Relentless turnover challenges the sanity of even the most composed hotel manager. I would know: after owning two restaurants that employed 70 people at peak times, the constant battle against turnover triggers plenty of stressful memories. We tried offering health insurance and a living wage for BOH employees, but the economic realities of the low-margin restaurant business made this nearly impossible. Add in the appeal of jobs in less low wage industries, and hiring and retaining quality candidates with a passion for hospitality was always the top challenge.
While hotels enjoy slightly better margins than standalone restaurants, the labor crunch extends equally. As hospitality businesses struggle to stay staffed up, a “mercenary frenzy” leads to lower-than-usual loyalty among workers who shop around for the best offer -- and jump ship at the slightest opportunity for a greater wage. Even with generous benefits, it can be incredibly difficult to retain staff. Rising rents and low wage growth, coupled with low unemployment in the U.S., have sharpened employee focus on gross wages above all else.
To combat these employment trends, HR managers for hotels must rely on tools to increase their own productivity around sourcing new hires, as well as retaining dedicated team members with flexible scheduling and professional development opportunities.
While there are certain features of the hospitality business that make hiring difficult, such as wage competitiveness, the right technology helps HR managers excel in an challenging labor environment.
The role of an HR manager
When it comes to technology, It's important to match the functionality with the desired outcomes. Let's briefly review the roles and responsibilities of the hospitality HR manager:
Sourcing. The HR manager sources potential candidates through online platforms, employee referrals, and personal networks.
Interviewing and hiring. The HR manager screen candidates and oversees the process alongside hiring managers.
Onboarding. Once hired, the new employee’s onboarding must be swift and thorough, balancing quality with speed.
Retention. Existing employees are assets that must be treated as such. An HR managers helps retain staff, which is vital to the consistency of the guest experience and the profitability of the hotel.
Each of these roles as a specific subset of technology that, when implemented correctly, makes the hospitality HR manager more productive and successful in the role.
Turnover for most hotels reaches far into the double digits. This figure is even larger for those hospitality brands that also hire for extensive food and beverage operations. The churn puts hospitality HR managers on constant offense when it comes to sourcing quality candidates.
HR managers should use a three-part strategy, sourcing potential candidates through staffing and recruiting networks, employee referrals, and personal networks. A blended approach brings a greater mix of candidates, and contributes to a healthy talent pipeline.
An emerging category of online platform especially compelling for today’s hospitality HR managers is on-demand staffing. With an on-demand workforce, HR manages can fill unexpected labor gaps, both short and long-term. While the hiring process may be less rigorous and more suited for filling roles with specific responsibilities, these platforms are a useful addition to any hospitality HR managers toolkit.
Speed to hire
Staff departures are common -- but can still catch management off guard. The HR manager must be equipped to quickly hire candidates by moving them through the hiring funnel in the shortest amount of time. The “speed to hire” metric, which Hired defines as “the total time the candidate spends in the funnel,” is an immensely useful metric for hospitality hiring.
“We define speed to hire as the total time the candidate spends in the hiring funnel from initial sourcing to offer acceptance.” -Hired.com
By tracking how long it takes to hire, HR managers improve business outcomes by helping department heads replace outgoing stuff and fill new roles quickly. Another benefit: quality candidates have less time to be snagged by others. In the competition for talent, a mere hours can make a huge difference in closing a new hire.
The Applicant Tracking Software is the hospitality HR manager’s greatest ally. It encompasses all aspects of the hiring funnel, from sourcing candidates down to the eventual hire. Effective management of this process leads to greater hiring success.
Once the candidate is in the funnel, avoid scheduling hassles and use on-demand video interviews which are more candidate friendly. Potential employees can submit these videos on their own time, which also frees up HR managers with far fewer initial candidate screens. When evaluating Applicant Tracking Software, look for these types of automations that boost productivity and enhance the hiring experience. The best candidates see disorganized hiring processes as warning signs.
Once the candidate has accepted, now it's all about how quickly she can be trained. Just like with speed-to-hire, an efficient training process prepares the employee to be an individual contributor. The faster this happens, the lower the turnover costs associated with filling an open role. The trick is to balance speed with quality -- what’s the minimum amount of time that this person, at this experience level, needs to become an integrated team member?
In collaboration with the hiring manager, the HR manager should shape the training process to be as mutually beneficial to both the organization and the candidate. Most candidates want to be trained, but many will be turned off by overtraining or a disorganized onboarding process. Applicant Tracking Systems with on-boarding functionality make it easy for HR managers to check-in with new employees periodically in the first few weeks on the job.
Retain and reward
Regardless of the business, turnover costs money. With each lost employee, the business faces additional costs related to finding replacement workers, training them, and often paying overtime to workers covering the schedule gaps in the meantime.
[Turnover] has high management costs associated with it as you’ll need more exempt managers to ensure training, quality and to pick up the pieces when the quality is just not there. -Restaurateur Azhar Hashem on Why SF Restaurants are Suffocating.
Mitigating these costs must be top-of-mind for an HR professional. Since it's far more affordable (and beneficial to both the guest experience and staff satisfaction), focus on retention through a positive employee experience and strong professional development support.
The current state of the employee experience can be captured with employee engagement software that gather real-time feedback so HR managers can take the pulse of the organization often. These platforms also improve on-property staff communications, reducing mistakes, increasing productivity, and generally making everyone’s day that much better.
Workers and hospitality often prioritize flexibility when it comes to scheduling. For those workers, it's important to offer mobile-optimized scheduling tools that facilitate shift trading and communications among colleagues. Some employees won't have access to computers at home, so these mobile-optimized solutions encourage engagement without alienating a core subset of staff. Many of these tools also integrate labor management, which provides a better on-property life for staff with digital logbooks, as well as performance benchmarks to reward high-performing teams. Payroll solutions should also be reliable and accurate, as a consistently paid staff is the bedrock of any hotel.
Hotels must also reward the most promising employees with additional responsibilities and perks wherever possible. Beyond the obvious, such as promoting from within and seeking growth opportunities for the most promising staff, HR managers can more productively support staff with professional development features embedded in staff engagement software. By codifying the professional development process, HR managers boost retention by lighting the path for ambitious staff.
All in all, be communicative, adaptable, and action-oriented. The best hospitality HR managers stretch across the entire organization, collaborating and hustling to keep staff quality and retention high. And never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”