October 31, 2019 - London-based AETHOS Managing Director Thomas Mielke says "sustainability as a critical goal in hospitality today has become mainstream." This has also had a significant impact on the role of the Human Resources and Talent Management departments across hospitality organisations across the globe.
"Whereas in the past the industry would have mainly focused on the environmental and economic impact of the initiatives, it seems that a third pillar - the social aspect - is increasingly gaining momentum as a fundamental element of the effort. In the cruise industry, for example, the element of safeguarding the 'host communities' (i.e. port destinations) has been a hotly debating topic for some time now. In the lodging industry, though, one can argue that the relatively recent embargos on new hotel development in cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice have helped to put this topic front of mind." Yet, he continues, "there is an argument to be raised that 'sustainability' needs to become much more of a 'must-have' conversation also amongst HR and talent management executives.
"Historically, those conversations might have been sparked by initiatives centred around corporate social responsibility programs or applicants keen to better understand the 'green credentials' of an organisation," shares Mielke. However, "remember, despite all the worthy codes of (sustainability) conduct and guidelines implemented by most hospitality players, it is easy to forget that sustainability policies mean nothing if it were not for the people, the employees, who implement and enforce them."
Mielke further explains that a successful sustainability campaign is thus based, and depends on, four key elements for which the role of the HR function is pivotal:
"It is the HR and Talent Management departments which are attracting, retaining and helping to groom the future leaders of the industry. They are thus the gatekeepers and have, or should have, tremendous 'clout' over where an organisation is heading and how sustainably it operates," says Mielke. "It is also the HR executives who spearhead alignment between business goals and an organisation's people strategy, and implement change management processes geared towards driving sustainability."
"AETHOS predicts that HR executives will more frequently be asked by their leaders to lead an organisational and cultural mind shift so that sustainability becomes front of mind across all levels of the organisation. Fostering continued learning as well as a work environment in which innovative thinking is encouraged to improve one's socio, economic and environmental footprint will become key performance indicators for hospitality's corporate HR departments." In line with that, Mielke urges more hospitality companies to embrace a 'check-and-balance' approach, in as much as it lies within human nature to operate on a 'reward-basis'. In other words, he says, "accepting that the great majority of people are driven by incentives tied to specific actions provides a compelling argument for HR departments to link an employee's personal performance to sustainability targets. This move recognizes that sustainability does not work best if and when it is instructed top-down but if and when it is actually also driven bottom-up, by the individuals. By empowering staff, and making them accountable, HR executives will provide a crucial link between hypothetical sustainability targets and actual outcomes as otherwise a company's employees, managers and senior leadership will be drawn into making purely profit-driven decisions."