Challenges of Managing Local Employees: A Maldivian Context

When looking at the service industry of the Maldives, one must comprehend the elitism of the brand it displays to the outside world. It takes a lot of hard-work, cost and reliable consistency to keep up with the upmarket luxury brands. Customer expectations when visiting Maldives remains extremely high given the nature of the destination. Ironically a bad vacation might start on their ride to the airport from home or even at the flight itself that may not have any connection with the destination. Nevertheless, for the customer, it’s interrelated as the whole experience. This is one of the vulnerabilities of the service industry.

Firstly, the service industry is a round the clock industry and unlike Public sector, this industry requires never-ending work hours to keep up with demand and expectations of serving customers. Unlike tangible products, its experiences that make up the products. It’s a people based industry where people are part of the end product. Their mood depends on the consistency, the reliability and efficiency of the service. We cannot separate these two entities.

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In the Maldives, most companies revolving around service prefer to hire and train local talents as opposed to expatriates based on many factors. The amount of workload, productivity and individual goals achieved are the same. However, these are some of the constraints:

  • Nature of the job and people’s poor perceptions for operational jobs such as Waiters, Room Boys are of low regards.
  • As most of the potential employees are young individuals with no previous work experience, most candidates lack organizational skills. It takes a lot of time to make them affiliated with the brand values. With this brings in attendance issues, lack of reliability and accountability on the work front.
  • Most candidates are unable to comprehend the nature of the work. Its physical labour, acting abilities and empathy in times of error. Not everyone has the ability to put a smile on someone’s face. Personal attributes such as pleasant personality, good communication skills and interpersonal skills are essential for the job. An individual who lacks interpersonal skills may be good at technical skills. Hence to utilize all waiters in a unified form to achieve goals is challenging.
  • Anyone can clear the table and tend to needs, but not everyone can give away a pleasant experience and that is one of the key elements in training and during interviews.
  • Lacking organizational skills like adapting to a multi-cultural environment at times causes nationality dominance, and this is addressed in maintaining equal attention.

Various HR policies and strategies are used throughout companies in order to motivate, train and achieve short and long-term goals via employees. One of such is “Earn & Learn”. The Alfred Program gives candidates a fresh start, for those candidates in need to climb the hospitality ladder even with minimal qualifications. It is an on-going training program where waiters will be subjected to levels of training depending on the trainability. By the end of the program, they will be qualified as Butlers within the 4-year period of the training.

Once trained, keeping them motivated is another challenge. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to tune young local talent into trained professionals they will go on to become. Those who are motivated and interested to flourish are often given their big break into the tourism industry.

Reliability is a key element everyone hopes for in a managerial setting. Symphony Maldives is a good example of such a setting. They are able to give out the sense of family and protection under their umbrella. Tending during times of need and covering all their basic needs, makes them feel protected as long as it’s a staff of symphony they will be well taken care of.

Recognition is another element. Empowering their talents and sharing success gives them a competitive edge to exceed more. Moreover, they gain first-hand experience into the brand excellence. The Brand itself gives them the pride and joy of being in a company that values staff at the same time empower excellence.

With the accelerated speed of growth of the service industry of the Maldives, it is challenging to sustain local individuals given the fact that there are new resorts and service spots opening up every other day. The industry expansion is vast. Maldives has a population of more than 400,000 where we receive close to 1.2 million tourists a year brings about the challenge of supplying enough local talent. Thus we are almost always forced to fill in the gap with expatriate employees to supply the much-needed premium service that is demanded.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are the writers own views and do not necessarily represent the views of Corporate Maldives.

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