Growing importance of workforce management in the build-up to Expo 2020

Workforce management company Kronos reveals the staffing challenges the UAE's hospitality industry faces in the run up to Expo 2020.
Ahmed ElShrif says workforce management will be a key area in the hospitality sector ahead of Expo 2020. Pawan Singh / The National
Ahmed ElShrif says workforce management will be a key area in the hospitality sector ahead of Expo 2020. Pawan Singh / The National

Ahmed ElShrif, Middle East director for the US-based workforce management consultancy Kronos, has worked in the UAE for the past three years. And he says workforce management will be a key area in the hospitality sector ahead of Expo 2020.

What effect will Expo 2020 have on the region’s hospitality industry?

Statistics predict that Dubai can expect over 25 million visitors over the six months of Expo 2020. To accommodate these people, the number of hotels will need to double and that will prompt a rapid demand for a reliable workforce. The hospitality sector in Dubai still has more than five years to prepare for that, but what they should be more focused on is how they can manage the aftermath of the Expo. What many experts are predicting is that hotels will most likely face the problem of being overstaffed when the event is over and will see an unbalanced supply-demand ratio.

What challenges will the sector face?

One of the key challenges is labour law in the region. Businesses do not have the flexibility of countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, where casual and part-time labour is possible. Therefore, local organisations are considering hiring labour supply companies, which will enable them to use the manpower of these companies at peak times and release them when demand for staff falls. One way to manage the changing demands in such periods, such as when a city hosts a global event, is to employ workforce management solutions that enable organisations, including in the hospitality industry, to predict demand in advance and match labour to demand by balancing operational cost, quality and customer service while complying with the labour laws. It is important to remember that Expo 2020 will be an opportunity for hotels to welcome new guests and a new segment of tourists to Dubai. The quality of service and experience they are able to provide these customers should reflect the image that they want Dubai to be remembered for. With service reputation on the line, hotels in the region need workforce management software that can help them deliver quality service where and when it’s needed.

Your company supplies computer software for hotels and restaurants to manage their workforce. How has the sector taken to technology?

The hospitality industry tends to be one of the laggards. They approach IT systems through front office first and then back office. But the market is maturing. We saw more momentum in the segment last year than before. At Kronos, we target properties with more than 250 employees. The one-time payment is between US$50,000 and $60,000 along with annual maintenance costs and support services. We supply mainly to the hospitality and construction sectors. We have 22 clients in the Middle East. In the UAE market, we have Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld and Al Naboodah Construction.

Research shows that the Middle East’s projected IT spending will exceed $32 billion this year, making it one of the fastest growing IT markets in the world, according to intelligence company International Data Corporation in December. However, the Middle East is still an emerging market for workforce management with less than 5 per cent penetration, thus providing a great growth potential.

What are the challenges of hiring more staff? Is there a shortage of skilled hospitality staff to meet the demand?

Hiring more staff without understanding demand and being able to match labour to demand can lead to budget variance and may impact quality and customer satisfaction. The key is to know how many, what skill sets and where to deploy the staff. And does your operation have the flexibility to flex staff as demand changes while complying with operational and legislative laws? The larger the number of staff the more important to have an automated process to manage workforce.

Will salaries rise in the hospitality sector?

These will go up. In addition to salaries, hospitality companies will compete on supplemental benefits offered to employees to entice them to stay or join their company. The salary increase will follow the general increases in the UAE year-on-year.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

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Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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