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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.