The hospitality industry in particular has struggled with recruiting and retaining workers over the last few years, as unemployment rates have dropped and tighter restrictions on immigration and work visas have been enforced. But there are a few things companies can do to develop a strong workforce.
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Employee recruitment within the hospitality industry has become more challenging in recent years as labor markets have tightened and competition has increased.
Citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics findings, the American Hotel & Lodging Association estimated in November 2018 that there were 900,000 unfilled positions in the U.S. hospitality industry.
Complicating matters even further, once staff members have been hired, not only retaining them, but keeping them satisfied is often challenging. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of turnover in the hospitality industry is two to three times the rate of all other industries. Estimates of average annual employee turnover range from around 60 to 300 percent within the industry, according to research conducted by the American Hotel and Motel Association.
The war for talent isn’t coming to an end anytime soon, especially with the U.S. unemployment rate at just 3.7 percent, near its lowest level in almost 50 years. But there are a few things hospitality companies can do to recruit and retain attractive employees to help power a positive guest experience. Here, we take a look at five strategies.
1. Focus on company culture and employment reputation: Information about the internal workings of your company is more available than ever to potential employees, as platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor gain influence. In a survey conducted by LinkedIn and TalentLyft, 75 percent of candidates report researching a company’s brand and reputation before starting an interview process. It’s important that business leaders take these sites, as well as the information published on them, seriously.
It’s also important that hospitality companies meet potential employees where they socialize online. This means establishing separate social media handles to promote opportunities within the company and putting a social media strategy in place to communicate new positions and any events or programs that illustrate the company’s culture.
When employees do leave on their own accord, conducting exit interviews can help companies maintain a positive reputation out in the world. These conversations give employees the opportunity to openly express any frustrations before they go out to the public domain and can help provide insight into how business operations can be improved upon.
2. Have potential employees put the work in when interviewing: There are a few benefits to having a robust recruitment process. It weeds out potential bad candidates and minimizes poor hires; gives candidates a clear idea of what the job would entail in reality; and provides candidates with a sense of “earning” the opportunity to work with the brand. Ideally, companies should implement an interview process with multiple steps over the course of two to three weeks. Throughout the process, candidates should go through a customary screening, an open-ended discussion or behavioral-based interview, a panel interview, and one final interview with the most senior leader at the property or firm about the future of the company.
As Ken Stellon, executive vice president of corporate development at Frontline Performance Group (FPG), a company that provides hospitality companies with tools and platforms to recruit and retain team members, said, “Having a regimented selection process pays off in the long run. Companies that positively challenge a candidate during the interview process can better identify whether the candidate will be a good fit as an employee or not. It ties into the adage, ‘interview hard and manage easy.’”
3. Emphasize the role’s value within the company: People spend the majority of their waking life at work, so it makes sense that they want their jobs to mean something. In most cases, a hospitality employee’s interaction does matter to the company overall — his or her interaction with a guest can set the tone for the overall experience with the brand.
The value of the employee’s role and how it can make a positive impact on the guest experience should constantly be reinforced both in-person and on social media, especially on platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram. As FPG’s Stellon explained, “Stressing the impact that a frontline associate has on the guest’s total experience and how it can translate into professional opportunities for the candidate can shift their thinking from ‘short-term job’ to ‘long-term career.’ It allows the candidate to see themselves in a larger light with the firm even before they are hired.”
Take the Ritz Carlton’s motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” According to the brand, the motto “exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.” The company also clearly outlines its credo, three steps of service, 12 service values, and an employee promise, providing staff with the values and philosophies the brand and its staff operate under and a clear picture of how the staff fits into the company’s story.
4. Encourage employees to embrace their individualities: Hospitality companies should make sure to create work environments that not only publicly recognize, but reward, individuality and self-expression. For example, Kimpton Hotels, which was ranked sixth on Fortune’s 2018 list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,” has its “Bring Yourself to Work Day” motto. The company strives to celebrate the uniqueness of its employees and encourages them to live the brand in whatever way makes sense for them.
Motivations differ among individuals as well — not all employees are driven by the same factors. Sales programs that integrate individual incentives, customized training, and detailed reporting allow associates to develop at their own pace and be engaged by their personal “motivational drivers.” For one employee, verbal recognition can help with higher job satisfaction, performance, and tenure. For another, a tangible incentive will drive them to perform at the highest level.
5. Prove that there’s a career path: Everyone loves an “origin story” about an entry-level employee climbing through the ranks. When recruiting potential employees, companies should share positive stories about how lower-level staff members have leveraged career opportunities to move into leadership positions and have tangible examples to show how a frontline role can be an entryway to other roles within sales, marketing, general management, finance, or human resources.
“The career success story of ‘working your way up from the mailroom’ is very powerful and is heard in many hospitality settings,” Stellon explained. “In this competitive labor market, it’s important that recruiters have a positive stories about how the firm has mentored, challenged, and supported growth opportunities for employees. The best recruiters are the best storytellers.”
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