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Changing the hospitality narrative for the sake of our people

By Karla Brooklyn, Global Vice President, Enterprise at SiteMinder

  Posted in Opinions


A hospitality labour shortage wasn’t what anyone was expecting during a pandemic. But as travel demand bounces back, and the exodus of talent from the industry continues, it’s clear that accommodation businesses will be facing a fresh challenge, around people, in the years to come.

A perceived lack of job security, as well as the reduced availability of international workers, are two core, short-term factors causing headaches, but the problem runs deeper. A historically quick turnover of staff has meant the majority of hotel businesses have generally taken the easy route in terms of developing their people – a sole preoccupation on customers and the bottom line dominating company narratives in the boardroom.

However, more than ever, (and as counterintuitive as it feels when things are busy), the time has come for both accommodation businesses to step up for their employees, and for staff to demand more.

It’s a cause I’ve stayed close to, and remain heavily involved in today, despite no longer working in a hotel. When I initially came into hospitality, without any real experience, I truly couldn’t see a road to my success at the time, despite being hungry for it. Not having any formal qualifications, it was incredibly demotivating to see the only people that were gaining access to senior level positions were the ones that had come straight out of hospitality school, or had powerful mentors.

At the time, if someone had created a clear structure for me, then without a doubt I would have stayed in hospitality for longer, rather than moving into tech; an experience I saw time and again, as friends exited the industry. Ever since, creating clear paths to success for those starting out in hospitality, and getting talented people excited about changing the industry for the better, are causes I’ve been passionate about.

In hospitality, the experience of your people is more closely connected to the experience of your guests than in any other industry. So from a management perspective, your staff literally are your business – your most important asset. Despite this, and the shortage of available talent that recent months have highlighted, many businesses still haven’t sought to elevate the experiences of their people in any meaningful way – something that for the sake of our industry’s sustainability, must be urgently addressed.

For those actively looking to attract new employees and reduce staff turnover, below are five steps that can be incorporated at the management level, to improve the journey of your staff today.

  1. Firstly, it’s important to create clear development pathways at all levels of your hotel, and to dedicate time to discussions around development. Employees need to feel valued and have a sense of advancement and momentum, something that our industry has historically struggled with. To help achieve this, support them to visualise their future in the business, and provide access to additional training, so that they fully understand their role, and gain additional skills. At the same time, be available to have meaningful conversations on development, and seek to understand the individual motivations and ambitions of your various team members. The current role of many is likely a distance from where they would like to end up, but given the vast array of opportunities in hospitality, we have the chance to offer unique pathways in many disciplines. Upskilling your staff on a range of tech solutions is one way to provide them a leg-up in their career for example, and can also lead to increased efficiencies. This highlights the importance of using intuitive solutions such as SiteMinder Multi-Property, which, while being a sophisticated product, is able to be picked up by all members of your team with the right training.
  2. Open up communication flows and give your people the chance to converse with company leaders. This may mean installing tools where staff can provide anonymous written feedback, or hosting regular digital town halls where questions can be asked anonymously by anyone in the business. Importantly, it must be a two-way conversation. If your hotel has a great outcome, celebrate the success by sharing the results with the broader team.
  3. Create loyalty with benefits for high performance and passion. Building out a program which rewards your staff for their work is one of the best ways to create ambassadors and stickier employees. Time off, free stays at sister properties, complimentary meals and access to further training are all ways to attract new staff and show your people that their efforts are valued – something that will pay dividends for your business, long-term. As a side note here, it’s easier to sell something if you’ve experienced it. Passion is driven by what’s being done well, but also where improvements can lie, so experiencing your business first-hand will give your staff the drive to make change happen.
  4. Define clear coaching and mentoring programs. There’s no better way for your team to learn new skills and deeply understand the values of your business. And if you don’t have the talent or time to do this internally, think outside of your business. Mentoring can be an excellent opportunity to allow your people to expand their network, a service to their future opportunities.
  5. Finally, openly praise your people. Put aside time to regularly acknowledge the efforts of your workers in public forums, even when there aren’t any major milestones to celebrate. It’s a great way to build up company morale.

For the hospitality sector, one of the biggest challenges ahead, particularly for large chains, is not only around attracting guests, but is around people. As a response, a change of narrative that thinks beyond the customer and bottom line, to better the experiences of those that bring our industry to life, is long overdue. It’s time to collectively be better, at every level.

For further information on how to build a strong team of hotel staff, head here.


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