A hospitality management school alumni association is like an extended family. Comparable, perhaps, to a hotel’s staff.
To interact effectively and provide the best possible experience for its guests, hotel employees need to form a “happy family”. This requires a General Manager who cares about and shows genuine concern for all staff members, as well as the hotel’s guests. It’s therefore not a surprise to learn that excellent “people skills” are one of the most important criteria taken into consideration when leading hospitality recruiters seek to hire a General Manager. Wise managers know that all staff members are important to the smooth functioning of a hotel and have valuable ideas to share. They therefore practice active listening and empathy.
Development of a personal alumni family begins on campus while obtaining a degree.
Zully Ruiz graduated from the EHL Executive MBA program in 2011. When she enrolled at EHL after eight years in the hospitality industry, Ms. Ruiz discovered she was part of a diverse class of 26 students speaking 21 different languages. "We lived, studied, ate, played and traveled together," Ruiz recalls. "We did everything together. We learned from each other, not only academically but culturally and personally; we became a family." After graduation, the EHL alumni network helped her find a job in the Maldives, where she and three other alumni met and created their own "small support group in the middle of the Indian Ocean."
The EHL Alumni network (AEHL), with more than 25,000 graduates today, provides a way for members to get together, connect with professional opportunities and share values. Local gatherings occur multiple times and year, and they range from small and casual to large convocations that attract hundreds as in the case of the annual Gala Dinner.
Although often hosted in luxury venues, most of these events are practical meetings that put graduates in touch with hotel, restaurant and tourism executives. They introduce participants to representatives of the hospitality sector and other industries as well, including banking, consulting, healthcare, real estate and technology.
Education does not end at graduation. Participation in an alumni association also fosters growth of skills and knowledge, as well as continuity of shared beliefs and traditions.
In addition to building strong relationships with individual customers and a hotel's overall targeted market, managers need strong personal networks. Friends in the industry - especially ones met at school or through alumni networking - can provide powerful support in many ways, such as:
- Brainstorming solutions to operation problems
- Suggesting new, quality employees
- Sharing experiences concerning technological change
- Discussing changes in branding
- Encouraging career shifts and growth of new skills
- Connecting friends with powerful allies and
- Offering concern during downtimes.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) noted that business managers, in general, place too much emphasis on analytical versus relational tasks. Much change has occurred in the business world in the last ten years, but human nature is timeless with regard to leaders often ignoring the needs and helping hands of coworkers.
HBR indicated that new managers are particularly likely to make the crucial mistake of assuming that they alone should solve problems and set the course of an enterprise. The publication stated that too often new leaders see "exchanges and interactions with a diverse array of current and potential stakeholders" as distractions rather than "the heart" of their workday.
One key idea to gain from hotel executives is this: to lead in the hospitality industry, you need to be able to interact in a genuine way with all kinds of workers and customers every day. Empathetic exchanges and good listening are the heart of success in the hospitality world, and alumni networking and socializing offer valuable practice.