It’s official: Travel is back. In some states, hotel occupancy rates have increased by 80-100%. However, most current staffing levels can support only a 15-20% increase. Most hospitality firms didn’t expect a return to normal until closer to Q3, and they hired accordingly.
Now, the talent acquisition heat is on, and HR is scrambling to develop creative strategies to entice workers back on-property as quickly as possible. The pressure is also on finance teams to weigh in on whether firms can offer higher wages, bonuses and better benefits to lure workers.
Here are seven considerations for hospitality CFOs and HR leaders to consider as the business restaffs.
Traditional hospitality workforce structures are rigid and hierarchical, with employees assigned to very specific functions. That won’t work, at least in the near term. In fact, it could cost you rising stars.
Think about when your business was in crisis: Which team members voluntarily learned new skills, managed a department that was not their own or came up with creative ways to save money or add revenue? We saw team members at all levels step up to motivate peers and demonstrate adaptability. As a result, the industry now has a core set of workers who persevered despite the toughest of circumstances.
This should be obvious: Leaders need to identify and reward these staffers. Performing a talent assessment to document newly-developed competencies and skill sets of current workers — and recognizing them appropriately — is the only way to make sure these gems don’t decamp to a competitor.
Employee retention, always a concern in hospitality, must now expand to include formal talent management and employee engagement efforts.
Here are a few best practices as you develop the strategy:
Company-wide drivers include making sure all employees:
Line managers play an important role as well. Make sure supervisors:
Related to the above, create an updated organizational chart and job descriptions customized to the current needs of the business. Right now, that need is to staff up quickly and cost-effectively.
Job descriptions should emphasize the role expansion and cross-functional skills we discussed, and that will be beneficial for the next six months and into the new year. For example, there may be a benefit to increasing a supervisor’s wage and broadening the job scope rather than adding another salaried FTE, at least until revenues return fully to 2019 numbers.
To see that strategy adjustment in practice, take the example of operations in a full-service hotel. The reality: Food and beverage revenue is slowly returning, but it looks different. Grab-and-go is replacing buffets. Menus are limited to accommodate volume while keeping kitchen staff slim. Room service probably hasn’t been reinstated yet.
What are you doing differently to accommodate those changes? Offering those grab-and-go meals to local businesses as their employees return? Pulling in marketing to reframe limited menus as "seasonal"? Making arrangements with select local eateries to deliver meals for guests?
As for KPIs, housekeeping success is traditionally measured by the number of rooms cleaned per day. With few exceptions, however, daily housekeeping service has been discontinued to reduce in-person interaction between staff and guests. This reduces the number of stay-over rooms assigned to a staff member per day and increases the cleaning needed in check-out rooms.
And in laundry, more focus and staffing are necessary because every item in the room is removed, per most brands’ updated cleanliness standards. For example, a room with two beds gets full linen removal and replenishment, whether the second bed was used or not. Towels folded under a vanity are still removed and cleaned. These extra steps are labor-intensive. Instead of a housekeeper being able to clean 14 to 16 standard rooms in a day, the new labor model and standards may prescribe 12 or fewer — or replacing single workers with two-person teams.
Keeping adaptability in mind, determine which positions should be created at each level, and hire accordingly.
For hospitality operations leaders, the No. 1 pain point today is finding talent fast, but that certainly isn’t the only headache. Wages have increased due to high demand for qualified workers, and sign-on bonuses and referral incentives are more heavily advertised than ever. At present, it doesn’t look as though simply increasing wages and benefits will solve the staffing problem, particularly in lower-level roles.
Housekeeping is by far the biggest challenge. An open job can go weeks without a single applicant. As a result, organizations have devised clever new sourcing strategies:
While line-level positions are posing a challenge to staff, it is arguably an employer’s market regarding exempt positions. Strategic downsizing across many industries, not just hospitality, has increased the caliber of available candidates, and many are willing to stretch their search parameters to be reemployed. Support for relocation and the opportunity to work remotely are more valuable, in some cases, than salary.
As discussed in our first two points, by adjusting job descriptions, desired skills and competencies, candidates who may not have considered hospitality in the past are now in play.
25 Recruitment Metrics for Data-Driven Human Capital Management: Show an ROI on your recruiting process by calculating these critical metrics — and get details on making the calculation process easier.
The American Hotel Lodging Association (AHLA) has an evolving safety standard for customers and employees called Safe Stay(opens in new tab). Safe Stay is endorsed by all major U.S. hotel brands, plus associations in all 50 states and Canada. The initiative presents guidelines for cleaning, social interaction and workplace protocols.
A few points:
In April 2021, California passed Senate Bill 93 (SB-93)(opens in new tab) addressing the right to recall, rehire and retain staff from furlough or layoff. Creating communication systems to comply with the regulation — in California and other states — became a high priority.
SB-93 requires organizations to offer newly posted positions to workers who were laid off due to the pandemic. If an associate was 1) employed for six months or more preceding Jan. 1, 2020 and 2) separated from active work for a COVID-19-related reason, that associate is entitled to be recalled rather than HR hiring a new employee to fill the position. Employers in other states may create policies like California’s, so these best practices are also a defense against liability risks.
Best practices include:
As always, retain notes from employment interviews for a minimum of two years.
While you need to be competitive, money isn’t the only thing that attracts new employees. Here are some other factors that can boost your value proposition:
Once you package your EVP in terms of wages, benefits and culture, make sure your team communicates it during the interview, offer and onboarding processes. Failure to sell it can cost you viable candidates and valuable employees.
We previously covered ways HR can work with other teams to proactively manage KPIs related to human capital and get a granular view of costs across the organization.
Today, HR and finance teams need to know exactly where money is going when seeking candidates. A human resources management system (HRMS) can run reports to compare source effectiveness — helping you determine when a hiring channel isn’t working and it’s time to move your money elsewhere. See if a vendor has a free trial period so you can try before you buy.
An HRMS can also create job requisitions and descriptions, manage resumes, track applicants through the recruiting process, extend job offers, perform background checks, administer pre-employment screenings and more. Consider this: The typical hospitality company currently has four times the open positions it had in 2019 and roughly half the HR or talent acquisition (TA) staff. If prescreen questions during the application process or an automatic virtual scheduler saves a TA a phone call or email, you can reallocate those labor dollars to sourcing qualified applicants.
Use the best practices above to appropriately restaff your hospitality business in 2021 — one percentage point of occupancy at a time.