Unemployment continues to jostle up and down across the U.S. and hotels looking to improve service can hire workers at the top of their game
By David Berger
Success in hospitality has always focused on finding talented workers with a hospitality mindset and a desire to pursue personal growth. These workers thrive in a hotel environment, where they can tap into the industry’s nearly limitless opportunities for growth potential. The trouble is, where to find them? With roughly half of American workers still out of work, now is the time to acquire and cultivate top talent within your property to assume a more impactful position when the market begins to improve.
Labor remains the highest cost for hotel operators across the board, but just having employees filling roles is not enough right now. This is the time to identify under-performing elements within your organization and marrying them with skilled, ambitious employees.
Hoteliers can’t afford to delay this process. Hospitality budgets are likely to be constrained for the foreseeable future. In many cases, labor costs cannot be mitigated beyond the measure’s operators have already taken. General Managers need access to associates who they can rely on to step up, lead, problem solve, and identify/capture new business. Now is the time for your property’s top talent to shine.
Pulling the Weight
With limited budget for staff each employee has become more crucial than ever before, particularly after the industry spent a decade combining roles and shrinking team sizes. For example, consider the state of the front desk. Front-desk associates are not only the face of your property to guests, they are also organizers, experts on the local area, and in extreme circumstances rooms managers. This position calls for more than just a hospitality mindset, it requires technical experience, quick thinking, creativity, a knowledge of the local area, and the autonomy to make crucial decisions on a moment’s notice.
While the front desk may be an entry-level position in hospitality, GMs across the industry are running their properties from behind the desk at this moment. The message to prospective hotel workers should be clear: If you start here, you could one day be running the whole operation. This sentiment has been shared time and again across the industry, that upward mobility in hospitality is determined by your own personal drive to succeed. This is the mindset all hoteliers should be seeking in new applicants right now.
Workers want to know there is a clear path for career growth before they step into a new role. Not many workers want to be doing the same tasks years after they are hired. They want to progress professionally and take on new responsibilities. The opportunity for this has always existed in hospitality. This opportunity for boundless growth is one of the most important tools available to the industry when seeking new employees.
Keeping it in House
It’s not enough to draw the best and brightest to hospitality — hoteliers then must retain the talent they cultivate. Rather than investing time and money in training star employees only to have them jump ship and move to another industry, hoteliers need to develop company cultures that foster loyalty so they aren’t wasting resources and repeating the training cycle over and over.
A key reason why turnover is so high in hospitality is that it’s difficult for employees to strike a work/life balance. Today especially, those who are working are being asked to do a lot more with a lot less. It’s critical to recognize and reward those who are helping your hotel be the best it can be as it rebounds post pandemic and works to regain traveler trust. As the economy normalizes, so will your employees’ needs. The hotels that reward their best workers will benefit from reduced turnover and an energized team that knows its value within your organization.
Hoteliers also must be careful not to overload their best employees during this period. Just because a star worker doesn’t complain and seems to have every situation under control doesn’t mean they aren’t also undergoing inner turmoil trying to keep up with the breakneck pace of current events and the struggles of doing business. All employees require support right now, and worker burnout is amplified due to the stress of operating amid COVID. Staving off employee burnout is crucial as the cost of hiring and training new workers can be debilitating to many businesses. This is something to consider not only now, but going forward, as top talent within the industry expresses a desire for more than monetary rewards.
Hoteliers should also realize they are not alone in their search for talent across the industry. The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Hospitality Technology Next Generation are both hosting job boards to connect ambitious workers with hotels. In addition, the AHLA is helping get the word out about another potential COVID-19 relief package currently being debated by Congress. Hoteliers are urged to visit www.ahla.com/hotelsact and follow the available information to contact their local representatives regarding COVID relief.
Many hotels have renewed their interest in technology amid COVID, but technology exists as a tool to help run a hotel, not a replacement for top talent. The future of the hotel industry lies with the next generation of workers and how well hotels can acquire skilled team members for every corner of their property. Now is the time to acquire and cultivate key talent before the cost of acquiring new employees rises precipitously.