By Louise Oakley
Whether discussing the operations of spas, health clubs, theme parks or sports centres, there is one thing leisure industry professionals seem to agree on. As Technogym Emirates MD Christian Dietrich points out - good employees are hard to find.
Companies as distinct as hospitality group Emirates Hotels & Resorts and theme park creators SIM Leisure Consultancy (SLC) actually have very similar approaches to staff recruitment, both engaging in lengthy and far-reaching employment processes that extend far beyond the Middle East.
SLC's Paul Blunt says thecompany has no choice but to recruit this way, as the right employees are just not sitting around waiting for such specialist jobs.
Not only is recruitment challenging, but once you've gone through the undoubtedly long and slow process, then invested time and money in training that member of staff to your company's standards, there's no guarantee that they will remain at your company for a substantial time period. Whether driven away from outdoor work by the summer heat or tempted by the lure of better pay elsewhere, staff turnover in the region is high.
There are two issues to address here. Firstly, the reason recruitment is so challenging is because there is a lack of external training and accreditation bodies in the region. How do you judge someone's suitability to a role when they have a totally unfamiliar, and potentially meaningless, qualification?
Fitness, for example, is largely unregulated, though the formation of the International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals may be the start of a shift in the right direction.
Jumeriah Beach Hotel has invested significantly in training, and now members of its gym team are appropriately qualified to gain automatic acceptance onto The Register of Exercise Professionals and are recognised for their professionalism.
This raises the second issue. Retaining employees is the responsibility of the operator. Keeping an existing member of staff in his or her role is far cheaper than finding someone new to fill that position should the employee leave. Funds should be invested in training instead, and not just training in the company's standards, but in comprehensive career development.
Investing in your staff and showing you value them as individuals will boost their commitment to your company, not to mention their job satisfaction and motivation. The end result then is more competent and more content staff - the impact of this on your customers is priceless.