In any trade or area of knowledge, there are two kinds of skills--hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are usually technical skills. Some trades require more hard skill knowledge than others - such as mechanics or nursing where a student will spend hours pouring over books or online teaching materials to learn the ins and outs of technical (hard skills.) Hospitality professionals will learn hard skills as part of their training too, such as learning to operate a reservation system or a POS computer.
It’s important to understand that soft skills are just as important as hard skills in the workplace, and in some fields, even more so. Wikijob.co describes soft skills as “how you work with others (whereas hard skills relate to you, in isolation, as an individual). Employers value soft skills because they enable people to function and thrive in teams and in organisations as a whole.” Although the basics can be read about or learned from a speaker, soft skills are not usually learned as easily from a book or standard training program. Put simply, soft skills are non-technical skills that enable a person to effectively interact with their co-workers, customers, bosses, and vendors.
Soft Skills in the Hospitality Industry
Though used in every field, soft skills are especially important in the hospitality industry. Soft skills include social behaviors that are needed to work in multicultural environments that are often part of the hospitality industry. Soft skills enable a professional to deliver an outstanding customer experience--rather than just meeting the basic needs of their job. We’ve put together a quick list of a few of the soft skills that may be encountered in the hospitality field. Remember, this is just an example--there are many other skills that are used in coordination.
Customer Service - Customer service is probably the most important soft skill because it encompasses so much. Providing superior service to every customer he or she encounters is the hallmark of an excellent hospitality employee. These skills make a customer’s experience at a restaurant, hotel or another facility memorable.
Networking - Networking means making connections with others in the industry and outside it. In the hospitality industry, having the networking skill set will enable an individual to grow their career from an entry-level position to the highest levels of management. Networking is useful for making connections for the business too, such as meeting new vendors or bringing in new customers.
Communication - Communication is vital to any hospitality professional. Being able to get across your thoughts to a customer, co-worker or anyone else you encounter on a day to day basis is vital. Good communication can open doors and helps a hospitality employee display themselves in the best possible light.
Cultural Awareness - Hospitality is an industry where working with people of different nationalities, races, religions, and cultures is the norm. Cultural awareness can help an employee avoid accidentally insulting a patron and may make it easier to connect with customers who have different backgrounds and beliefs.
Organization - Good organization will make the day go smoother and helps a professional to deliver good service to each and every customer. Without organization, every customer may not get the same high level of service that they enjoy. Plus, practicing good organization can often save money and reduce stress in the workplace.
Why Practical Learning Matters?
With hard skills, book learning or classroom-based learning is often necessary to master the technical details. However, soft skills may not necessarily be mastered through these means. Practical, on-the-job experience is often the best way to master a soft skill. Think about customer service, for instance. While a new hospitality employee can read about what customer service should entail, only after they see it in practice and have the chance to demonstrate it themselves, in the field, will it really be driven home. Practical learning is essential in this case.
For those seeking to work in the hospitality industry, it is important to find a learning experience that includes some class-based learning, but one that prioritizes practical learning. In doing so the hospitality student will come to understand how all the skills work together to create a superior experience for each and every customer they serve.