Get Ready for a Rebound: Hiring, Training and Compensation

By Merrick Dresnin Company Director, Cote Family Destinations | January 10, 2021

With vaccine news and pandemic-fatigue, cabin-fevered people are ready to escape.  HR and Hotel Professionals, in general, must prepare for the coming wave of guests and business recovery.  Looking towards the future, I see recovery and the need to be prepared.

The year 2020 could not have been more challenging for our industry.  We have suffered through a catastrophic pandemic striking down our guests, employees and businesses.  Different states have taken devastating, but necessary, lockdown steps.  In the midst of trying to survive economically and personally this historic disease-spread, we had a brutal example of police brutality in Minneapolis that sparked protests/riots throughout the country.   

If the above two matters were not enough, we then had the pleasure of a caustic, contentious presidential election full of conflict and, frankly, embarrassment.   

So went 2020.

Businesses have adjusted to 2020 and its challenges.  Zoom calls have made "You are muted" the catch phrase of the year.  Remote working is no longer a fad, but in many cases the rule.  We have learned to do more with less.  We have become all too familiar with layoffs, furloughs and reductions in force.

One might assume that business in 2021 will be simple compared to the complexities we have tackled.

While I see business rebound, I do not see simplicity.  There is "no rest for the weary".  We must prepare for a recovery and rejuvenation.  While months ago it was time to "hunker down" and get through every day, every week, every month, we are coming out of that time.  Vaccines are promising, and while distribution will be challenging, the vaccines will ultimately be available.  We will then be in a new mode – one of recovery and rebound.  This mode will require us to be ready for demanding guests who want some semblance of relaxation out of their homes and off their computer screens.

Readying Ourselves for the Rebound

We have had our chance to "circle the wagons" and take stock in what we have and where we would like to go.  Now it is time to fully prepare for the new/returning/renewed business that is coming.  Whether you are a restaurant, hotel, casino or full-service resort, following these steps will ensure your readiness for the onslaught that is coming.

1. Ensure you have the right staffing strategy

No doubt your reductions have been deep.  Whether you furloughed or laid off a high percentage of your employees, many will not come back.  It will be essential to identify gaps in your staffing levels and levels of positional expertise. 

Sourcing

It will not be enough to generally advertise on Indeed.com or some other service you typically use.  You will want to efficiently source your positions.  Be clear as to where most of your applicants have come from in the past, and target those areas aggressively.  Be clear in your sourcing ads that you are open for business and preparing for an increase in guests. 

It's Not an Ad, It's an Invitation

Once you know where you need to advertise for staff, you need to lure candidates to your company; your ads need to be tailored to illustrate why working for you is better than working for anyone else.  Consider (with their permission, of course) using images of current employees happily completing their tasks.  Video testimonials from actual staff are effective, in that candidates can hear about working for you from future peers. 

Partner with your marketing teams to create exciting property images that distinguish your company from the competition.  "Sell" candidates on why this company is special and will be special to them.  The concept of marketing your company is nothing new; however, the need to show a "coming out of the dark" and into the light of expanding business and opportunity is.  Attract candidates by making it clear that you are working your way beyond the hard times and focusing on the bright, growing future. 

It may be relevant to tout your safety and health procedures, as the pandemic will not simply disappear.    Future employees will want to know that your company has taken the pandemic seriously and will continue to do so.  In addition to opportunity, they will want to know that you care about their health and well-being.  Incorporate sanitation, mask-wearing, Covid preparation into your messaging to further attract viable candidates.     

Use Your Champions

Every property has its share of long-term employees who believe in what that property produces.  Such employees are your "champions"; regardless of their positions, they are property leaders.  Identify them and ask them for information as to why working for the property is special to them.  As noted previously, consider videoing their answers or quoting them in recruitment advertisements. 

Actual employee voices, particularly from hourly employees, mean more than a blurb from an HR Recruiter.  Rely upon them to spread the "good word" about your business to their future co-workers and peers.  They can be more valuable than any dollar amount invested in recruitment. 

2. Training

Many hotels/resorts were unable to maintain their guest service standards when dealing with staff downsizing, cancelled training programs, revenue chasing and mandatory expense reductions.  Subpar service will not be acceptable in 2021, when our guests will be hungry to travel and less than forgiving for poor service.

Whether you have the resources or not, you will need a renewed focus on internal service expectations and accountability.  For those properties who are multi-star or diamond, it is time to reinvigorate focus on your AAA, Forbes and Michelin Guidelines.  Pre-Covid, many properties spent the first ten (10) minutes of every day reviewing guest comments and concerns, ensuring that someone owned each problem and its ultimate solution.  When struggling through the pandemic, who had time to address each guest and each concern?

It is time to bring back the focus on satisfying the guests, and sincerely caring about every detail of their stays.  Bring back the focus on Tripadvisor, Yelp and other Social Media reviews.  Read them and have your staffs read them.  Come up with solutions and contact those who may not have had an optimal experience.  Reinvigorate service recovery efforts.  Keep your guests, and again work on bringing them back. 

Unsure if the property is able to maintain such standards as well as it used to?  Consider bringing back those service shops that you undoubtedly cancelled many months ago, or contract with them for the first time.  Such shops provide detailed reports with photographs and detailed narratives.  When leadership reviews the reports, they are exposed to gaps in service and opportunities for improvement.  The shops are powerful tools for employee appreciation (rewarding good comments), accountability and training. 

Share your expectations with your teams, beginning with service refreshers for your management and ensuring such information trickles down to every level.  The days of merely surviving are leaving; the days of full focus on service delivery and our guests are coming back.

3. Competitive Wages

Times are tough.  Many companies have frozen wage increases and/or eliminated any bonus payouts.  Such strategies make sense – in 2020.  They may not make sense in 2021.  The forward-thinking hospitality companies will take steps to ensure their people have reason to stay with them.  Retention through appreciation – especially by way of competitive wages and incentive programs – will work.   

In addition to internal analysis of compensation, it is important to focus on one's neighbors.  What are other properties doing who are in your competitive set?  Though not in our industry, what are other employers doing to attract and retain talent?  It is essential to understand the environment and adjust practices accordingly. 

If companies continue to keep their wages stagnant for fear of continued economic loss, they will lose their valuable employees to other organizations both within and outside of the industry.  Some investment in human capital will ensure a bright future. 

Conclusion

Pandemic, riots, protests, elections, other localized challenges – they have taken immeasurable tolls upon us.  Thankfully 2020 is ending, and 2021 is a new time with new opportunities.  The rebound is coming in hospitality, and if your property is not ready, it will be left behind.  Investing time into strategies that include focused recruiting, a renewed focus on training and maintaining competitive wages will allow you to retain, recruit and deliver service standards that your crowds (yes – I wrote crowds) will expect.  The rebound is coming, join me in welcoming 2021 with open business arms.

Mr. Dresnin Merrick Desnin is currently the Company Director of Human Resources for Cote Family Destinations, a growing organization overseeing resorts and related activities in both Minnesota and Arizona. He also continues to consult providing both strategic and tactical human capital management guidance to clients. He has held HR leadership positions overseeing openings and restructurings at various properties/operations including the Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC, United Service Companies headquartered in Chicago, IL, the Hyatt Regency Chicago and Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, in California. Mr. Dresnin earned his BA from UC Santa Barbara - double majoring in history and anthropology. He earned his JD from American University (Washington College of Law). He has taught/advised at Kendall College, DePaul University and Georgetown. Mr. Dresnin has spoken at multiple seminars and served on panels reviewing various HR-related topics. Merrick Dresnin can be contacted at +1 312-919-3993 or merrickdresnin1@att.net Please visit http://www.md-hrconsulting.com/ for more information. Extended Biography

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The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Jackson Thilenius
Scott B. Brickman
Kevin Batters
Bill Kotrba
Pedro Colaco
Paul van Meerendonk
David Michael Jerome
Zoe Connolly
Amy Locke
Todd Walter
Coming up in February 2021...