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Jibrin: Staff training, retention biggest challenge in hospitality sector

The Chief Executive Officer, The Seattle Residences and Spa (SRS), Wumi Jibrin, in this interview with FLORA ONWUDIWE, says the culture imbibed in running the business has kept them ahead of competitors

Hospitality industry is highly dominated by men, but you have chosen it as a career, how do you get along?

It is going well. I personally have never really been one to be moved by socioeconomic factors as such. Being an only woman in a family of three kids, what is and has always been important to me is who can get the job done. For some reasons in our group, we have a lot more women working with us than men. Funny thing is this was in no way a deliberate move. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that we are more nurturing as women, and this ties into what the hospitality industry is about.

In managing The SRS Collection, what seems to be your focus and why is that?

It is in the tiny little details. The hospitality aspect of it is what I love. A lot of us go through so much in our daily lives that we yearn so much for a bit of fresh air. It is the least you deserve after going through a hectic day, week, etc. The fact that a person could come into my space and forget their struggles, even for a few hours, is blissful and satisfying to me. It is an amazing feeling to be able to give that to someone. The SRS Collection is a hospitality firm that specialises in providing unique luxury, lifestyle, health, and wellness escapes to people in the heart of Lagos. In all that we do, we take pride in being able to create unparalleled getaway and vacation experiences, and even much more, for our clients. We are a home away from home, and this translates to the fact that with the years of experience our team members possess, we are a pivotal force in the business.

The SRS Collection has been described as one of the leading luxury and hospitality brands in West Africa; as the Chief Executive Officer, how do you do it?

In terms of competition, there aren’t many out there that provide the same facilities and services that we provide at SRS. Our apartments, meals, leisure facilities, and other services are truly outstanding in the industry. We also have some of the best trained staff in the industry, which facilitate our success story.

Prior to your previous experiences, what is most challenging in the hospitality industry?

Staff training and retention, from my experiences, is the biggest challenge. Getting them to understand and stay with the mission and vision, as well as look beyond just the monetary aspect of hospitality, have all proven to be a challenge. It’s also challenging to get them to understand that being in the hospitality space is a life sacrifice in itself, and that we are here to serve as it is always about the clients’ satisfaction. Getting them to understand that if they are not thinking in this manner, then they are in the wrong industry, has been a big challenge.

It is significant to have the right skills and experience on the job.What would you offer as a solution to aid the hospitality industry, thereby making it viable?

The right training. There is still a struggle in this space. It has got to a point where I now have to be present when someone claims to be offering my staff training. Being a graduate of human resources myself and very process driven, I believe that before you train, it is important you understand the gaps of the individuals you are about to train. Find out when their busiest days are. Make sure you are present and observe how they perform. Work closely with the managers. Training is beyond just going to teach what we all see on Google; it has to be much more. The staff need to feel that you made an impact, and you should come back after a month to see how impactful your teachings were. That is the only way.

The Nigerian economy has become a source of worries to businesses across sectors; how is the industry coping?

It is definitely not the same as it used to be. Vendor prices have gone up tremendously because they also need to cover their costs. However, it would be almost insensitive to increase prices at this stage. It has not been easy for anyone, but we are doing the best we can to offer the best at affordable costs to clients.

Besides Nigeria, where else around the world can we have the presence of The SRS Collection?

I would say other West African countries for now. I wouldn’t want to say too much here, but it would be a nice thing to have a strong presence in the Nigerian and West African markets first.

Why do you choose to work in the hospitality industry, when your discipline can take you to another sector?

It’s a service I enjoy rendering. Do you know the movie “I CARE A LOT?” That’s just it for me. There is a lot of joy in being able to provide individuals with comfort in a completely stressfree environment with stunning views. It even makes you forget your troubles. If I could do that for more people, I would.

Culture is expected in the hospitality industry and that keeps them ahead of other competitors. In The SRS Collection, does it make any difference?

Yes, it does. One of the types of feedback I have received is that we have very friendly and helpful staff. That tells me that they are approachable and always willing to assist. That was one of the qualities we had to look out for in our recruitment processes.

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