Lorenza Alessie, Founder and Director of Alessie Human Capital, explains how she became an expert in the human resources field serving the hospitality sector.
Lorenza, at what point in your life did you realise that you wanted to be a human resources and recruitment specialist?
When I graduated from EHL and started interviewing with various companies.
At that time Chess Partnership, a success fee recruitment company came to EHL to give career advice to students and they approached me to work for them.
What attracted you to this field of activity?
I chose recruitment given the role had every aspect I loved – networking, business development and psychology.
I also knew recruitment would help me get an fantastic birds eye view of the industry as well as allowing me to build an incredible network with senior management with top hotel owning, operating and consulting companies.
It's hard to believe that you graduated from EHL as far back as 2002. How did your experience at EHL influence your career choice?
During my studies at EHL I realised that the success of any company depends on the people and hence the importance of recruiting and retaining top talent with the right cultural fit.
I honestly think that recruitment is the key to the success of any company.
In your view, what changes could be made to hospitality school programmes in order to better prepare students for the professional world?
I think hospitality schools give an excellent grounding and good general overview of all subjects.
In a world that is being taken over by technology I think the only thing that will distinguish us from robots is service, the ability to build relationships, work in teams and interact.
The focus on these soft, human and practical skills should become an even bigger priority.
I also think that hotel schools should give a better overview to students of the type of career paths they can follow once they leave school given I often see graduates unaware of the many opportunities in the marketplace.
Why do hotel companies or businesses in other sectors where you operate need your services? What is the value-added?
To get the best possible candidate for the job and benefit from my 16 years experience in hospitality recruitment – rather than focusing the pool of candidates just to job applicants or candidates who happen to be in a companies database.
When companies work with me, they retain me to thoroughly research the market place to identify the best talent.
Often, for a sole search I might review 300 profiles for a position. Even though this search has a cost, this cost is not in the least comparable to the revenues the right candidate can bring, or the losses a company could have recruiting the wrong person.
What is the range in terms of positions in a company that you would help clients to fill (i.e. how low down in the managerial hierarchy)?
As a head hunter I focus on senior level appointments – mostly from the General Manager upwards with about 80% of the appointments made at the corporate level. Positions covered include General Managers, VP Operations, VP Sales & Marketing, Fund Directors, Director Development, Director Asset Management, VP F&B and other.
How has HRM in the hospitality industry evolved over the past decade? What have been the key trends? The same question regarding the future: what will be the key trends regarding HRM in the hospitality industry over the coming years?
- In my field of recruitment hugely. Before companies would go to recruitment companies for their database – today that is over. People come to you because of the process/service of actively researching the market place.
- The profile of the hotelier is also changing – before General Managers came from the F&B route and now increasingly from the Sales & Marketing route.
The industry is also becoming more informal with the rise of lifestyle hotels and structures are becoming increasingly more flat and centralised.
- In the corporate world things are also changing – continuous mergers and acquisitions, changes in systems – people need to adapt to change and I think today it is hard to guarantee a career 25 years with the same company.
What is particular about recruitment/executive search in the hospitality sector as compared to other lines of business?
What I’ve always found interesting about the hospitality industry is how closed they are even at the corporate level to recruit people from outside the industry when compared to other sectors.
In the C-suite however, there are almost no hoteliers – during my time at HVS I published an article discussing this called, “Are hoteliers checking out of the boardroom?”
Briefly, what career advice could you offer to students graduating from hotel schools now?
Be true to what your core strengths are and find a job where you can put your core strengths into play.
Don’t expect anything to come to you – you need to work for it and remember that you make your own career.
Also, don’t take your first job choice lightly since it will probably set the pace for the rest of your career.
However, remember you probably have a 45 year career in front of you – your first job won’t be your ideal job, but it should be a stepping stone to get you closer to your ideal job.