Hoteliers are redefining flexibility to meet the challenges of work


The performance of the US hospitality industry improved steadily in 2021 amid increased demand, especially from leisure travelers, but the industry’s workforce has not rebounded to the same pace relative to pandemic lows.

As lockdowns lifted, travel restrictions eased and the economy strengthened, hoteliers capitalized on new travel demand, but struggled to bring staff levels back to what ‘they were before the layoffs and time off at the start of the pandemic.

As 2022 approaches, the industry continues to face calls for higher wages, better benefits and more career opportunities amidst labor shortages in the industry. nationwide in which all other employers are a competitor.

The leisure and hospitality sectors of the economy have been hit hardest by the jobs crisis, according to Aran Ryan, director of accommodation analysis at Tourism Economics. Employers in the industry have laid off nearly 50% of the workforce and continue to face challenges despite some progress in recent hiring efforts, he said.

Many employees who left the industry after being made redundant or laid off weren’t waiting for their old hotel jobs to reopen, and some hotel employees who kept their jobs during the pandemic now want to do a change, he said.

At the same time, employers in the hospitality industry are unsure of how to staff their establishments, as demand varies by market and booking windows for clients remain short.

Service levels are likely to be adjusted as hotel managers seek to more productively use the available workforce, which will include more investment in technology and training, as well as a review of process, said Ryan.

“If we get through the year, we’ll come out with this productive and more valued workforce,” he said.

Prospective employees are looking for flexibility, which could mean working part-time, sharing a job with someone else, or working remotely, said Ann Christenson, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Aimbridge Hospitality. .

“Companies that are flexible in the way they define it, how they respond to this need for flexibility, will certainly find that they all have the advantage when it comes to the war for talent,” he said. she declared.

While many companies reported high employee turnover in 2021, Christenson said Aimbridge’s turnover rate was 10% lower than in 2019. The company still has a significant number of job vacancies. employment but has focused more on retention efforts.

The challenge in 2022 is for people to look for something different from before – more than a job, potential employees want a sense of purpose and belonging, she said. Knowing this helps Aimbridge tailor its employee value proposition and engagement with associates, she said.

Sue Sanders, senior vice president of strategic planning and director of human resources at Hospitality Ventures Management Group, said employee retention has been particularly difficult for the company as it grows its hotel portfolio.

At a new hotel the company recently took over, the outgoing operator was not forthright about plans for staff, she said.

“We polled everyone and even offered them retention bonuses,” she said. “We couldn’t understand why people weren’t signing their deals and signing up. Lo and behold, a few days before the actual transition, we found out it was because the outgoing manager had another property in the area and was taking everyone there.

Some hotel workers are all leaving hotels and the service industry together, Sanders said.

“What surprised me is that … even at a very high level someone will resign without notice or on very short notice,” she said. “I’ve never seen this before in my career.”

HVMG mainly stabilized its workforce in August, with enough associates to match its activity levels, Sanders said. The company has added 14 hotels since July, keeping some staff at those properties and hiring to replace those who left during the transition.

The company has increased wages to match local market levels, she said. It also paid bonuses, granted raises and increased benefits. The payroll has gone up, but that’s because incomes have also gone up, she said.

“It will continue to cost us more, but we cannot operate unstaffed hotels,” she said.

Sanders attributed the company’s success in staffing to centralized efforts to find, assess and recruit hourly associates.

“I think it’s a differentiator, and it’s allowed us to stabilize and maintain that stability,” she said.

“We will certainly continue all that we have done in recruitment and retention, but then we are doubling our staff,” she added. “Developing our own leadership among managers has always been a priority, but this is the year in which we have already devoted more resources to it in the budgets, already in a plan to be implemented here at the beginning of 22”.

Aimbridge has seen an increase in the number of applicants over the past quarter as more people return to the workforce, including some who have left the industry, Christenson said.

These “boomerang” employees have a passion for hospitality, and Aimbridge gives them a sense of belonging while investing in their career advancement, she said.

The daily pay, or concert pay, that Aimbridge implemented in 2021 gave employees access to more than $ 2 million in pay before regular pay periods, Christenson said, adding that it helped reduce staff turnover.

Aimbridge has also deployed recruiters in several key markets that have a higher number of openings, which has reduced the time it takes to fill vacancies by more than 60%, she said. The rapid response to applications has been essential in a context of stiff competition for new hires, she added.

“Having these market recruiters dedicated to this has really been one of the best investments we’ve made in our recruiting strategy,” she said.

Sanders said working with high schools and universities would create opportunities to show the benefits of a career in the hospitality industry. With this in mind, HVMG has created a strategic partnership with Kennesaw State University.

There are also opportunities to attract employees from other sectors.

Retail and restaurants are two of the industries most similar to hotels, and even with minimal customer experience, those employees could be trained to work at the front desk, Sanders said.

When recruiting in a market, Aimbridge considers all types of industries and organizations for new hires, Christenson said. That said, it focuses on industries where employees have experience with some form of service, such as healthcare, restaurants, and retail.

“Do you have a passion for people? Do you have a desire to make a difference in people’s lives? It doesn’t matter what industry you come from then if you have a passion for it. We can train you. great what we think we have to offer when it comes to hospitality, ”she said.

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