The 5 Lessons 2020 Taught Us
CEO, The Center for Work Ethic Development
Past CHART President
We can look back on 2020 and focus on all of the things that went wrong. Or, we can take this opportunity to look ahead in foresight and adapt the lessons learned for ourselves, our organizations, and the people that we serve.
People say that this past year was unprecedented, but the reality is that 2020 was just an accelerant to trends that were already happening–both nationwide mega-trends and trends within the hospitality industry.
Let’s take a birds-eye look at these trends and then delve into the five lessons we can take away to prepare and adapt for the future.
The Future of Work
Automation and artificial intelligence are changing the way that we work in this world. Computers are taking over more and more tasks and jobs that were once done by humans, and the pace is only increasing.
The Interconnectivity of the World
This encompasses the “internet of things,” the collection of massive amounts of data, and also our growing ability to work from anywhere at any time.
The Growing Gap Between the Haves and the Have Nots
There is an increasing divide in employment, education, and income. This is happening not only in the U.S., but globally as well.
The Lagging Educational System
At both the high school and college levels, we are producing graduates that lack the skills for the realities of work, and frankly, the realities of life sometimes.
“A billion people worldwide will lose their jobs over the next 10 years, and if anything, COVID has accelerated that by 9 years.” – Gabe Dalporto, CEO of Udacity
Trends in Hospitality
Facing the disrupters that are specific to our industry is the first step in our ability to adapt. These four pain points give us laser-focused foresight for the future:
The Permanent Elimination of Jobs
It was estimated by the University of Chicago last June that 42% of all jobs lost in the pandemic will be permanent. Most of the jobs lost were in low wage jobs, such as food and drink. And, with massive amounts of retail and restaurant closures, that workforce is woefully unprepared for the future.
Since the recession of 2008, full-time employment has grown, but not as much as part-time or “gig” employment, which could be consulting, freelance, e-lance, or any sort of non 9-5 job. It is estimated by Gartner that, post-pandemic, 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.
If you don’t have a college degree (like many of our folks), working from home might not be an option, so gig opportunities are perfect. However, the new gig economy, where fewer people are working full time, does not have the same respect for employees or offer traditional employee benefits. More and more people will now be working for multiple platforms, which will have a huge impact on employee/employer relationships and loyalty from both parties.
Continued Business Consolidation
If you turn on cable TV, you would swear there are a bazillion channels. But the reality is that 90% of what we see on TV is controlled by six massive companies. To put this in perspective, in 1985, that same 90% was controlled by 50 companies. Likewise, there is a mind-numbing array of consumer food products, however, most of the major brands are owned by one of 10 global brands.
This environment of mergers and acquisition consolidation means that we no longer care about where we get stuff, but moreso who we get it from. Think Walmart, Amazon, or Alibaba. Hospitality has had the second most number of mergers and acquisitions of any industry over the past decade, with the recent merger of Marriott and Starwood and the acquisition of Habit Burgers by Yum! Brands being prime examples.
Disruption of Post-secondary Education
This concerns us all, however, four-year colleges and universities are ripe for disruption since their model does not work so well anymore. Tuition, room, and board have skyrocketed since 1980, and the value of degrees has remained flat. People are recognizing that college is not the Return on Investment (ROI) that they need.
As enrollments go down, and colleges potentially go out of business, it is devastating for the local communities. These institutions are the lifeblood of these towns, and they drive the business to our restaurants and hotels. The closure of these schools also creates a gap in the development of future hospitality leaders, since many of these programs are housed in the smaller colleges most at risk of closing.
5 Lessons Learned: Adapting so we can Better Plan for the Future
1. Stop Repeating Repetitive Reiterations
Say that three times fast! What does this mean? While we don’t know exactly what jobs will be permanently lost in our industry, we have a very good idea; anything that has a lot of repetitive tasks. Whether we like it or not, those are the jobs that are going away and not coming back.
If you look at job growth since the 2008 great recession, all of it is in non-repetitive tasks. This is highly disruptive news for our industry, where about one-third of jobs are routine. We need to look at what jobs in our world are repetitive and can be replaced by automation technology, because those are the jobs that will be going away. Replacing cashiers with kiosks is one example.
When we think about training, when we think about preparing, we need to focus on the non-repetitive jobs that add value. Use cross-training, work-based learning, and other approaches to help transition incumbent workers into new roles.
88% of all job losses over the last 30 years have been in “routine” jobs. – University of Rochester, 2019
2. Develop High-Touch Skills
The irony is this – as the world becomes more high-tech, it’s the high-touch soft skills that will make people more valuable, no matter what the industry. This is really important for our employees today and in the future.
An Apple retail store is a great example of this. Their stores are not filled with technology, they are filled with personable sales staff. People connect, and people make the sale. Compare that to giant warehouses like Best Buy, that will be going away because people can go online and get everything that they need without the non-existent sales staff.
The high-touch skills that futurists say will be most important are critical thinking and problem solving. These are essential in our industry, but hard to hire for. Other essential skills we have already made great strides in developing in our industry are communication, teamwork, and diversity. We need to find better ways to quantify these skills and the ROI of training. Developing these skills in our staff will be our (and our employees’) competitive point of difference.
3. Evolve Apprenticeships
You are going to be hearing more about apprenticeships in the coming months and years. The jobs that will be going away are front-line jobs. Yet, we will still need supervisors and managers. So, where do they get that front-line experience? The earn and learn approach of apprenticeships, maybe even linked with a community college or university for college credit, is a real boots-on-the-ground approach to developing the diverse workforce that we need and helping them be successful as well.
Though we have seen growth in apprenticeships across the country, the challenge is that almost all of them are in construction or manufacturing, 93% of apprentices are men, and less than 30% are people of color. Even so, there are some great things that are happening with apprenticeships–and hospitality can be a leader in this work.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is ramping up their work with a registered apprenticeship program. You can scale the effort by working with your Local Workforce Board–there are more than 550 located throughout the country. These boards have funding available to assist with apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs.
4. Focus on Skills, Not Degrees
We need to stop thinking about college degrees as being a sure sign of future success. It is simply not true in our industry. Skills outpace academic and educational achievement by far as a predictor of a successful hiring outcome.
What we need is to find ways to quantify the skills employees already have. I like to tell a story about a factory in Kentucky that was looking for a person to work a highly specific machine. The strict criteria were five years of experience, a two-year degree, and an industry certification. In this small town, they could not find anyone who fit these requirements.
For a year, the machine sat idle until they hired a job task analysis consultant who told them the skills needed to do well on this machine were attention to detail, fine motor skills, and the ability to switch tasks frequently. They found the perfect job candidate in their local sushi chef! By looking at skills and not degrees or experience, they got the person that they needed, and he got a rewarding job in return.
He left our industry, you say! Let’s be real–we are rarely hiring someone for their retirement job. The more we can develop and quantify our employees’ transferable skills, the more successful they will be with us and in the future, whether they stay in our industry or not.
Resources you can draw upon in this area include organizations like Skillful which helps employers link skills to successful employees, and programs like Opportunities at Work’s STARs, which focuses on cataloging employees’ skills that have been developed in alternative routes.
5. Make School a Verb
We need to shift our mindset beyond school simply being somewhere you “go” to something that you “do.”
Once people get past the age of 25, very few of them go back to school in a building. But we will need new training in skills to get and keep the jobs of the future. And with new options, such as a boot camp, online course, or a non-degree credential program, learning doesn’t have to only take place in a physical school.
As an example, Google and Coursera have partnered together, where Google offers an online four-month program that they count as the equivalent of a four-year degree when people are applying for jobs at Google or one of their 75 consortium companies. That’s amazing, and a fraction of the cost of a traditional four-year degree.
Since limited resources are often an issue that prevents additional education, another organization, Guild Education, works to maximize funding streams to overcome these barriers. By providing free services such as counseling and leveraging Pell Grants, they are helping employees at companies like Taco Bell and Chipotle go to school no matter where they are.
2020 Foresight, Not Hindsight
Dealing with an uncertain future can be scary. But we know some things for certain. In our industry, you don’t need a fancy degree to be successful. In our industry, we can leverage the skills we are already developing that make people successful, such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and diversity. These are the skills that we as an industry deliver to help us recover from the past year and thrive in the workforce of the future.
Instead of saying 2020 is hindsight, let’s take advantage of the lessons learned for foresight into 2021 and beyond.