By now, even casual observers are aware of the COVID-19’s impact on the hospitality industry. Consumers switched to takeout food to support their favorite restaurants and many people canceled travel plans.
With all its ups and downs, the pandemic’s end is looming (with hope) and people are eager to revive their long-awaited vacation plans. They may want to plan a new trip to a closer destination. Or they are returning to dining in restaurants instead of ordering takeout.
But some of their favorite destinations still operate with open reduced hours. Restaurants and hotels struggle to return to normal operations. Meanwhile, staffing challenges have made headlines.
Even before the pandemic, the hospitality industry had extremely high turnover rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pandemic has only exacerbated this trend. In the first half of 2021, turnover rates for hospitality jobs were double or even triple those in almost every other industry.
Hospitality executives and hiring managers face a whole new layer of challenges as we step into the post-pandemic economy. Yet there are ways to emerge from this period with more dynamic and effective strategies.
Here’s a look at how the hospitality industry can transform restaurant and hotel hirings, and how they can retain the best workers and keep them motivated.
The hospitality industry has always been known for dynamism and constant change. The most crucial thing to accept is that the industry will be even more in flux for months or years to come.
Reopening timelines have varied by state, region, and country. Executives have had to reconcile contradictory or conflicting reopening timelines in different locations. They have had to adapt to rules and regulations that vary by region or that change quickly.
The turnover rate for hotel and restaurant jobs has been one of the biggest challenges. The turnover rate in the industry was already traditionally high. But it has been even higher as businesses reopen and employees continue to move around.
Some long-time industry employees sought other jobs during restaurant and hotel closures. Many of these workers have decided not to return, even as their former employers have reopened.
A large percentage of the workforce at many hotels and restaurants was young and mobile. Balancing this workforce with enough experienced workers has always been a challenge. Moreover industry veterans departing their sector is certainly compounding this challenge.
Another challenge comes from short-term changes in staffing caused by the pandemic. Young employees who could not attend school filled many hotel and restaurant jobs. Yet schools and universities are now returning to more normal operations. And many of these young employees are now leaving their short-term positions. The most important thing for employers and hiring managers to do is to continue to adapt to changing business dynamics.
Hotel and food service jobs have long suffered from public misperceptions. Many people who have never worked in the industry see them as low-skill, temporary jobs. They imagine industry staff as college students and other young people. They see it as a temporary job before transitioning into long-term careers.
This, of course, couldn't be further from the truth. Working in hospitality requires years of skill development. And many of the skills are tricky for hiring managers to hire for.
Hospitality executives should focus on addressing the skill gaps in their companies. Many companies have implemented new referral programs. These draw on the networks of their strongest employees.
Other companies are offering hiring bonuses and increased wages. They are doing so to encourage experienced industry veterans to return.
Businesses have also emphasized the quality of working life as they recruit new employees. They may be offering increased pay and hiring bonuses. They are promoting benefit programs, professional development, and work-life balance to potential employees.
Workers who have developed the skills necessary to succeed in the hospitality industry are essential. As employers reach out to them for recruitment, they will need to be more creative than ever in finding the right people for their company.
The future of hospitality jobs is not, of course, just dependent on new hires. Staff retention is also crucial. Even before the pandemic, it could make or break a business.
The costs of turnover have been well-documented. One pre-pandemic study found that the costs of hiring a replacement for a departing employee can be 33% of that employee's salary. For example, say a departing employee made $45,000 per year. Hiring their replacement could cost $15,000 on top of that.
This doesn't even include other hidden costs. One major unseen impact is the cost to morale among remaining staff members. These employees have to pick up extra work to fill in a gap while a new employee is hired, trained, and gets up to speed.
One of the best things business leaderships can do is to make every effort to keep as much of their staff as possible. A few different initiatives can be very helpful in motivating a company's best employees to stay long-term.
Performance bonuses can be a great motivator on top of regular wage increases. Some companies have embraced teamwide performance bonuses. Employees at certain levels receive individual bonuses. Either model can help encourage your most qualified people to stay with you and dedicate their work to your company’s success.
A perennial challenge for workers in the hospitality industry is finding a long-term career path. One reason that so many workers leave the industry is that there are fewer opportunities to develop their skills.
Skills training and development seminars can be a great motivator for your best employees. They are much more likely to stay if they are confident that they can continue to develop their skills and knowledge.
These professional development initiatives can take many forms. Some options are food and beverage seminars, service training, paid certifications, and continued education, and more.
Another challenge to staff retention is the lack of clear opportunities for promotion. Engaging with employees about the long-term possibilities for advancement can improve staff retention. It can even be helpful to have these conversations during the hiring process.
Provide clear paths for skilled employees to move into management. Also, develop clear promotion opportunities in the ranks of corporate management. This can encourage your best employees to commit to your company on a long-term basis.
Another major transformation to the hospitality sector post-pandemic is new COVID-19 safety and sanitation standards. These standards evolved quickly at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, health and safety officials and corporate leaders have continued to refine them.
One of the most important aspects of keeping employees safe, happy, healthy, and motivated is safety and sanitation. New cleaning standards will have to be followed meticulously. This also requires increased training. This is especially true of employees responsible for maintaining sanitation and cleanliness.
These standards will also be essential for consumer confidence as travelers return to hotels. Healthy employees and healthy guests will be more likely to stay and to return.
Executives, owners, and hiring managers at both hotel chains and independent hotels are eager to hire the right people. The same is true for restaurant owners and managers. There are many challenges facing those making decisions about restaurant and hotel hirings.
But there are also opportunities. The hospitality industry will transform. And leadership can set their hotels, restaurants, and hospitality groups apart.
The effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry and hotels will continue to unfold. But we can already see some of the most important elements of success. Two of them will be staffing and consumer confidence.
Some things are more under the control of hospitality owners and managers. You can increase sanitation standards, develop training programs, and launch performance bonus structures. All these changes can be made internally.
Hiring from the outside is the most challenging part of the equation. And of course, with high turnover rates in the hospitality industry, it is also the most urgent.
Many of the strategies above should help executives and HR directors. There are many ways to overhaul and improve their hotel hirings and hospitality approach. But allocating more hiring resources might be necessary to stay competitive in such a dynamic industry.
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