September 14, 2015

Recruiting in the Hospitality Industry: Put Culture First

LouvreThere’s no question that the hospitality industry is an extremely demanding one. Since the Industrial Revolution, hotels have been coming up with new and innovative ways to not only get more guests in the door, but also attract and retaining talented employees. This latter task can be quite difficult, due to the demanding nature of the hospitality industry and shifts in employee expectations — but it’s not impossible.

Currently, average employee turnover at U.S. hotels is 31 percent, and the average hotel spends 33 percent of its revenue on labor costs alone. Much of this high turnover can be attributed to the “contagion effect” of negative coworker attitudes, which can adversely affect even the sunniest of employees over time. It’s also important to note that many former hotel employees cite a lack of empathy on the part of managers as a major reason why the leave.

So, what course does management have now? How can the situation be rectified? Below are three instructive examples of different hotels that were able to turn things around:

1. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants

Kimpton invests in its employees by providing benefits that are uncharacteristic of the industry, in addition to ongoing training and support.

Kimpton Hotels also encourages employee diversity and allows workers more autonomy while also remaining supportive. Believing that “How we treat our employees is ultimately how they will treat our guests,” Kimpton Hotels also made the decision to add domestic partner benefits to the company’s medical plan and even extends these benefits to restaurant employees, in stark contrast with the industry norms.

Kimpton also offers ten paid vacation days annually to all employees and a one-month paid sabbatical leave for general managers, executive chefs, and regional employees who have been with the company for seven years.

Even better, training is an ongoing venture at Kimpton, where senior staff provide guidance to junior employees. Through this continuous mentorship program, employees are apprised of their strengths and made aware of their weaknesses — which they can then work on improving.

Through its efforts, Kimpton has attracted and retained a highly loyal staff of more than 1,300 in the Bay Area and 7,000 across the United States. By valuing its employees’ contributions and time, the San Francisco-based hotel chain has perfectly illustrated the positive effects of employee empowerment.

2. Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

HallManaging Director Bruce Lange employs best hiring practices as he strives for establishment’s top priority: sustainable practices in tourism. Lange seeks candidates who have an understanding of sustainable practices and their industry-wide positive impacts. His ultimate goal is to reduce operational consumption of packaging, energy, and water, and he gears his recruitment practices toward this end.

It seems that Lange’s efforts are paying off. Farhad Keshawarz, laundry manager for Westin Kierland, was recently crowned “Outstanding Manager of the Year” by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Furthermore, Keshawarz consistently receives some of the highest employee satisfaction scores in the industry from his team, and he enjoys low turnover rates in his department.

By focusing its recruiting efforts on attracting and retaining like-minded employees, Westin Kierland has shown that careful, deliberate recruiting efforts can have long-term positive impacts.

2. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

The largest of the three companies on this list, Hyatt prides itself on creating a warm and giving company culture. However, previous recruitment issues hampered company recruiters’ abilities to select the best candidates for roles efficiently and accurately.

To improve the recruiting process, Hyatt began using customized assessments that would match qualified candidates to open positions. In a follow-up study of the new system, Hyatt found that 80 percent of those candidates who received “avoid” scores were rated poorly by their supervisors — meaning the system was doing a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff!

Given Hyatt’s massive size and multiple brands, utilizing an online application form in conjunction with position-matching software is the best way for the company to locate the best candidates. Those who make it through the initial assessment can later be screened during the interview round to determine whether or not they would make good cultural fits.

These recruitment efforts are definitely working: 90 percent of employees at Hyatt say that their work is more than “just a job.”

The Takeaway

Though these establishments vary in size and revenue, they all have one thing in common: they focus on creating nurturing and supportive work cultures. Once such a culture is established, recruiting practices can be realigned toward that culture, which will then translate into better hires, lower turnover rates, and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

As long as brands in the hospitality industry are willing to meet the workforce’s demands for flexibility and autonomy, they will continue to enjoy the benefits of employee loyalty.

Read more in Organizational Culture

Robert is a former kitchen workhorse who gradually became self-aware. His hobbies now include traveling, video games, and educating crusty old managers on how to effectively engage with their ever-growing millennial workforces.