector is attuned to the benefits and implications of the recently introduced apprenticeship levy, some already use in-house training academies to nurture talent.

At Radisson Blu Edinburgh, we ‘recruit for attitude’. With a workforce of 168, 59 per cent from continental Europe, we invest considerable time, energy and industry knowledge to develop individual and team skills. Guests positively respond to being assisted by motivated staff, inspired to give their best.

Underpinned by a dedicated and increasing training budget, I believe staff ­recognise that the supervisor training programme, ­talent review, monthly ­‘coffee morning with the general manager’ sessions, being truly empowered in their role and potentially benefiting from a HIT (Hospitality Industry Trust) Scotland scholarship are all designed to help performance and in-house progression.

Our philosophy of recruiting for raw attitude as opposed to just skills has also opened up positive local partnerships. In the past five years, and through the charity Canongate Youth, we have helped a number of young people experience practical, positive work placements. Several have impressed so much that they are now part of our kitchen or maintenance teams. Perhaps this too is ‘smarter staffing’, recruiting from and opening up opportunities in a local community.

In May, more than 20 other industry professionals will participate in a HIT Scotland charity hike of sections of the Great Wall of China. I’ll fundraise for Teenage Cancer Trust and collectively we hope to raise funds to support 218 emerging talent scholarships – the future ­faces of Scottish hospitality.

However you interpret ‘smarter staffing’, the tourism industry can only benefit when a positive attitude is identified and nurtured, performance is recognised and emerging or existing talent is supported and inspired.

Richard Mayne is general manager of Radisson Blu ­Edinburgh.