March FOCUS: Human Resources

March, 2020

Human Resources: Confronting a Labor Shortage

With the unemployment rate at its lowest level in decades (3.7%), what has always been a perennial problem for human resource professionals - labor shortage - is now reaching acute levels of concern. It is getting harder to find and recruit qualified applicants. Even finding candidates with the skills to succeed in entry-level positions has become an issue. In addition, employee turnover rates remain extremely high in the hotel industry. As a result of these problems, hotel HR managers are having to rethink their recruitment strategies in order to hire the right talent for the right job. First, hotels have been forced to raise their wages and offer other appealing perks, as a way to attract qualified candidates. Secondly, HR managers are reassessing their interviewing techniques, focusing less on the answers they receive to questions and more on observable behavior. Part of this process includes role-playing during the interview, so that the recruiter can gauge how a candidate works through specific problems and interacts with other team members. Additionally, some HR managers are also creating internal talent pools as a way to address labor shortages. Instead of utilizing department resources to find new hires with specific skills for needed positions, hotels are cultivating talent pools internally and preparing their employees to assume leadership roles whenever the time comes. They are also placing greater emphasis on a company culture that is more performance-based, as a way to curb employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and assure higher levels of customer service. Finally, recognizing the importance of employee retention as a way to lessen the impact of a tight labor market, some HR managers are instituting generous reward programs in order to retain their top performers. The March Hotel Business Review will explore what some HR professionals are doing to address these and other issues in their departments.

This month's feature articles...

Tom Conran

Employee turnover continues to plague the hospitality industry. In many cases, star employees acquire skills in hotels before transferring to other industries, costing operators valuable time spent training workers. It remains a struggle despite the hotel industry routinely paying above the average national minimum wage, and allowing for near limitless potential for growth. In the majority of cases, workers choose to leave their positions because they feel undervalued, or they encounter resistance from management. There are many ways to reward standout team members and elevate workers who struggle, beyond monetary incentives. Are you doing enough to recognize your property's team members? READ MORE

Mark Van Amerongen

One of the biggest stories in hospitality in recent years is the ongoing-and worsening-labor shortage. Hotel owners and operators have been forced to navigate an increasingly costly and competitive labor landscape, and HR managers in particular have been forced to look for creative new solutions to address personnel challenges. And at a time when the labor market is growing tighter, owner expectations are rising. Consequently, hotel management professionals responsible for hiring are also raising the bar. The costs and consequences of a bad hire have become so significant, that the HR team quite literally can't afford to get it wrong. READ MORE

David Lee

Does your Employer Brand communicate why talented employees would want to work for you in a way that is interesting, persuasive, believable, and memorable? Does it really differentiate you from your competitors in the talent war? If you are NOT using stories in your employer branding, the answer to both questions is and emphatic "No." Claims like "we're a great place to work," "you get to make a difference when you work here," and "come join the A Team" are meaningless and unconvincing. Anybody can claim that, including your competitors. What can differentiate you from them? Stories. Stories make your Employer Brand come to life and demonstrate the truth of your claims. Learn how to use stories to make your Employer Brand more interesting, believable, and memorable, and to separate yourself from the Employer Sea of Sameness. READ MORE

Bruce Smart

It's no secret that employees are the heart of any hotel or casino to deliver quality operations and a high-level of customer service. With the low rate of unemployment across the United States, now it is more important than ever for companies to take a strategic approach to engage and retain quality employees. This article provides information about four approaches for hospitality leaders to consider for their teams – including using behavioral sciences, developing ways to monitor the employee experience, predicting turnover through data science, and approaching your employee marketing the same way your approach customer marketing. READ MORE

Sheetal Singh

With unemployment rate at its lowest in the last few decades, it is critical for employers to create environments that are engaging and improve talent retention within an organization. Employees either leave organizations for opportunities to grow or separate from environments that do not contribute to their development and overall well-being. In this article I share how organizations can leverage leadership to not only help develop and retain existing talent but also attract high potential professionals that are looking for an opportunity to learn and grow. READ MORE

Ken Greger

We all know what happens when we wait too long to address an existing or impending crisis, and history offers endless examples. It took many years for Noah to build his ark, but when the flooding began those who had spent all that time ridiculing him perished for lack of preparation. Several died after failing to evacuate from Mt. St. Helens, despite being warned well in advance that an eruption was imminent. The stories go on and on, yet – classically – many of us wait until the last minute or, worse, until the problem is upon us. And then we panic. It's been a mathematical reality for some time that a labor shortage was inevitable. This article warns that the shortage is now upon us, but also offers suggestions for doing something to avoid panic. READ MORE

Leigh Branham

Question: What is your most effective recruiting method? Job posting? Campus recruiting? Your website? Employee referrals? Social media? It depends on the talent you're targeting, of course. But you may be relying too much on a limited handful of talent sourcing and recruiting strategies. Have you ever wondered whether you are considering all the methods available to you? In this article, the author presents a comprehensive list of ten methods that are guaranteed to expand your thinking. Developing relationships with local resume writers? Hosting an open house? Arranging chats with web-surfing job seekers? These and any of 60 other "guerilla tactics" may be the ticket to finding and keeping talent you need to stay successful. READ MORE

Renie  Cavallari

When faced with labor shortages and staffing challenges, take a good look at your leadership-management team and onboarding and development plans, as well as your culture. Employees stay in positions when they feel valued, feel competent, are happy in their environment, and have clearly defined roles and expectations. With how negatively turnover impacts your bottom line, it is increasingly important to make sure you are training and developing the right people. When leaders commit to their people and their culture, they are more likely to retain the type of employees that will best perform in their organization. READ MORE

Lisa  Cain

The hospitality industry is witnessing the increasing need for specialization of current and future employees in order to attract and retain a qualified workforce. Accordingly, workforce development and how higher education may aid in this process is of considerable interest. Future trends may see more partnerships between industry, organizations, and higher education to use more credentialing outside of the undergraduate and graduate education models that currently exist. The importance of certifications and the development of specialized programs in higher education to respond more rapidly to market needs of specialization in hospitality are discussed. READ MORE

Suzanne McIntosh

Finding talent for your hospitality business is harder than ever. Unemployment is low and fewer people are in an active job search. Competition is fierce for top performing candidates. How do you attract great people to your open positions, then once you have their attention, how do you keep them engaged during the interview process and close the deal? We can no longer expect highly qualified candidates to respond to our job postings. We must actively recruit, move quickly and streamline the interview process. Candidates have many options…if you take too long…you will lose them. READ MORE

Eugenio Pirri

For years HR professionals have battled the war for talent. A phrase coined in the 1980s by business consultant McKinsey to highlight the challenges in attracting, recruiting and retaining high-caliber people in a stagnant employment market. With unemployment rates at their lowest levels in a decade, standing at just 3.7%, many would argue the war has yet to be won. With ongoing uncertainty in the economy, Eugenio Pirri, Chief People and Culture Officer believes more needs to be done to address this challenge. In this article, he shares his views on the battle for talent and how they are tackling the shortage within luxury hotel management organization, Dorchester Collection. READ MORE

Brenda McGregor

Creating a strong culture within the hotel business is not only important, but essential. Depending on core values and internal priorities, the answer to what culture looks like might vary slightly from one company to the next. There's one thing that's most important to creating and maintaining a strong culture in a workplace-collaboration. Efficient communication, understanding employees, open mindedness and willingness to make changes are just the beginning building blocks of this process. A strong culture doesn't just happen, it takes consistent and continuous work that will pay off with employees, guests and professional partners alike. READ MORE

Rachel Levitt

The hotel industry is currently facing a labor shortage of unprecedented proportions. This has led employers to look for innovative ways to find and keep their top talent. Recruiting from outside the sector holds tremendous promise for hospitality, because it opens the door for fresh thinking and ideas, best practices from other industries, and a new way of looking at old problems. Technology, in particular, offers a multitude of possibilities for hotels to revamp everything from their financial systems to in-house entertainment, marketing methodologies, and even to introduce environmentally sustainable operations. Here are some innovative ways hotels can implement cross-industry recruitment to build the strength of their organizations. READ MORE

Cara Silletto

Tired of watching thousands of dollars walk out the revolving door of employee turnover? Have you begun to proactively invest those same dollars on the front end of your employee relationships to help keep people longer? Or is the door spinning faster each year? Too often, it's assumed that the solution to a workforce shortage is increased recruiting. But if the real problem is employee turnover, then a bigger-picture approach is needed. Instead of just putting a Band-Aid on today's staffing shortage, redirect your dollars to solving the source of the problem. Don't make the mistake of investing more in the staff you're missing than in keeping the staff you already have. READ MORE

Robert  O'Halloran

A long-time pillar of hospitality business education at the university level is that we are preparing traditional and non-traditional students for careers in the hospitality industry. Our students have held jobs to gain experience and positioned themselves for leadership positions with multiple levels of responsibility and authority. A career path model can assist an organization in the planning and retention process at all employee levels. Organizations viewing themselves as career pathway champions can benefit their employees and themselves by creating a great place to work that embraces employee goal and career aspirations, while meeting the employer's business goals creates a positive work environment. For those searching out what direction they should take, career paths need to be obvious, evident and manageable and approachable. READ MORE

Sherri Merbach

One recent, you-can't-miss-it trend in the marketplace is online recruiting companies are investing large sums of money into advertising, likely reflecting the even-larger revenues they are earning in return. And the underlying reason why so many companies are recruiting more is because their employee retention strategies don't work…or they don't have any strategy at all. Confronting this difficulty of finding qualified employees in a labor market of low employment, companies are finding themselves understaffed and incurring overtime to serve their guests. Few hospitality companies realize that the shortest path to people management success is by hiring employees who will stay longer. This requires fresh thinking. READ MORE

Euan McGlashan

What do artificial intelligence and delicious craft beer have in common? On the surface, not much, but look a little deeper and you'll discover these are part of two trends that will impact hotels in 2020. Emerging technologies and food and beverage programs are transforming the guest experience, and hoteliers should take note. In the new year, we'll also see increased sustainability efforts (goodbye, plastic), more niche loyalty programs and brand-affiliated hotels, and properties catering to the bleisure traveler. This article covers five trends that will shape the hotel industry in 2020. READ MORE

John Welty

As recreational marijuana usage has become legal or decriminalized in a number of states and medical use has been accepted in even more, it has become important for business owners to understand marijuana's position in the workplace. In particular, hotel owners should understand its impact on safety and productivity. In this article, John Welty, president of SUITELIFE® Underwriting Managers, will discuss new changes to cannabis laws and what they mean for hotel owners and management. He will discuss employer rights when implementing a drug-free policy in the workplace and offer best practices to include in employee training and handbooks. READ MORE

Kristi  Dickinson

There is a great deal of focus in the wellness world on physical fitness, but very little on mental fitness. The latest research shows that it is possible to grow and strengthen our brains to prevent cognitive decline. These are exciting scientific developments not just for those at risk for cognitive impairment disorders, but also those interested in increasing their mental potential. Corporate groups, in particular, are seeking programs to increase productivity and boost the cognitive performance of their top talent. Just as with strength training to grow muscles, cognitive fitness programs can increase the size and power of the brain. This is an area of opportunity for expanding your wellness offerings and attracting new business. READ MORE

Mostafa Sayyadi

Hotel executives can improve organizational processes through employee engagement that will enhance organizational learning and personal development. These leaders can effectively engage employees in organizational decision making process because it takes a task-based approach by translating the management of knowledge into various organizational processes. This task-based approach develops a firm-specific approach by which organizational knowledge provides a significant contribution to business objectives through the context-dependent way it is managed. This can help hotels identify their inefficiencies in each process, and subsequently recover them on an instantaneous basis which enables hotel managers to prevent further operational risk. READ MORE

Talene Staab

Tru by Hilton disrupted the midscale hospitality segment by taking a deep approach to gathering insights and leveraging owner feedback to build the brand from the ground up. Combined with consumer research, this approach unleashed new ways of thinking and resulted in a complete reimagining of every aspect of what a midscale brand can deliver to both developers and consumers. With the fastest brand launch in the industry, a REVPAR index premium, 100-plus open properties and 320 hotels in the pipeline, Tru's success has proven how innovative thinking can lead to true differentiation. READ MORE

Mark Ricketts

Select service hotels are one of today's most popular and successful hotel asset classes, attractive to investors, developers and property and asset managers, as well as guests. For more than a decade, they have accounted for more than 60 percent of planned builds in the hotel development pipeline. This strength is reflected in favorable construction windows, labor costs, flexibility in offerings of food and beverage services and other amenities, and gross operating profits. This article discusses factors for success in select service today and some of its development challenges and opportunities. READ MORE

Scott  Lee

The past tenderly reveals itself in the present, whether through a curved archway, heritage tree on site, or local relic long buried. To create hospitality environments that embody the local history, charm and character of place, we try not to reference history too heavy handedly or focus so much on the story we want to tell that we lose sight of the site and its heritage. There aren't objective facts about a site or landscape; it's the sensations that drive us. This article explores how to channel historical character in hotel design guided by the site itself and its surroundings. READ MORE

Kristi White

In the hospitality industry, hotels allocate guest room inventory across multiple channels to optimize guest room revenue. As an industry, we typically do this very well for transient business. However, when it comes to group revenue the discipline is not always the same. Group revenue for many hotels is an integral part of their business plan but all group revenue should not be treated equally. Smart hoteliers leverage data to know the difference between available revenue and preferred revenue. With the help of strong group and meetings dataset, hotels can leverage these insights to improve sales productivity, make smart revenue choices, and ultimately optimize profitability. READ MORE

Jeff Hart

Jeff Hart, General Manager of the Los Angeles Airport Marriott explores the evolution of hotel club lounges and the everyday ways in which they can elevate their spaces and offerings. Hart discusses tactical tips and strategies that hotels can take to stand out and provide a unique experience for guests. From concierge access to exceptional views, and stellar food and beverage, hotels are finding that guests are willing to pay a premium to have access to a heightened hotel lounge experience, and Hart dives into simple touches and more modern renovations that show the unique ways in which they can level up their spaces, offerings and approach. READ MORE

Rod Clough, MAI

Sales of economy hotels in 2019 registered a healthy level, despite a decline in the number of limited-service hotels that sold during the year. Approximately 10% fewer hotels sold in 2019 than the number that traded hands in 2018, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA). This decline was attributed entirely to a dearth of major portfolio transactions, while individual property transactions increased slightly for the year. The U.S. economy continues to hold strong, showing great resiliency. The overall strength in consumer spending and confidence has benefited the U.S. hotel industry, driving this healthy transactions market as hotel demand remained at heightened levels. READ MORE

Ford Blakely

Mishaps are inevitable in the hospitality industry. But these mistakes don't have to be fatal. In fact, the strategies you put in place to respond to service missteps can become some of your strongest tools to win customers and drive revenue. However, recovery is impossible when you don't know where problems lie in the first place. Recent research shows that only 1-in-4 hotel guests say they'll report any issue that impacts their experience. This is worrisome news for hotel operators. But there are ways to overcome these blind spots and create service recovery strategies that boost your reputation and bottom line. READ MORE

Christine Samsel

Many employers are implementing or expanding paid parental leave policies. Christine Samsel, shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, reviews the challenges of implementing and administering such policies, from avoiding discrimination and gender stereotyping to differentiating between pregnancy/childbirth-related medical leave, on the one hand, and baby bonding and parental leave, on the other hand. Her article also provides recommendations for employers on considerations in auditing or expanding existing leave policies. Read more… READ MORE

Bill Caswell

Many hotel brands invested heavily in customer experience (CX) and loyalty programs without a cohesive business strategy. As a result, today they are having trouble measuring the return on their investments. Loyalty programs are hard to measure because they were expanded to include infrequent travelers, offering them perks earlier in the customer journey. Many hotels also plunged substantial dollars into CX without fully understanding their customers – or how to recoup their investments. As hotel brands plan for the future of their loyalty and CX programs, it is important to learn from past experiments. READ MORE

Justin Arest

Justin Arest, co-owner and managing partner of Kixby, a boutique hotel opened in Midtown Manhattan in November 2019, describes the current hotel landscape in New York City. He shares how hotels can attract urban travelers in 2020, particularly in the trending Midtown neighborhood. Arest explains the core elements of a successful city hotel, drawing from his own experiences working in every department of a Manhattan hotel beginning at the age of six years old, overseeing the Hotel Metro for over a decade, and leading its recent renovation and rebranding into the modern and sophisticated Kixby last year. READ MORE

Russell LaCasce

As more and more consumer dollars are spent on dining and drinking out, the competition has only continued to increase. Restaurants, more than ever, need to stay ahead of the game when it comes to being informed on trending ingredients, styles and experiences, and choosing which to incorporate into their unique concepts. From flavorful small plates and chef-driven dining experiences to menus that highlight digestifs as an integral part of enjoying a meal, Executive Chef Russell LaCasce of Hotel Valley Ho in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona is sharing some of the top culinary trends to look out for in 2020. READ MORE

Coming up in January 2022...

Mobile Technology: Next Level Innovation

Despite the recent adversity that has challenged the entire lodging industry in every facet of its operation, the relentless march of digital innovation continues unabated. Part of this is driven by the need to outperform the competition so hoteliers can promote their operations to digitally-savvy Millennial travelers, and part of it is driven by the desire to continuously find new ways to enhance the guest experience. In that regard, hotel apps that provide mobile check-in/out, room access, room service, and the capacity to control in-room lights, curtains, temperature, and television programming from a guest's personal device is fast becoming standard. Soon, new features such as voice control, facial recognition, smart rooms, and the use of A.I. for things like virtual hotel tours may be on the horizon. The January Hotel Business Review will report on how some hotels are integrating new mobile technologies into their operations to offer their guests an impressive, next level experience.