"We need to understand the industry’s needs right from the get-go"

12 min reading time

Published on 06/07/23 - Updated on 06/07/23

Glion Institute of Higher Education and ESSEC have joined forces to create an Executive Master's course to support those working in the sector in their professional development. Frédéric Picard, CEO of Glion Institute of Higher Education, Caroline Ellul, Glion alumnus and Founder of French Luxury, Ashok Som, Full Professor in the Management Department at ESSEC Business School, and Alban Sucrot, winner of the 2022 Young Talent Awards, discussed the attractiveness of the sector and education.

Frédéric Picard: I'm Managing Director of the Glion hospitality school in Switzerland. The school has three campuses: two in Switzerland and one in England. It is part of the Sommet Education group, which also includes Les Roches in Crans-Montana and Marbella, Glion Education, as well as an institute in India and Invictus in South Africa. There are five hospitality schools around the world offering a range of courses, from Bachelor's degrees to Master's degrees. We recently launched an Executive Master’s in partnership with ESSEC.

Glion was created in 1962 by hoteliers for hoteliers at a time when there was a big boom in Montreux and the Swiss Riviera as a destination, particularly in terms of hotel development. Five people decided to create this institution, and it trains the leaders of tomorrow.

The aim is to provide the industry with students who have a certain entrepreneurial capacity. To achieve this, we need to understand the industry’s needs right from the get-go.

Caroline Elul: I'm a former Glion student. After my studies, I had a broader career than I expected. First, I worked in operations abroad and then in France within some very fine establishments. Then I was offered a job in a consulting and training company, which was something I would never have thought of. I then set up my own business. I'm now a consultant and a reception and service excellence instructor for the hospitality industry and luxury sector. This has also led me to a wider career in higher education and in the institutional sector.  So, I'm also an example of this Millennial generation who like to wear many hats and try their hand at everything.

Ashok Som: I'm a professor in the Management Department at ESSEC Business School. I do research in the field of strategy. I have had several roles at ESSEC, including Associate Dean of the Global MBA. I am now the Academic Director of our Executive Master in Luxury Management programme. I also have the pleasure of being the Academic Director of a new programme in partnership with Glion specialised in the hospitality professions.

I'm also an author and have a research profile. What interests me in this sector is the intersection between luxury and hospitality.

Alban Sucrot: I'm currently a student at ESSEC. I’m in the IMHI programme as part of a Master’s specialising in hospitality. Before that, I studied for 4 years at the Institut Paul-Bocuse. I'm currently doing an apprenticeship with ESSEC, which gives me the chance to learn in both a company and at school. It's a course type that allows me to develop my skills.

What struck you from the work of Alliance France Tourisme that we have just seen?

Frédéric Picard: I think that today's industry needs to anticipate the arrival of students into hotels. In my previous life, I always told my teams, “Your employees are your most precious asset”. If you want to ensure good retention of talents, it's when people arrive at your establishments on work experience that you must take good care of them, so that they want to come back to you.

As we've heard today, industry leaders and professionals need to get closer to the schools, they need to sit on the boards of directors, etc. Our board of directors is mainly made up of industry professionals. We discuss our programmes with them. We are also going to set up a place to discuss industry expectations. It's vital that we listen to the market. That's why I came into the world of education, having previously had a purely hotel background.

Student profiles vary, as do their expectations. Is developing partnerships with other schools a way of meeting them?

Ashok Som: The world is changing very quickly. People working in the industry who want to get trained are faced with major challenges. Whether it be changing sectors or progressing within their sector. Since Covid, this change has accelerated. We're seeing in a number of sectors that this type of modular programme is very attractive to working professionals. It also allows them to attend a number of institutions, in this case Glion and ESSEC, where they can complete an Executive Master's degree while still working. And they can do all this in one year on, for example, two different continents and, always, in two different schools. For this specific programme, participants start in Switzerland, then come to France, then Singapore, and, finally, London.

We've already talked about this: today's world is flexible, there's a desire for mobility and change all whilst continuing to work. This flexibility is built into the programme.

Glion has also changed the way it teaches students…

Frédéric Picard: We have indeed adapted our programmes. On a Master’s programme, there are two 6-month work placements. These placements themselves are modular, with department changes during the placements. We also bring in a lot of professionals, what we call visiting lecturers, who speak on specific subjects. They deal with development, finance, management, and other areas that will be important to students to equip them for their entry into the world of business.

That's not to say that we exclude them from practical work. There is a whole semester dedicated to that. To be able to run a hotel, I believe you have to know what's going on. You have to know what it's like to be a steward, and how hard a chambermaid's job is. When I said at the beginning that our employees are our most precious asset, that means going to see them and understanding what they do and how hard their work is. It's also our role within the institution to prepare young students to understand the needs and to develop the sense of anticipation they will need as future managers.

Caroline, in your day-to-day work you come into contact with employees in the sector who are keen to develop and train. What is your take?

Caroline Elul: What comes up almost all the time, from what I see as I accompany them on a daily basis, is the need for both professional and personal fulfilment through the work they do. This fulfilment includes the need to be supported in the form of mentoring or coaching by the directors or by the managers. Teams will consider this support to be genuine if it leads to an increase in skills, to learning new things, to reinventing themselves every day. This is a generation that doesn't want one day to be like the next. There's a real need to evolve through training, to feel that we're making progress. This generation gets bored quite easily and has a constant need to reinvent itself. This is one of the key points in the Alliance France Tourisme white paper. Making training and jobs attractive.

Alban, you graduated from a Master's degree and then went on to do a second one. What were your motivations and objectives?

Alban Sucrot: Perhaps it was the need for change, to be able to experience something different. I was not sure whether one degree was enough to cover everything I wanted to know in order to achieve the career I wanted. I decided to do this second degree to open myself up to an international dimension, which was something I had wanted to develop. The ESSEC programme offered me an internationally recognised diploma. In addition, the course was taught in English, which was not the case on my previous course. Finally, the opportunity to do an apprenticeship really gave me the chance to apply the theory and intellectual skills I acquired in the classroom. It really gives you the opportunity to learn constantly and to feel that you're progressing.

It's also a way of 'extending' study time, which is a period of life where we can really get to know ourselves. In my opinion, it's really important to be able to experience as many things as possible before embarking on your professional life. This way, you can find the best path possible for yourself.

The sector offers a huge range of opportunities, but how can we bring all these possibilities to life? How can a training institute make the sector more attractive?

Frédéric Picard: There are several stages in the process. When young students arrive, the first semester is really focused on the practical side of things. This enables them to really understand the benefits of having a real understanding of the business. They then have two internships, during which they are also prepared in such a way that allows them to understand their impact within the company. The way we talk about and relate to the industry is also important. Today, we get around 350 companies coming to our campus every year to recruit our students. Each student receives an average of five work placement offers while they are with us. This means that the industry is greatly interested in the candidates we teach. We also have the responsibility of preparing students who are entering a field where we know that 50% of them in 5 years' time will move on to another sector, usually either retail or luxury.

That's why we decided last year to launch a new programme, a Bachelor's degree. Today there is demand from the industry, but also from students who want to know more and who want to move away from their base profession, which was that of hotel management. We are now offering two Bachelor's degrees: one specialising in the hotel industry, the other in luxury business.

Is the development of the Executive Master also intended to attract people from outside the hotel industry?

Frédéric Picard: The subject we're talking about today is so important for the industry. We are currently experiencing recruitment difficulties and are searching for talents.

At some point in your professional career, you need to discover new horizons and see new things. You feel the need to question, in some way, what you know. The hotel industry is a sector where you can climb the ladder quickly. There comes a time when you find yourself faced with managerial roles. But are you fully equipped to take them on? That's where our programmes come in. There's also a technology dimension. Chatbots, revenue management... by broadening the scope, we also train people who are better equipped so that they can continue with their professional development.

What are the factors that can make a young person want to work in the hotel industry? How can you awaken the interest of potential targets?

Caroline Elul: In tourism, training is constantly evolving. Personally, I was trained at Glion to have a very versatile profile. We were prepared not only for the hotel business but also for disciplines that can enable us to explore other careers. And that, in my opinion, is a factor that can attract talents. We need to make them understand that in tourism or the hotel industry there are no limits. There is rather an infinite number of possibilities.

I refer to a quote by Saint-Exupéry: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea".

For our professions, we need to instil a passionate vision, a taste for endeavour, a taste for beauty, a taste for what's good, and an eye for detail.

Alban Sucrot: There are many things that can attract people to the hospitality industry, and I think we're terrible at highlighting these advantages, of which there are very many. International mobility and teamwork, for example. We've been talking about overtime and split shifts for 15 years.

It's the job of the schools, in conjunction with companies, to highlight these perks. It’s also up to them to create new ones in order to attract people.

Glion and ESSEC have a reputation for excellence, but would it be possible to join forces with other types of school with different resources?

Frédéric Picard: I think there's strength in unity. We have a number of partnerships with ESSEC, but also with Les Roches, Ducasse Education, Invictus, and the Indian School of Hospitality, which are all part of our portfolio. This is already a global force that enables us to offer training on different continents.

There may be other partnerships, but they must make sense for the students and the industry. We currently have a programme specialising in event management, particularly with a view to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The aim is to be much more comprehensive on certain subjects so that we can adapt to needs.

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