As Dubai prepares to welcome yet more residents and visitors in 2008, Caterer asks the F&B industry how it will address the subsequent recruitment issues this raises.
Dubai is on track to report yet another year of growth in terms of visitor numbers, with record increases predicted in passenger traffic according to Dubai Civil Aviation (DCA). In addition, more conferences and events are scheduled to take place at the Dubai World Trade Exhibition Centre and a plethora of new hotels are set to open up in the Emirate.
The Dubai Statistic Department also forecasts a record migration rate to the region for 2008 with current growth pegged at 800 new residents daily to Dubai, an average of 33 an hour.
As a result, a greater workforce is expected to service the needs of this growing population.
Recruitment agency DULSCO is already gearing up to accommodate the influx of staff by investing more into its outsourcing facilities.
"We've specifically employed a manager to take care of hospitality outsourcing; we have committed ourselves, focusing entirely on this business," explains DULSCO HR outsourcing manager Prakash Chugani.
The recruitment process is changing, with clients requesting more emphasis on assessment of candidate personalities and experience
in addition to their working skills, comments Chugani.
"Many of the hotels have specific requirements so we look into matching their prerequisites with personalities that are suitable for the job requested," he says.
In addition to filtering personalities to match candidates to employment, DULSCO also offers clients the opportunity to fly out to meet the staff in the final phase of the recruitment process.
"This is popular, especially if employees are coming to us for long-term contracts and they are going to be ambassadors for these hotels, so clients would rather get the people they feel comfortable with," he notes.
Christoph Ganster, the executive F&B assistant manager at the recently opened Raffles Dubai Hotel explains that sourcing quality long-term staff is a big challenge in 2008.
"We needed to go to a lot of countries and recruitment reps because of the number of hotels in Dubai - it's like little mushrooms popping up all over the place - so everybody is really targeting the same countries," he says.
"Everybody knows that Asia is very well known for hospitality and as a Singaporean-based company we of course want to give our guests and residents this feeling of being in Asia, but the recruitment was definitely the biggest challenge to start with.
In such a competitive landscape of luxury hotels, the factor that discerns competition comes down to quality and service as Ganster explains.
"The hardware in Dubai will not be of any great difference to any other hotel; everybody is putting millions of dollars into hotel buildings and everybody wants to be more impressive than the other, but it comes all down to the software, which are the people and this is where we believe that we have a good mix of management, middle management, supervisory line staff" he explains.
To achieve this level of service and quality, Raffles purposefully took its time during the recruitment process to ensure they selected the right team.
"We believe that we hire the very best staff available. It took us a very long time, even until today we have on purpose recruited slowly in order to capture all the best staff from different parts of the world.
The Raffles team comprises 51 different nationalities and Ganster explains that it doesn't happen by coincidence.
"We have really handpicked each of them and we put them through proper training. We have from each country between 100 and 300 candidates lined up and the success rate is between 10% and 15%, not more than that.
In 2008 the Emirates Academy of Hospitality and Management is hoping for a higher intake of Emirati students following the success of the specialised Maharat training programme in 2007. The programme is delivered four times per year at the Academy and is designed to give young Emiratis practical workplace skills in the hospitality industry.
"2007 was very successful, we've taken more than 400 Emirati student programmes and my understanding is that for some programmes, we've had more than 80% placement success on student graduation," explains Emirates Academy managing director Ron Hilvert.
With such a high rate of successes in Emirati training, the Academy has engaged in Mahrat training programmes for external companies to improve skills in the workplace.
"We've done a few customised programmes for companies who have recruited a few dozen Emiratis and asked us to take them through an introduction programme," he says.
In 2008 the Academy also forecasts another record intake of students partaking in its graduate hospitality programmes.
"We've gone up every single year; this year we took 100 new students and we are looking at 125 next October, all full-time undergraduate students," comments Hilvert.
Emirates Academy plans new courses for 2008 with a Master's programme in the pipeline.
"We are quite advanced in planning to start a master's programme here, which will be the natural evolution of any new college which has good academic aspirations and that is our next academic target."
The popularity of the Emirates Academy is largely driven by its growing reputation for excellence among world class hospitality schools as Hilvert explains: "We have 100% record of employment from the first three graduation groups and they're the only graduates in hospitality in this region from a truly world class hotel school. So they bring with them not just the academic background but also four years with the adjustment to the culture already."
In Dubai's competitive employment market the potential for staff-poaching by new and competing hotels is high and so motivating staff is a key element to keep employees inspired and engaged, as Emirates executive bar development manager Francesco Leoni explains.
"Its important to keep our guys interested and focussed in bar-tending so they can continue to learn and progress while still enjoying the job,"
"There is a big demand for good bar-tending; right now I have about 45 people at three outlets, and within the next three months we're going to open another two, so it's growing and growing and we need to ensure that staff are happy so they enjoy coming back to work.
Leoni motivates staff with in-house competitions and certificates to ensure that they feel valued and that their efforts are always rewarded.
"We're getting in-store certification so it's a bit of recognition for the guys and a bit of a prize. We organise in-store mixology competitions so it's a part of their training to come up with their own creations. It's a pretty motivating situation and we can see the results by actually having really good feedback from our guests," he says.
Job satisfaction and enthusiasm are other keys factor in staff retention, according to Leoni.
"I have a huge sense of personal satisfaction to see these guys really believing in their job. Before they were just treating it as a job and now they're treating it as a passion.
Matt Pickop, the newly appointed executive chef at Verre by Gordon Ramsay comments that;
"one of the greatest challenges in 2008 is to keep the team alive and keep the team running.
"People change their job all the time in Dubai and the food scene is growing just as quickly as the buildings are over here," he adds.
Food festival events and are an exercise in restaurant exposure and staff team building as Pickop explains.
"I've got this fantastic event called Taste of Dubai coming up and we are involved in that; I get to bring my team out and share their skills with people who love good food, it's a massive opportunity and I really can't wait, it's going to be a great event," he says.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.