Invest in Training, Reward Successes, and Say "Good Morning" to Your Staff

CTHRC’s 2012 Tourism and Hospitality HR Forum offers practical tips for hospitality businesses

The times they are a-changing, and the tourism industry workforce is no different.  As the Baby Boomer generation continues its mass exodus to retirement, Generation Y is stepping up to fill positions.  But they are not alone; prospective employees come from a wide variety of demographic groups including First Nations people, newcomers to Canada, and retirees.  Hospitality business owners and managers are faced with the Herculean feat of attracting and retaining a diverse range of employees in a highly competitive market.

Fortunately, the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC)’s 2012 Tourism and Hospitality Human Resource (HR) Forum focused on attraction and retention in the industry.  Nearly 200 senior decision makers, general managers, human resource executives, and educators flocked to the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre from October 2 – 4, 2012 to gain insights and strategies for effective talent management.

Master of Ceremonies Dean Sockett, The Keg’s Director of Human Resources, kicked off the Forum with a classy and understated opening reception on Tuesday night.  The Humber College Jazz Quartet deftly provided the soundtrack for the reception as delegates enjoyed gourmet hors d’oeuvres catered by Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Ryerson University and served by the Marriott staff, as well as beer and wine sampling courtesy of the Great Lakes Brewing Company and Pelee Island Winery.

The next morning, the Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, welcomed delegates to the Forum.  The Minister’s warm and humourous welcome led into a high-energy presentation from Hard Rock International’s Senior Director of Training and Development. Jim Knight roamed through the crowd while sharing 12 innovative tactics to attract and retain rock star talent.  “Immediate supervisors are the single largest influence on an employee’s decision to quit,” said Knight.  “So treat your employees like volunteers.  Smile at them and say ‘good morning.’”

After a break to network and visit the exhibitors, delegates attended sessions that covered recruiting and inspiring staff, building and nurturing partnerships with education and industry, and enhancing the Canadian experience for international tourists. 

Rounding out the afternoon’s talks was Ismail Albaidhani, Head of Global Partnership and Learning Innovation at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), who discussed the unlimited potential of international training.

Closing the first day was WestJet’s Vice-President of People Relations and Inflight Services. Tyson Matheson had delegates laughing (and at one point: in tears!) with his heartfelt presentation on the HR principles that make WestJet the most attractive employer in Canada.  “You can’t create culture,” said Matheson.  “But you can create the environment that the culture will thrive in.”

During the evening’s dinner, which was graciously sponsored by the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council, CTHRC President Wendy Swedlove recognized the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) for certifying over 500 employees with emerit professional certification.  A lively night of Caribbean music followed when the Steel Bandits took the stage after dinner. 

The second day featured an innovative twist to the usual format – a practical, hands-on Boot Camp for HR professionals and a Symposium for educators.  The Boot Camp included sessions on employment law and the changing workplace, recruiting qualified employees, increasing productivity, and using social media to engage with current and prospective employees.  The Educator’s Symposium covered a variety of topics ranging from Canada’s changing demographics to emerit tools and resources for instructors, and the national resource guide for quality tourism and hospitality programming in Canada.

A pervasive theme throughout the Forum was the importance of recognizing staff.  “Invest time and resources in training your staff,” said panelist Len Youden, of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.  “Give them the tools to be successful and then reward them for their successes.”

The positive feedback from delegates was bittersweet, with organizers acknowledging that this is the last time the HR Forum will appear in its current format.  Presentations from the 2012 HR Forum are available at:

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