The report below, published in 2008 by the Governor’s Workforce Board of RI, outlines the issues facing the hospitality industry in that state- a state which relies heavily on this sector of the economy (who doesn’t love Newport?). What’s disconcerting, however, is that it’s now been a year since this was originally published, and there has been little or no change in behavior by the employers within this industry.
I’ve worked somewhat closely with a couple trade associations that cater to this industry, and am forced to come to the conclusion that the problem lies not with the applicant pool, nor with the industry itself, but with the individual hiring managers who are tasked with staffing. It’s time that this industry look in the mirror. As far back as I know, the hospitality industry has been famously cost-conscious, to the point of being penny wise and pound foolish. In the following report, you’ll read that 3 out of the top 5 issues facing this industry are related to hiring and retaining employees. That may not seem to big of a deal, until you consider that more than 50% of the US population has worked in hospitality at some time during their working lives.
IF 50% OF THE POPULATION HAS SOME LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE TO MEET YOUR STAFFING NEEDS AND YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS ARE HIRING EMPLOYEES, THEN IT’S TIME TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR!
HELP WANTED Signs
Overwhelmingly, employers in this industry rely on the old “hang a sign in the window” recruitment advertising. They spend ZERO dollars to attract a sizable pool of applicants, and very little time on selecting the best candidates to make offers to. Unfortunately, this stereotype is playing out every day by a very large majority of these businesses.
While employers think they’re saving money by not running job ads, what they’re really doing is increasing costs as they take on the costs of extreme levels of turnover coupled with overtime pay to cover the unfilled positions. What’s even more disturbing is that this industry more than most, relies on high quality service (food quality, room cleanliness, customer relations, etc) and high rate of customer loyalty to survive, while most are in a constant churn of staff.
You’d think if your business’s survival was based on your customers having good things to say about their experience with you, you’d invest more time in recruiting the people that make up that experience- waitstaff, hosts, receptionists, reservationists, concierges, cooks, chefs, housekeeping, attendants, etc. In reality, it’s quite the opposite- these types of positions (aside from chef’s in many cases) are often looked at as low-level, low-investment seats to fill within the organization.
Hiring managers, it’s time to step up. There is a HUGE pool of qualified, experience candidates on the streets right now looking for work. It’s time to stop making excuses, and build a strategy to attract and select the best of the best. You’ll need to develop your employment brand (what makes your hotel or restaurant a better place to work than the one across the street?), build employee training and advancement opportunities into your organizational structure, and take the time necessary to make sure you’re hiring the very best person for every position every time (what motivates them compared to what you have to offer; how will they fit into your culture; why is your job a good fit for their work/life balance?).
Here’s the good news, though.
If you take these steps, while you may be investing more time and money up front than you are accustomed to, you will most certainly increase your revenue (better candidates equals longer retention, which equals better quality work, which equals more satisfied customers, which equals more revenue) and reduce your overhead costs over time (better candidates will stay longer- reducing all the costs associated with turnover).
Here’s the link to the report from the Governor’s Workforce Board. It’s great to see that the state is investing in this type of self analysis, and now it’s time for private businesses to make the changes necessary.
And if you’re interested in how to get started with building an employment brand, here’s some posts to point you in the right direction: