HM on Location: Where will hospitality talent emerge from?

LAS VEGAS — Several sessions at The Hospitality Show, held this week at The Venetian, focused on the labor shortage, including “Where Hospitality Talent Will Emerge in the Future.” Moderated by Anna Blue, president of the AHLA Foundation, the panel included BWH Hotels President and CEO Larry Cuculic; Daniel del Olmo, president for hotels and restaurants at Sage Hospitality Group; Ashli Johnson, Howard University’s Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality executive director; and Encore President and CEO Ben Erwin. 

In addressing what a future workforce could look like, Johnson observed how a recruitment program might resonate. “If you are not familiar with Gen Z, they are a different brand of individual,” she said. “They really want to know what the company is about, what you are about. Most buy in to a recruiter before they buy in to anything else. Secondarily, I would say the experience portion [is important, such as] organizations that are giving out opportunities for students to engage prior to actually signing on the dotted line and saying yes.”

“It’s remarkable how things have changed,” said del Olmo, noting there’s been an increased desire for flexible work environments. “So our GMs in Denver piloted this four-day work week. And what we found was it was not just a great way to retain talent, because people were being poached, but it was also a great way to attract talent. So, essentially we’re helping optimize the work/life balance of our team members.”

In addition, Sage has teamed with the University of Denver and the African Community Center to hire and train refugees, 30 of whom came on board this year.

Encore’s Erwin said tech also is playing a part in meeting the challenge of the labor shortage. “We’ve had to be creative for the past couple of years and, certainly, this industry is in a better place today than it was a year ago, but we still have a ways to go. I think the question is how do you get your story out there to a new generation that’s consuming information differently. It’s finding ways to connect where they are—online, social media—with stories of culture, stories of purpose … What does your organization believe in? What is it like to work there? So, we’re putting a lot more of the stories of our team members out in front to make it feel real and what it would be if you invested your career in Encore, in hospitality.”

Best Western’s Cuculic emphasized that when thinking about the hospitality industry’s potential workforce, it’s not just about the front desk, but the range of opportunities available among the many different departments within a hotel. “Somebody could major in marketing, so we need to go after marketers. People can focus on sales; hotels need sales staff. You have accountants, culinary experts, recreational experts, engineers, HR personnel. We need to reach out across industries and across that talent pool,” said the CEO, who himself is a lawyer. “Good people, good talent will always be in demand.”