A look at how hoteliers are managing their employees
A look at how hoteliers are managing their employees
11 JULY 2019 7:45 AM

Hiring and managing employees has become more refined in the hotel industry in a tight labor environment. This recap includes some of Hotel News Now’s top human resources coverage, including hiring best practices and employee training tools.

GLOBAL REPORT—In a climate of low unemployment and increased competition among other industries for job talent, hoteliers continue to evolve their employee-management strategies.

Throughout the first half of 2019, Hotel News Now has covered multiple issues and obstacles of managing hotel employees at the corporate level and on-property. This coverage recap includes reports on hiring practices, staff uniforms and more.

Before posting a listing for an open position, hoteliers should take care to manage their company’s or property’s online reputation as a workplace on websites with employee reviews such as Glassdoor and Indeed.

Debra Cannon, director of the school of hospitality at Georgia State University, warned of the effect of an employer’s negative reviews could impress on a potential job candidate.

“Someone could get a bad impression from a company and say, ‘I’m off,’ and click to another page,” she said. “The importance of the first impression is monumental.”

In some U.S. states and cities, hoteliers have adjusted their hiring practice to conform to a new wave of salary inquiry bans that seek to eliminate pay discrimination.

Andria Ryan, partner at Fisher Phillips, said removing salary history from the hiring process can insulate companies against pay discrimination claims at the time of hiring.

“These laws seem to be designed to level the playing field at the beginning,” she said.

Salary inquiry bans aren’t the only regulatory labor issues at play, as in March the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new overtime exemption threshold of $679 per week or $35,308 annually. If passed, the new threshold could go into effect by 2020, replacing the current overtime threshold of $455 per week ($23,660 annually).

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a news release announcing the proposal that he is “committed to an update of the 2004 overtime threshold, and today’s proposal would bring common sense, consistency and higher wages to working Americans.”

In April, the Department of Labor announced a set of changes to joint-employer rules to clarify if two companies are jointly responsible for an employee’s wages. Dana Kravetz, firm managing partner at Michelman & Robinson, said franchisors are poised to benefit from a more restrictive test for joint-employer status.

“It does give the franchisor the ability to put in standards,” he said. “There’s a uniformity in how franchisees are operated. There’s a level of protection that doesn’t lead to a finding of joint employment.” 

The Castell Project released its 2019 “Women in hospitality industry leadership” report in January, which found that women are less likely to hold C-suite positions or be promoted to EVP or SVP levels with hotel companies, especially in finance roles.

Julienne Smith, SVP of development and owner relations at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said women are “very effective negotiators” that deserve the opportunity to one day achieve a seat in the boardroom. 

“On my team, I want the best person who’s qualified for the job, but there are a lot of young women out there coming out of hotel school who are very well qualified, and we need to give them chances to be part of our organizations—whether it’s feasibility, finance or development to grow into leadership roles,” she said. 

Staffing, however, is a concern in all corners of the hotel industry, according to the Hospitality Asset Managers Association’s Spring 2019 Industry Outlook Survey. A total of 92.2% of respondents expect rising labor costs to “negatively affect (their) portfolios’ results over the next three years.”

Matthew Arrants, EVP of Pinnacle Advisory Group, said he’s concerned about how rising labor costs could factor in to the remainder of the economic cycle.

“There’s been a substantial increase (in labor expenses), and we’re not done,” he said. “So what scares me now is the prospect of a recession.”

At the property level, hoteliers are getting more creative to attract top talent. Several companies are allowing more flexibility in staff uniforms to make employees feel more comfortable on the job.

Cory Brian Ingram, SVP of creative at Dream Hotel Group, said uniforms across Dream’s brand portfolio are “very curated and specialized to match the vibe and feeling of the outlet,” and that they are equally functional and fashionable.

Hotel brand companies are also increasingly turning to technology for more engaging training tools, including virtual reality. Gretchen Stroud, VP of talent, learning and engagement at Hilton, said the company relies on VR to show corporate employees what it’s like to work in a hotel.

“We use virtual reality so they can see what it’s like to be in hotel operations and gain a better appreciation for the day-to-day,” she said. “It gives them more empathy for team members when they are coming up with programs, to think through how they can impact the front line.” 

Back-of-house communications have also improved with the help of technology, including better messaging apps for team communication or a staff-only Wi-Fi.

“Whether it’s having dedicated staff Wi-Fi or internal messaging apps to share tips, ask for help or congratulate good efforts, we want to provide our staff with means of communicating and collaborating with one another in a way they are already familiar with,” said Gavin Philipp, VP of operations at Charlestowne Hotels.

1 Comment

  • John Hendrie July 11, 2019 2:52 PM Reply

    Nicely presented, however, it does come down to money and status. Reputation is critical, as well.

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