What motivates hotel school students?

23 Aug, 2018

Is money the main motivator of hotel school students and recent graduates?

Not according to YHS EMPLOYER RANKINGS 2018, a survey, which seeks to define hospitality students’ employment perception and preferences in terms of recruitment and is issued in conjunction with the Young Hoteliers Summit (YHS), a yearly event hosted at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), which brings together student delegates from leading hospitality schools and influential industry players from around the world.

Indeed, according to the survey of over 1’700 hotel school students and recent graduates, "Good Salary" came only seventh on the list of motivating factors for students - behind:

  • "Career Path and Advancement" (cited by 86% of respondents);
  • "Training and Development" (cited by 83%);
  • "Empowerment & Responsibility" (cited by 82%);
  • "Company Culture" (cited by 75%);
  • "Work‐Life Balance" (cited by 71%);
  • and "Challenging Work Tasks" (cited by 68%).

Meanwhile, "Good salary" was cited by only 65% of respondents and "Job Security" - at 60% - was even further down the list. Regrettably, perhaps, "Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Company", was last on the list, cited by only 44% of respondents.

Interestingly, alumni with more work experience placed more importance on "Empowerment and responsibility" as a motivational factor than did students.

In many ways these results confirm the widely publicised image of millennials who recognise that 'a job for life' is a thing of the past.

A hotel school education can open many doors

For some years, there have been concerns that hotel school students are not really that motivated to work directly in hospitality operations once they graduate.

Indeed, increasingly students –particularly high academic achievers - have sought to work in areas allied to the hospitality sector like consulting and real estate and some have even gone directly into banking or private equity funds.

The fact is that the skills learned in a hotel school are transferable to many areas of the service economy.

After all, most banking jobs are about customer relationships, not about being a financial 'genius'.

PwC prefers hotel school graduates

Several years ago following meetings with some young audit managers in PwC, one the big- four accounting firms, it was revealed that EHL hires were more valued for audit teams than graduates of HEC (Hautes Études Commerciales) Lausanne, one of Switzerland 's top undergraduate business studies programmes.

The reasons given were that hotel school graduates knew how to dress and how to behave in a professional environment; they also, through their internship experiences, knew what it was to work for a boss.

As well, it was felt that hotel school graduates had more concrete notions of accounting than business school graduates who had been fed a lot of theory without much practical application.

So what do hotel school graduates want to do?

In fact, the results of the YHS survey showed solid support for careers in traditional hospitality, with 80% of respondents being either "Extremely Motivated" or "Somewhat Motivated" to seek employment in the sector and only 10% saying they are unmotivated.

Most participants answered that they were "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated to work in hospitality consulting, but the overall percentage 70% was less than for traditional hospitality.

Also, there is a significant difference between positive and negative responses in terms of the interest for working in hospitality consulting.

In 2018, more respondents expressed little or no motivation to pursue careers in consulting than in previous years and there was a general decrease in motivation for consulting as positive values decreased slightly, as well.

OTAs (online travel agents) have been a subject of heated discussion in the hotel industry for some years. In spite of the attraction of working for leading technology players like Booking Holdings and Expedia, the latest YHS survey evidenced declining interest in the sector.

Respondents who were either "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated to work for an OTA decreased from 42% in 2016 to 37% currently, while those "extremely" or "somewhat" unmotivated increased from 27% two years ago to 33% now.

Notably, there was a sharp decline in the percentage of respondents 'extremely' interested in working for a start-up which decreased from 41% in 2017 to only 28% presently.

What other industries interest hotel school students?

In all, 55% of respondents were "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated for pursuing careers in other industries.

Students who were motivated to work in industries other than the hospitality sector mentioned: event management (75%), the luxury/fashion industry (59%), the banking industry 51% and healthcare (44%) most frequently.

Nevertheless, event management can be considered to be part of the traditional hospitality sector; however, apparently, many participants were unclear about this distinction.

Other industries that were mentioned, such as airlines, health and real estate, also have significant links to hospitality.

What motivates alumni?

Of the participants currently working in traditional hospitality, 91% of those respondents were already "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated to work in the same sector while completing their studies.

Otherwise, 76% of those, who were "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated to work in hospitality consulting as students, are currently working in that sector as graduates.

For the online travel agency and the hospitality start-up sectors, respectively, 80% and 70% of respondents working in those industries were "extremely" or "somewhat" motivated as students.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that 29% of alumni are working in industries other than hospitality.

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