6 strategies to help recruit, retain hotel employees

Job interview
As unemployment decreases, it becomes key for hotels to make sure employees get off to a good start. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / AndreyPopov

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate currently sits at 3.6 percent, a 49-year low. While state unemployment rates may vary slightly, this overall number is the lowest level since December 1969.

A low unemployment rate is indicative of a strong economy. It is advantageous to individual workers because they can more easily secure employment to provide for their families. And when people are employed, they have more money to spend, resulting in a strong economy.

But a downside often overlooked during strong economic cycles is the accompanying difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent. The hospitality and tourism industry is no exception. In December, there were 978,000 current openings in the hospitality industry. This is a challenge for an industry already struggling with annualized turnover north of 70 percent.

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A great statistic to watch is the U.S. job quits rate, which tracks how likely a team member is to quit his or her job. This number has doubled since its nadir in 2009. In a candidate-driven market, fewer people are actively searching for work and businesses must be relentless in their efforts to both attract potential team members to fill open positions and ensure current team members remain with the company.

1. Consider Commute Options

Many of our markets have experienced significant growth in recent years, and the costs of living and housing markets also have boomed. Employees across industries endure longer commutes, not only as the population grows but also as workers move farther away from the city center, where the cost of living is increasing most rapidly. Downtown properties often face the highest team member turnover due in part to the associated high cost of living.

Recognizing the importance that commutes can play in recruitment and retention, hotels ought to evaluate transportation options near the property and consider commuter programs. For example, to help alleviate any hurdles to successful employment that commutes may present, properties that sit along a bus route or rail service could support passes for team members or downtown properties could provide employee parking.

2. Onboarding

Do not underestimate the importance of a thoughtful onboarding and training process. When you are early in the relationship with your team members, these are critical times to both show them your compassion and properly prepare them for their duties. As a manager, do not be shy about asking about their career aspirations and their long-term goals. There is a strong possibility that their previous employer never asked those questions.

3. Regular Touch Points with Team Members in the Early Days

Identifying a new team member’s aspirations—and potential work challenges—early on in the hiring process can make a significant difference in helping to curb any concerns that may hinder his or her retention at the hotel. By having check-in conversations with new team members, leadership at the property can help to provide team members with tools for success and make any course corrections in the early stages of employment.

Showing interest in a team member’s workplace satisfaction also helps foster a quality team rapport, which can make a significant impact on retention. This effort can prove especially beneficial in cases when team members have been hired because they fit the culture and personality needs of the property, with the understanding that leadership can help teach the job skills. Building a strong working relationship with and displaying an investment in employees provide intangible benefits that can be rare to find in competing workplaces.

4. Become an Employer of Choice

With the unemployment rate near record lows, companies are doing more to attract talent from a shrinking pool of candidates, meaning job applicants have more options and the risk of losing current team members to competitors or other industries has never been greater. In order to overcome this obstacle, hotels must strategically plan for team member recruitment and retention. Becoming an “employer of choice” does just that.

An employer of choice provides many features for its team members. The most obvious factor is competitive pay and benefits, which, while important, should be only a piece of a hospitality firm’s larger retention effort. Other factors should include:

  • Performance incentives
  • Strong team member engagement and culture
  • Career development and advancement opportunities
  • Social responsibility and community investment

Incentives such as referral and performance bonuses, and perks ranging from provided lunches, free lodging options, English as a Second Language classes, flexible schedules and employee and family events go a long way in demonstrating care and concern for team members. Businesses and guests both benefit when team members are engaged and enjoy the work they perform.

5. Career Development

Supporting the development and growth of team members is essential, not only for the retention of current team members but also in attracting talent to your organization. Internal initiatives such as apprenticeship and leadership training programs keep team members engaged and encourage them to stay with the company rather than being lured away by a competing offer. When current and potential team members see opportunities for promotion and career development, they become champions for your organization.

6. Community Involvement

It should come as no surprise team members want to work for companies that invest in the causes and communities they care about. Giving, not only of money but also of time, to charitable organizations helps to attract potential talent while retaining current team members, separating your company from competitors within and beyond the hospitality industry. Activities with local charities also really help to foster a sense of culture within your hotel.

Low unemployment is a strong indicator of a robust economy, but with it comes the associated difficulty of recruiting and retaining talent. However, incorporating sound staffing strategies can help to mitigate that challenge. When strategic efforts are paired together, hotel properties will succeed in both attracting and retaining team members in an otherwise tight labor market—which benefits employers, team members and guests alike.

Chris Manley is the COO of Stonebridge Companies, a privately owned hotel owner, operator and developer headquartered in Denver.

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