Critical Reflection

1. Introduction

The hospitality industry was one of the fastest-growing services sectors across the world (ILO, 2020), before the global outbreak of Coivd-19. According to Deloitte (2019), the hospitality and travel sector was projected to grow on the basis of drivers like enhanced spending power of consumers, technological advancements and steady economic growth. The size of global hospitality services increased from $466.5 billion to $600.4 billion from 2014 to 2018 (Lock, 2019). However, at the same time, it should be noticed that employment in the global hospitality sector is becoming highly competitive. According to Wang and Tsai (2014), employers in the sector have been demanding highly skilled and experienced professionals, over the last few years. Moreover, the global outbreak of Covid-19 is expected to cut millions of jobs in the sector Goger and Loh (2020). It has been predicted that the sector might take years to recover from the effects of the pandemic. In this context, it has become crucial for students, aspiring to serve in the sector, to acquire skills, expertise, and knowledge needed to excel in the hospitality industry. The purpose of the WRL module offered by the university was to enable students to identify their strengths, weaknesses, skills and personality attributes so that they can advance their career in the hospitality sector. The objective of this report is to conduct a critical reflection on the knowledge and skills that I gained by completing the WRL module. So, it analyses and reflects on 11 activities that were conducted during the WRL module. These activities were classified into four major themes, i.e. self-awareness, sector awareness, applied WRL and planning ahead.

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In this context, it has become crucial for students, aspiring to serve in the sector, to acquire skills, expertise, and knowledge needed to excel in the hospitality industry. The purpose of the WRL module offered by the university was to enable students to identify their strengths, weaknesses, skills and personality attributes so that they can advance their career in the hospitality sector. The objective of this report is to critically analyse the knowledge and skills that I gained by completing the WRL module. So, it analyses and reflects on 11 activities that were conducted during the WRL module. These activities were classified into four major themes, i.e. self-awareness, sector awareness, applied WRL and planning ahead.

2. Analysis

This section reflects on the 11 activities that were carried out in the module. The analysis has been supported by both academic theories and personal experiences.

2.1. Self-awareness

My personality is a combination of emotions, practicality, and maturity. I am a happy person but demanding situations change my mood and temperament. I realised these factors after giving a brain test. The results of test showed that both my left and right sides of brain are in use when I am evaluating a situation. I employ both emotions and logic which leads to a mature response towards life situations. Reflecting back on my major life decisions, I realise that my final decisions are usually balanced emotionally and logically. For example, before coming to UK, my mother became emotional and asserted that I continue higher education in China. However, I acted mature; I comforted her and reassured that I will keep on visiting her regularly, even if I stay in UK for employment purpose. At the same time, I did not waste the opportunity by staying with my family in China. So, I dealt with the situation at both emotional and rational level.

The Jung test results showed that I am an ENTJ, i.e. Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. I can relate this assessment of my personality to my behavior in teams. As a team member, this personality type has helped me to work effectively in small teams. For example, being an extrovert, I am never confined to myself and open up to people to discuss not only my thoughts but also the way I think. Likewise, I am always open to people’s critique and logically answer their questions. However, I am a bit judgmental and I tend to judge team members and friends quickly, which is my weakness. I realise I should not judge everyone on my own parameters, because people have their own liabilities, reasons, and motivators to react. Barbara et al. (2019) discusses that judgmental approaches are bad for the mental health of a person. As I am conscious about both my personal and professional wellbeing, I should not judge anyone on the basis of my own thoughts and beliefs and respect the individual freedom of people.

The Consul personality test reveals that I have a high extraversion ratio, which shows that I am social, confident and avoid staying in isolation. I have further realised this attribute of my personality in the quarantine that I am going through because of global outbreak of Covid-19 (WHO, 2019). Consul test also showed that I am intuitive. Likewise, my MBTI also acknowledged my sense of intuition. I realise that I strongly believe in ‘vibes. I can sense people’s moods and figure out their possible responses proactively by observing their body languages. Ivan and Itero (2018) show the importance of intuition in professional life. According to the authors, it is one of key factors in decision-making in professional life because information is usually incomplete. Moreover, the business environment keeps on changing and a certain verdict cannot be made for every situation (Neto & Iida, 2018). Therefore, professional decision making involves intuition as a key element to make decisions that are effective in the long run (Singh & Singhal, 2015). Moreover, intuition supports implicit and explicit learning and therefore, enhances the professional learning of individuals in their career roles (Dane & Pratt, 2007).

The test on team roles showed that I am an innovator. I agree with this because I usually find creative ways to accomplish a task. However, reflecting on team roles, I think I should be clearer in my communication and convey my opinions more confidently. Moreover, I need to develop better presentation skills. For example, when our team practiced giving the presentation, my team members mentioned that my voice was low and my leader asked me twice to raise it to be audible by all audience. I realised that I should work on personal style of communication as well rather than keep focusing on the content to speak. I also realised that I have to develop cultural empathy to work in diversified teams with more confidence. In hospitality sector, cultural empathy and diverse communication lead to enhanced performance. For example, Grobelna (2015) mentions that internationalisation of hospitality sector has challenged employers to adopt multicultural communication to meet the needs of global customers. Hotel managers yield high performance from employees by catering their communication needs to handle culturally diversified customers (Oktadiana & Djauhari, 2011). Therefore, the training of diverse communication to hotel staff is important to increase customer satisfaction and develop loyalty for long time (Okoro & Washington, 2012).

The test on leadership also point out the need of clear communication. I believe I can increase my personality’s charisma by learning techniques of effective communication. Though I can deal with challenging situations boldly, I need to work on my leadership qualities such as inspiring others to follow me. Cicero and Pierro (2007) discuss the impact of charismatic leadership on the hospitality sector’s employees (Pierro, 2007). They found that it influences job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention. Moreover, the study also explained that the mediating role of ’employee workgroup identification’ was linked to the inspirational role of the leader who led through his charisma. They discussed the example of Gordon Ramsey who leads through his charisma. Alsal and Ates (2012) also discuss that charismatic leadership increases job motivation of employees in the hospitality sector along with increasing their self-learning and motivation to grow (Alsal & Ates, 2012). Kužnin and Walker (2015) also link charismatic leadership to high performance.

2.2. Sector Awareness

I had a plan to visit the theme park with my group fellows but due to pandemic, i.e. COVID19, we had to cancel our visit and replace it with a presentation. I, along with my team members, proposed to develop a family area for families visiting the Drayton Manor theme park. Though the presentation was brief, it was based on extensive research about family data in the UK. As the group was composed of Chinese nationals, we realised the difference between family culture and norms of China and the UK. For example, in China, grandparents have a central role in family settings and upbringing of children. But the same is not true in case of UK, so the plan of family area proposed by our team for Drayton Manor was not prepared by considering elderly as the central audience.

In sector awareness, I also reflected on my tour to Japan. When I visited Japan, I realised that the Japanese diligently follow rules and regulations to live a disciplined life. The sophistication embedded in Japanese culture inspired me. I now recall that hospitality industry of Japan has some interesting trends different to those in China and the UK. For example, while UK and China have built huge hotels. Japan has plenty of quiet and comfortable inns for tourists. I conducted research on the hospitality sector of Japan, which showed that the Japanese government had developed strategies to accomplish its mission of making Japan the ‘tourism nation’ (Hara, 2014). However, I also acknowledge that the hospitality and tourism industry of the UK has grown pertaining to both the country’s scenic beauty (Gustavo, 2013) and infrastructures like the places of entertainment and shopping malls. In short, when I reflected on my tour to Japan, I was motivated to understand the differences among tourism and hospitality trends of China, UK and Japan, which increased my knowledge.

I also reflected on the SIMR simulation that I played with my team members. I believe that it was most indulging experience of my entire studies in the UK. I learnt the importance of cost analysis and managing financial aspect of restaurants. For example, I witnessed that in year 1, our team scored low though we kept our customers happy. However, we did not monitor and cut our costs in this year. Then, in the second year in simulation, we monitored cost closely and tried to satisfy our customers through cost-effective mediums. Literature on tourism and hospitality shows that players in this sector have to adopt cost management measures strategically. They use cost control strategies to manage financial capital and maintain standards at the same time. They use different methods like the balanced scorecard (Sevim & Korkmaz1, 2014). Another benefit of cost-cutting practices by restaurants is the ability to spend on sustainable systems. For example, according to Kapiki (2010), green lighting system is installed by restaurants to use energy sources efficiently and reduce costs of electricity bills.

Nevertheless, in the second year, we also invested more in staff training than in ambiance of the restaurant. So, I realised the importance of training the staff to give a courteous and efficient service to customers. Research shows that staff training improves the performance of employees and enhances their skills (Gazija, 2011). The training of staff also boosts their morale and job motivation and helps them to develop realistic career goals. Trained staff reduces operational cost and improves the overall efficiency of restaurant services (Gazija, 2011). The training also improves staff retention and diminishes the employee turnover rate (Ali, et al., 2016). From organisational perspective staff training, additionally, reduces accidents at work and improves safety awareness among employees. It reduces organisational wastage of resource and aids in development of organisational position in the industry (Xiao, 2010).

Now-a-days, firms in the hospitality industry look for creative ways to enhance customer service. According to Seyitoglu and Yuzbasioglu (2015), customer satisfaction in hospitality sector can be increased by enhancing strategic communication and increasing operational efficiency in the firm. For example, in Malaysian hotel industry, communication is considered as a key element to respond to customer needs and deliver high-quality service intelligently (Lahap, et al., 2015). Notably, now-a-days, strategic communication can be enhanced by using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) tools. For example, restaurants can increase speed of their operations if they install an ICT-based system for taking orders, conveying it to the chef, and tracking the status of order. According to Jaremen (2016), managers in hospitality sector report improved service quality, increased speed to serve the customers, and increased customer satisfaction by using ICTs as mediums of communication (Jaremen, 2016). On the other hand, customers are also using ICTs more frequently, like for booking rooms through online portals, searching location of hotel through GPS and checking-in and out electronically (Nwakanma et al., 2014).

2.3. Applied WRL

As per my personal preference, I was always interested in the hospitality sector. Since childhood, I used to look forward to visiting restaurants with my parents, who took me for dining-out quite frequently. So, as I grew up, I became interested in doing internships and finding jobs in renowned restaurants. I have completed an internship at Marriott, Beijing as a waiter.

During the internship, I learnt some lessons. For example, I acknowledge that the job of a waiter is not as simple as it seems. A waiter has to be on his toes all the time. He should have excellent communication skills and a pleasant public appearance. Moreover, he needs emotional strength to accomplish his job duties effectively (Wesolowski, 2016). However, I also learnt that people enjoy tough times at job only when they have specific interest in the field. I had several rough patches during the internship that reduced my job motivation and performance. However, my interest in the hospitality industry helped me to continue. It also helped me to understand the minor details of hospitality sector and improve personality traits and knowledge to become fit for the targeted job.

Back in China, I also participated in a summer camp for poor children. With 10 team members, I taught the children for 20 days. The children belonged to a backward area of China. So, it was difficult to manage them. By participating in this activity, I realised that team members need effective communication to keep the information flowing in teams, so that team performance can be maximised. I also learnt that being an active participant of the team is necessary to contribute for achieving the team goal. Academic literature also asserts that sharing knowledge and working effectively in team help excelling in the hospitality sector. According to Hu et al. (2009), sharing knowledge increases the creativity and innovation of teams, which then enhances team performance. Likewise, Dikmen and Bozdağlar (2015) assert that knowledge sharing can enhance staff performance which in turn increases guest’s satisfaction. Therefore, leaders of hospitality institutions should develop the culture of sharing knowledge and integrate the concept of collaboration in workplace environment.

2.4. Planning Ahead

As a component of the WRL module. I reflected on the skills that I need to develop or polish further and the knowledge that I should acquire in order to excel in the hospitality industry. Moreover, the activities that I carried out under self-awareness, sector awareness and WRL application, also helped me to identify my weaknesses and strengths. So, I have devised a SMART action plan. The plan is shown below:

2.4.1. Overall Aim

The objective of this plan is to build on my strengths, overcome my weaknesses, polish my skills and acquire knowledge to become a successful professional in the hospitality sector.

2.4.2. Current situation

To show my current situation, I have developed a self SWOT analysis, which is shown below

Strengths

  • Self-confidence
  • Decision-making based on a balance of rationale/logic and emotions
  • Good sense of intuition
  • ‘Innovator’ in teamwork
  • ‘Internship’ in Marriot
  • Participation in voluntary services (teaching poor school children)
Weaknesses

  • Communication skills (I need to convey my opinions clearly)
  • Presentation skills (I tend to speak in a low voice during presentations)
  • Judging other people quickly
  • Leadership skills
Opportunities

  • Growth in the global hospitality sector after recovering from the influence of Covid-19
Threats

  • Covid-19 has negatively affected the global hospitality sector
  • Hospitality sector might take years to recover from the influence of Covid-19

2.4.3. SMART Target

To complete a course on communication skills from ‘Udemy’ or ‘Coursera’ in the next three months. I have identified the course prepared by Graaf (2020). The student can enroll this course and complete it without paying any cost. However, I would not get any certificate if I don’t pay. As I want to make a realistic plan, I have decided not to aim for a certificate of this course; instead, my objective is to learn from the lessons and exercises. Successful completion of this course will mark my performance.

The second target is to develop a charismatic leadership style. I reckon that this target cannot be completed in a short period of a few months, and I might need years to build a leadership style that inspires others. So, in the next few months, I intend to study the short biographies of 15 successful business leaders.

The third target is to enrol in an emotional intelligence course to improve self-awareness and learn about Emotional Inventory (EI) in order to enhance my performance as an empathetic team member of the diversified team. I will evaluate my performance with successful completion of course.

Completion deadline

Target Start End
Communication skill course May 2020 July 2020
Leadership style Coming project in May End of May
EI course June 2020 August 2020

Who and what can help?

Target Start End People Resources
Communication skill course May 2020 July 2020 Module instructor Coursera
Leadership style Coming project in May End of May Not required Biographies of 5 successful business leaders
EI course June, 2020 August, 2020 Course instructor Coursera

3. Conclusion

This report has analysed the skills, expertise and knowledge that I have gained through the activities conducted in the WRL module offered by the university. As discussed in the report, these activities were targeted at increasing self-awareness, enhancing sector awareness, reflecting on the voluntary experience that I had acquired and developing a SMART plan to polish my skills further. Regarding my personality, I have learnt that I need to overcome my habit of judging other people quickly and my weakness of not speaking boldly in presentations. I have also learnt that I can take a balanced decision by weighing both rational and emotional outcomes relevant to a situation. I can work well in teams, so I intend to highlight these skills, along with the supporting pieces of evidence, to my potential employers in future. I will also quote my learning from the SIMR challenge to my future potential employers. The SMART plan that I have developed will help me overcome my weaknesses. Overall, I can ascertain that this module has surely made me more aware of my own self and the demands of the hospitality sector.

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