Staffing Solutions for the Hotel Industry

By Jerome G. Grzeca Founder and Managing Partner, Grzeca Law Group, S.C. | December 04, 2016

Hotels, like other U.S. companies, are struggling to find solutions to staffing shortages. Every month, more than a quarter-million Americans turn 65, which is a trend that has profound workforce and economic consequences in this country. In addition, unemployment rates continue to fall, dropping to 4.9% nationwide in September 2016. These changes, along with other factors like increases in occupancy rates and high labor costs, have resulted in many hotel companies having trouble finding and hiring qualified workers for open positions.

Of course, it’s not an option for the rooms not to be cleaned or for the meals not to be prepared and served when employees are hard to find. This leaves current staff working too much overtime, leading to additional owner expense, as well as employee dissatisfaction and turn-over. To solve these problems, hotels are thinking outside the box, and when all else fails while trying to find local workers, they start looking abroad. As a full-service immigration firm for several international hotel companies, we often receive calls from clients asking us to help them solve these labor shortages by hiring foreign national employees. While many hotel companies utilize work visas for professional (TN, H-1B, L-1B) and managerial (L-1A, E-2) employees, many do not take advantage of options available to them with respect to “low-skilled” labor to supplement their workforce. This article focuses on immigration options that hotels may not have considered before, some of which are listed here.

Temporary Immigration Solutions

I. Temporary Need – H-2Bs

This visa classification, known as the H-2B, was designed specifically for a “temporary need” where the employer cannot find qualified U.S. workers. The temporary need, usually less than 9 months, can be a one-time occurrence, a seasonal need, a peak load need or an intermittent need. Unlike other visa categories, there is no need for the employees to have a certain level of education or experience outside of what the hotel requires for this position. Therefore, this is one of the few immigration options available for “non-professional” positions (defined by immigration as positions that don’t require at least a Bachelor’s Degree).

There are several planning considerations when pursing an H-2B visa classification. First, these types of visas are “capped,” and there are only so many available each year. While the year is broken into two parts for the cap, it is possible for the government to run out of numbers at any time, so an employer who had planned to file a petition might lose their opportunity. Therefore, if an employer is interested in pursuing an H-2B visa classification, it would start the immigration work at least 5 months prior to when it would need the employees to start work. In addition, H-2B petitions can only be filed for citizens of certain countries (please see the current list here: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-2b-temporary-non-agricultural-workers#H2-B%20Countries). Furthermore, there are several rules about payments for H-2B workers; for example, they must be paid at least the prevailing wage in the work area, all visa and petition expenses must be paid by the employer, and the employer must pay for their transportation to and from the U.S.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.