5 HR hurdles (and how to prepare for them)
5 HR hurdles (and how to prepare for them)
05 JANUARY 2015 11:42 AM
Hotel human resource professionals always face a litany of challenges, whether today or five years in the future. Here’s a list of five of them, with some initial steps on how to prepare. 
The onslaught of challenges facing hotel human resource professionals shows no signs of abating in the coming years. 
Some of the challenges (e.g. labor relations, employee retention) are familiar. Others (e.g. legislation surrounding social media, sourcing skilled associates in emerging markets) are more recent. Others still might not even be on the radar.
The common thread, if one exists, is the need for HR professionals to tackle each and every one, sources said.
There’s no better time to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges than today. What follows is a list of HR-related hurdles that likely will dot the hotel runway by 2020—and suggestions for how best to start preparing for them.

Challenge: Retaining a fickly millennial workforce
The cohort born between 1980 and 2000 often has been criticized as job hoppers whose personal ambition exceeds any semblance of employer loyalty. As they begin to comprise a larger share of the workforce, employers must find ways to retain them or risk costly increases in recruitment. 
Solution: Give them what they want (within reason)
Chuck Conine of Hospitality HR Solutions (and an HNN columnist) said millennials want more than monetary compensation. Plentiful growth opportunities (both upward and cross discipline), great training, having their voices heard and robust health benefits all dot the list. 
They also want to know their efforts are contributing to a higher cause, he said. “Millennials are especially curious about the world around us. Their causes, generally speaking, are for improving that world. Things like sustainability are huge.”
Challenge: ‘Obamacare’ and rising health care costs
“The most obvious one is going to be health benefits,” said Melissa Silvers, principal with asset manager SCS Advisors, when asked what challenges HR professionals will face by year 2020. 
“Benefits over the past couple of years have really gone through the roof.”
Solution: Shift some of the cost burden to employees
While not the ideal scenario, many hotel companies likely will be forced to increase out-of-pocket employee expenses to stay afloat, Silvers said. Others might offer tapered health plans as a means of controlling costs. 
“More brands are going to change to that because their hotels aren't going to be able to stay in biz and produce a profit,” she explained. 
Challenge: Fostering diversity in the C-suite
Though notable gains have been made, many still criticize the hotel industry’s C-suite of executives as an “old, white man’s club.” Hotel companies’ executive ranks must better reflect the increasingly diverse base of travelers they serve.
Solution: Don’t just check a box; make a long-term commitment
“Diversity is a not a check-the-box-and-you’re-finished task,” Conine said, pointing to the practice of placing a minority executive in a high-profile position. A better tactic, he said, was committing to diversity for the long term. 
“Investing in minority college programs, such as a local community college, hiring, training and promoting their graduates, for example, that makes an entirely different statement,” Conine said. “… The real players in our industry, both the players that have established themselves as committed and those who are coming online, realize it’s a long-term commitment to the community the hotel or resort serves so that the property reflects the diversity of that community.”
Challenge: Sorting through social media
LinkedIn was founded in 2002, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. More than a decade later, hoteliers are still working around the legal pitfalls that abound when using these and other social media platforms whether recruiting, monitoring or employing in some other HR-related practices. Sue Sanders, senior VP and chief human resources officer at asset manager HVMG, said they’ll continue to work through those issues in the years ahead.
Solution: Stay abreast of employment law
HR professionals should learn from others’ mistakes, Sanders said. The best way to do that is to keep abreast of employment law regarding social media in any number of academic journals, news outlets or HR blogs. Those lessons learned should be applied to hoteliers’ own HR practices, she said. 
Challenge: Accommodating a mobile workforce
Though pushed to the forefront by millennials, the trend of associates calling for more flexible hours and terms of employment has permeated every generational cohort. Accommodating those needs is as much a retention play as it is one of productivity, as some employees (in applicable positions such as sales or IT) produce better work while working remotely, sources said. 
Solution: Don’t be afraid to extend the leash; just make sure you indeed have that leash
Work-from-home policies and flex time should be addressed as would any other employment policy, Silvers said. HR professionals should establish criteria for acceptable use of the practice and hold employees accountable to them. 
Sanders is hopeful technology might soon emerge (if it doesn’t exist already) to help managers track the productivity of their remote workforce. 

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