Managing hotel staff recruitment within hospitality was already a challenging task without the added whirlwind of a global pandemic that affected every individual worldwide. One of the first immediate effects of COVID-19 were the many layoffs happening in service and hospitality industries. Especially with hospitality, the travel restrictions and locked down countries meant that people couldn’t travel or hold events, making hotels redundant. Now, over a year since the onslaught of the pandemic, vaccines are out, businesses are returning to their offices, and travel is on the horizon. Hotels are scrambling to hire with the rise in demand but are finding it harder than ever to recruit. Because of the economic conditions, many staff have either found new jobs or are afraid to return to a job that has been associated with such uncertainty.
Returning to work
The deferred demand for travel is at a tipping point and hotels’ current labor forces aren’t prepared. To understand the market, we need to understand the demographic. In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Stats found that the median age of the hospitality labor force was 31.9 years. 28% of the employees within hospitality were 45 and older. Knowing this will give you insights on what people are looking for when considering a new job or whether or not to return to a previous one. Because the industry is going through a financial slump, increasing wages isn’t the best idea when thinking about how to incentivize staff, nor is it the most important thing to an employee anymore. We’ve compiled a list of tips on hotel staff recruitment for life after COVID-19. From rehiring staff, incentivizing your teams, and building a culture that retains staff - continue reading.
6 tips on hotel staff recruitment post-pandemic
1 - ‘Do’ hire back great staff and incentivize them
Bringing back staff that you had laid off during the pandemic may be your first thought when attacking this hotel staff recruitment plan. However, people may not feel as excited to come back to a place where they were laid off as you are to have them back. As we stated above, finding ways to incentivize staff isn’t just wages. People are looking for a career that provides security, flexibility and work-life balance - in light of all the happenings of 2020. People are more invested in spending time with loved ones, a sense of fulfillment, including social activism and raising awareness for matters that are important to them. Increasing flexibility at work will be a huge draw for people who used to work tirelessly and have determined that the new found freedom of flexible work arrangements a non-negotiable.
A way to do this is to implement a flexible work schedule agreement. This can look like a number of different things depending on the individual. From part-time hours, compressed work week, to hybrid work from home + at the property (if appropriate). Not dictating to staff members when and how much they have to work will be a change from the previous way hotel schedules worked and it will be a welcomed change and effective strategy in hotel staff recruitment.
When people are given the option to plan their life around their work, they tend to be happier to work. Happier people = happier to work = more productive. Although there are additional costs to higher flexibility initially, staff retention and productivity increases and outweighs the costs in the long term.
2 - ‘Don’t’ reject previous staff without a legitimate reason
During the mass layoffs as a result of COVID-19, employers were allowed to terminate their staff because of the reduction in operations (with the assumption that the employer wasn’t subject to a collective bargaining restriction). Employers didn’t have an obligation to promise staff that they would be given priority when hotels reopened.
When it comes to hotel staff recruitment in this sense, of course the business should prioritize the best talent for their labor force. It is an employer’s rightful decision to be able to consider new applicants over rehiring a former employee (as long as there is no contractual obligation that would require the employee to be reinstated). But with that being said, employers should remain consistent with hotel staff recruitment and regular hiring practices. They should implement recruiting procedures that are unbiased and enable the business to hire the most qualified candidates in a lawful manner.
A previous employee that is not rehired may challenge the decision and argue that the employer was discriminatory or retaliatory because the employer was privy to more information about the previous employee than the prospective hires. For example, during the time that the employee was working there, management may have come to learn things like age, work habits, health and personal circumstances, national origin and religion. The employee may be part of a protected class and may argue that since they were once qualified to work at the hotel, that they should not have been passed over for this opportunity, especially where they have no documented performance or conduct issues.
This is what is called a “failure-to-hire” claim. To defend against this, the employer must state a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for the hiring decision. Hotel hiring departments should be using clearly defined, objective criteria that are relevant to the business when making hiring decisions. In the event that a new employee is hired over a previous employee, the employer needs to be able to establish why the new hire is more qualified.
3 - ‘Do' train your recruiters and decision makers in lawful hotel staff recruitment
Now that you’re ramping up your hotel staff recruitment, consider investing in your human resources and training of your recruiters and decision makers. It is of the utmost importance that an employer is doing their due diligence to ensure that their hiring decisions are fair and lawful. This starts with interviewers and decision makers. Training or retaining will reinforce the importance of unbiased interviewing and the techniques to best enable employers to assess applicant’s skills and experience.
Training should reinforce the following:
- Purpose of interview
- How to ensure applicants are being treated fairly and consistently
- How to avoid bias towards applicants in the hiring process
- Questions not to ask
- Best practices on how to record applicants answers to questions
- What are the protected characteristics and how to avoid asking questions that will elicit that information
- Best practices on documenting the hiring decision
4 - ‘Don’t’ just rely on your previous labor force to just return
It would be overly optimistic to assume that your entire labor force that was let go during the pandemic will all just be ready and excited to come back. You need to get proactive in your hotel staff recruitment and get creative on where you’re looking for talent. Perhaps, it’s a referral program to incentivize your team to help hunt. Look at posting your ad in non-conventional job boards in adjacent industries. Consider opening the net wider in terms of experience required and look for those soft skills during a thorough interviewing process. Consider your company’s recruitment brand image? How can you make your hotel look like the best hotel to work at? These things don’t happen overnight so it’s important to start thinking about this well before the travel wave hits.
5 - ‘Do’ invest in training and development of your new recruits
A chunk of your labor force is going to be new recruits. And given the job market, your new recruits may be very new. Investing in their training and development early will set them up for success, increase productivity and retention, decrease turnover and save you money down the line. Consider revamping your entire onboarding process. Diversify your training by having a mix of reference material, online resources, and on-the-job training. Think about how you can simplify lengthy tutorials into essential checklists. Getting your new hires up and running and producing at the highest level will not only ensure that they are doing their jobs properly or developing bad habits, but it will also foster a culture of development and growth at your hotel. These new recruits may be young with little experience, or have come from a different industry. The knowledge and growth they experience now will increase the likelihood that they will remain with your hotel for years to come.
6 - ‘Do’ create a culture of development that empowers your staff
People who are entering the workforce today are placing a greater emphasis on working at a company that has the same values as they do. They want to work at a company that is transparent that they can trust, who they feel has a real purpose in making a positive contribution to society. We briefly touched on fostering a culture of development and growth at the workplace in #5. But development doesn't only have to apply to work but to personal growth.
Many social issues came to light in 2020 and ongoing, hotels can contribute to an employee’s personal growth in many different ways. For example, allowing employees to volunteer during work hours, or having a hotel committee dedicated to organizing volunteer activities through organizations that they collectively find important. Involvement is key. When staff feel that they’re getting more value in their work than just wages, they are more likely to be happier, be more productive, and stay with that organization.
With hotel staff recruitment, there are many upfront costs to consider. But by changing the mindset of focusing on what hotels can do for their employees now and how to increase the value of employees receive from their work, employers will reap the benefits in the long run with driven, happy and life-long team members. People are what make the business and it starts right at the beginning with hotel staff recruitment.
**Disclaimer: This is a blog post based on our opinion. We advise that you research and follow your local labor laws before making any HR decisions. If you are unsure about a hiring practice, reach out to your governing labour party or an HR expert for advice.