The answer to the talent challenge? Stay flexible
The answer to the talent challenge? Stay flexible
19 JUNE 2019 7:18 AM

Finding and retaining the best talent is key to finding innovation and efficiencies in hotel operations.

For the past couple of years, no matter what industry event I attend, the main issue facing the hospitality industry has been finding and retaining quality talent in an economy experiencing historically low unemployment levels and high occupancy.

Not only are hotels competing with one another for the best and brightest, but similar industries, ranging from health services to retail, are hungry for workers, as well. As recently as this past spring during the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA) conference in Washington, D.C., the topic again made its way to the forefront of the conversation. To complicate matters further, costs continue to rise, leading to lower margins, yet the need to grow NOI remains paramount. So, how do hoteliers successfully grow NOI in the current market conditions while also trying to attract new associates?

I believe the solutions to these two challenges are very connected. Finding and retaining the best talent is key to finding innovation and efficiencies in operations to achieve successful results.

Most hotel operators today are building teams with a different type of workforce than they’ve seen in the past, one with new and different expectations. This new environment has significantly increased the need for the owners, asset managers, brands and operators to change our way of thinking and our approach to hiring. To be successful, we must embrace the differences of this new workforce, become more aware of the needs and opportunities, optimize operations and learn how to adapt to the current environment. In other words, it’s all about flexibility.

Flexible working arrangements
One of the key balancing acts of any business is keeping both workers and clients happy and engaged. Although certain roles require hotel employees to work certain, specific hours at a particular location, there likely are opportunities where incorporating flexible working arrangements could help in acquiring great talent for a variety of positions.

The advantages of pliable working arrangements
Many of our employees are millennials, Gen X or Gen Z, and they want and appreciate this type of working flexibility. As an industry, we specialize in hotels/travel/leisure, and the people who work in hospitality tend to enjoy those things themselves. Employees often can work remotely, opening more time and opportunities to engage in those types of activities, which allows us to build a more satisfied team capable of enjoying the side perks of their jobs.

Employees create their own schedules
Realizing how beneficial this has been to employee growth and retention, we’ve made it a selling point in our offices to tell all new and prospective employees that they will be creating their own work schedules. Our team has malleability with regards to when they start and end their day. We really try to adapt the schedule around client work and what’s most convenient for the team member. To keep track of time and review hours, we use a time tracking software that our team can use to log time from multiple locations. Hours are always tracked.

Employees have adaptability as to where they work
We think if there’s not a need for them to be in the office and they want to work from home, then we let them work at home. We have worked hard to create a culture of collaboration, and teamwork is a significant part of our culture. Even with the ability to work remotely, however, we find most workers prefer to work in a “more professional” setting at least occasionally to have the ability to interact with co-workers and collaborate.

Flexibility can be important when employees travel for work
Some of our employees are on the road a great deal due to work travel demands. That’s one of the reasons why we feel that non-rigidity is so important. After an employee has been on the road for several days, sometimes he or she just wants to have time at home, and we try to be very sensitive to that.

A ductile working style affects employee satisfaction and productivity
Flexibility has proven to be a win-win for our company. Associates feel empowered and trusted, which fits with our model of transparency and openness. One of our fundamental principles is that we are a learning organization. We believe very much in asking our employees what they need, so this fits very well. It’s not the only thing we do in this arena, but we think that our company is like a platform, not a place. We think it’s a collaboration of very smart people helping our clients, and it gives them a sense of empowerment, and they feel really honored by that. We want to be fair and rewarding to them. As a result, our team is more engaged, more interested and more focused on taking care of the clients and each other.

Always looking for additional ways to improve job satisfaction and productivity
Improving our work environment is a never-ending goal. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. We focus every day on improving. We believe what we do daily will be dramatically enhanced tomorrow, and we are always looking for the better tool, way and/or ideas, and the people we look to for solutions are our employees. We want to know from them how we can make it better, and they are our best source.

Paul Breslin, managing director of Horwath HTL and managing partner of Panther Hospitality, is a 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry. After years of working with 11 hotels and resorts in ten different cities, Mr. Breslin founded Panther Hospitality in 2005 to provide consulting services to developers and hoteliers in all aspects of their businesses. Prior to founding Panther Hospitality, Mr. Breslin held positions at the world-famous Fontainebleau Hilton Resort and Spa, the Sheraton San Diego Resort, the Sheraton New Orleans and three convention hotels in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, Mr. Breslin is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) and a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE).

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