The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry has been staggering. In fact, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has reported that 70% of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed and nearly 1.6 million hotel employees are out of work.
The sheer size of the talent pool will make the process of hiring a daunting task. But so will the continued pandemic and accompanying economic uncertainties.
So how can hotel employers rise to the challenge as we look ahead to a world that is forecast to slowly return back to normal?
Hotels looking to increase staffing levels are going to need a strategy and one that is agile enough to allow for shifts in business and economic demand during these ever-changing times.
Until now, the pandemic has forced hoteliers to be reactive, making hygiene and cleanliness a priority while also trying to balance labor costs with business needs and nearly non-existent revenues.
But the situation is changing as the end of the pandemic appears to be on the horizon, allowing hoteliers to move into a more proactive mode. That said, the ability to plan ahead remains challenged by the fact that the pandemic has no specified end date and case increases continue to ebb and flow.
Likewise, Covid-19’s effects on geographic locations also continue to vary. Hiring strategies should be adaptable to situational changes in different localities.
Of course, a fully remote staff is not a viable option for the hospitality industry as interaction with frontline employees is key to the guest experience. Yet, forecasting occupancy levels continues to be difficult, and consequently, projecting necessary staffing levels is just as tricky.
Nevertheless, hotels must have front desk attendants, maintenance workers, and housekeepers –at a minimum—in order to operate.
But who are the right candidates to fill these positions?
Well, as has always been the case, candidates who can bring prior experience in these hospitality-related jobs should continue to rise to the top of the resume pile. However, this pandemic has also shown that workers with a varied skill set are invaluable.
Throughout the pandemic, hoteliers have asked remaining members of their management teams –particularly those who have risen through the ranks—to spend some time filling in at roles where that team member has previous experience, with that’s a revenue director with past front desk experience or a marketing director with a background in group sales.
The heightened importance of that versatility points not only to the industry’s prior emphasis on creating career paths for frontline employees but also on expanding their skill sets.
So in reengineering a new hiring strategy and trying to determine the number of hours allocated to any given employee, keep in mind that some of that time can –and should be—set aside for skills training.
Not only is this a viable tactic for keeping staff on when occupancy is low, but it also benefits the business in the long term. Employees also benefit from learning additional skills as it increases their prospects of moving forward on their career path and makes them more of an asset to any employer.
But don’t simply focus on soft skills.
Yes, teamwork, cultural awareness, and the ability to multi-task are all essential to hospitality work. Technical skills like reservation services, housekeeping operations, and even sales are also indispensable.
So if you have a front desk agent who could excel at sales, consider having him or her spend some time aiding that department in an administrative role. Similarly, hotels with in-house laundry departments might consider looking to department staff with great attitudes and dedication as potential housekeeping trainees.
Offering potential employees these additional opportunities can make hotels more competitive employers as can enhanced compensation packages.
If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic has cast a greater spotlight on health and wellness. Hotel and restaurant guests are acutely aware of this and as a result, hoteliers realize that their team must be in good health at all times.
Create a safe and healthy work environment.
Similarly, now more than ever, employees also desire a work environment where they can feel confident that the staff’s health and well-being is a priority for their employer. Now, sending employees home when they exhibit symptoms of illness isn’t just the sign of a compassionate employer, it’s also good business.
Along with that, hospitality employers should also consider offering all employees sick time or increased sick time. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), “paid sick leave can continue to perform an important role in containing and mitigating the spread of the virus and protecting the incomes, jobs, and health of sick workers and their families.”
From a business perspective, a healthy staff is good for every hotel and restaurant’s bottom line as well as for its reputation.
Employee support could also extend to greater care for those taking care of sick household members and available resources for staff that may be undergoing hardship.
How else can hotels support their staff?
After all, the hotel employee may be working, but other financial contributors within their household may not. Therefore, it’s possible that hotels have staff who are enduring financial hardship. This isn’t to say that hoteliers need to respond monetarily. But HR can assist with putting staff in touch with other community resources that could provide those employees with assistance.
Additionally, the pandemic and all that has occurred throughout it have also put more emphasis on the need for diversity and inclusion. The hospitality industry has always been a frontrunner in this regard. So if your business doesn’t already have a formalized policy and plan for increasing diversity and inclusion in the hiring process, now is the time to create one.
Highlighting your diversity and inclusion policy to all potential new hires will not only give you a competitive advantage but will show that you’re an equitable employer and one that is actively in-tune with an evolving world and future workforce.