Hotel Human Resources' Five Greatest Challenges - and what to do about them

By Joyce Gioia CEO, Employer of Choice International, Inc. | March 25, 2012

Recently, we had the unfortunate experience of staying at a limited service property in North Carolina. The service levels were deplorable―broken commitments, an ice bucket left full of water for three days; one day housekeeping even skipped cleaning the room. On top of all of that, no one who knew what they were doing had ever inspected the rooms. Otherwise, they would have seen that towels had been hung backwards.

When I talked with the general manager, he mentioned low occupancy, high turnover, and his reduced staff. All this turmoil resulted in his having to work maintenance for two days. If there were ever an opportunity for a hotel version of Gordon Ramsey, this property would be an ideal prospect!

Clearly, that property was caught in an “unstoppable downward spiral”: low occupancy leads to reductions in staff, which translates to lower service levels, which results in still lower percentages of occupancy, and the beat goes on.

I made some clear suggestions to this GM, though I would be very surprised if any were ever implemented. The suggestions I made to him are in the first four Challenge/Solutions detailed in this article for you.

Challenge #1: Hiring Right

Though with the current state of unemployment, frontline workers should be easier to a recruit, it is vital that you make sure of a few key elements. First, you need to make sure that they are a good “fit” for the job itself. Their temperament must be well suited for the particular position. If the job is not a good fit to the person, the person will be unhappy and leave. For instance, we want a housekeeper who will be a good team player, someone who is somewhat people-oriented, and someone who will stick to the task until it is completed.

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The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.