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Hotel staff: Hiring and management guide

  Posted in Hotel Management  Last updated 27/05/2024

What are hotel staff?

Hotel staff are the backbone of any hospitality establishment, embodying the service and operational excellence that define a hotel’s reputation. These dedicated professionals, ranging from front desk agents to housekeeping, play pivotal roles in ensuring guest satisfaction and seamless hotel operations. Their expertise and commitment are crucial in creating memorable stays and building guest loyalty.

Recruiting and managing a team of staff is a huge undertaking, especially for mid to large scale businesses such as hotel groups, chains, or even bigger independents.

Given the time and resources it takes to get all the cogs (so to speak) in place and working, it’s crucial to hire the right people, manage them well, and keep them at your business long term.

This is indeed a challenge in high churn industries like hospitality, where turnover can be as high as 70%, but your enterprise can certainly meet this challenge successfully by following best practices and making a concerted effort to optimise how you manage this side of your business.

This blog will take you through everything you need to know about hiring, managing, and motivating your whole team of staff.

Table of contents

How to perfect hotel staff hiring at your business

Successful hotel staff recruitment begins with solid foundations: hiring people who have a passion for hospitality, possess the necessary character traits to excel, and who are enthusiastic about building a career in the industry and within your business.

Sifting through piles of applications isn’t always fun and splitting one candidate from another can be difficult. This means you need some clearly defined objectives in mind so you can quickly identify who to interview. 

There’s an art to writing job descriptions in a way that will attract the right people for the role.

Your hotel staff should be viewed as an extension of your marketing department. By hiring the best hotel staff, you’ll be delivering great guest experiences which in turn create vital recommendations and referrals.

The key to this is hiring effectively and using best practice approaches to keep your hotel staff happy and loyal. We know that employee turnover is an expensive problem in the hotel industry, but if you adopt better practices and hire right, you can keep your best people around for years to come.

1. Hire right staff to begin with

First of all, start your search for new hotel staff in the right places. What sources are you using? Are they appropriate to your location and market? Which ones bring in the highest number of qualified applicants? Are you using social networks effectively to recruit?

Hand business cards to existing staff that deliver outstanding service and reward staff for referrals. Employee referrals can lead to better-fitting hires, since your current employee understands the company culture and the potential fit of the referred candidate.

General tips to attract suitable hotel staff applicants

  • Be as specific and transparent as you possibly can in terms of the role description, employee expectations, and even the salary
  • Post your ads in places that will attract the right people – such as hospitality specific job boards
  • Look internally first to see if your current hotel staff can refer someone they know for open roles – candidates recommended by current workers tend to be someone reliable and personable
  • Have your own checklist of required skills and traits so you can quickly and accurately score a candidate’s potential
  • Consider asking candidates to do a video application, answering questions and talking about themselves, you can get a quick sense of how they might fit in at your business
  • Prioritise candidates with ‘people skills’ above all else, since personality is untrainable and is crucial when liaising with guests
  • Look to industry schools or apprentice programs to hire when possible
  • Consider using social media to source candidates – You can create a job post on your Facebook business page for free
  • Don’t be generic – customise your messaging for different roles to ensure the requirements are clear and the right people apply
  • Ask about their aspirations and long-term goals – This will help you determine if they will be with you on a long-term basis or if your company is only a stepping stone for the time being

Perhaps the best way to learn how to recruit hospitality staff is to approach it the same way you approach trying to win over potential guests. Target the right people and show them the benefits, and incorporate your brand identity into your advertising.

What are the guidelines in hiring corporate hospitality staff?

The hospitality industry is traditionally a large employer of young people, however, the job is very rarely a long-term appointment.

Young people aged between 16 and 24 can bring all sorts of benefits to your operation in terms of improved branding, increased competitiveness and meeting skills gaps.

There aren’t many industries that offer young people such diverse career paths and the chance to travel the world, but this generation can perceive working in hospitality as a temporary option.

So, how can you better connect with them and reduce your hotel’s staff turnover? Here are 10 ways to engage and hire hospitality staff:

1. Make connections early

It’s important to interact with local schools and colleges via presentations, competitions and webinars. Sponsor and provide collateral to support youth clubs and activities. Maybe you have facilities they could use for exhibitions and events.

2. Design and promote specific programs for young candidates

In the hospitality industry, there are abundant opportunities to offer apprenticeships, and graduate programs as well as internships. The more structure there is in place, the more likely it is that your candidates will stick around.

3. Digitise your recruitment process

Young people are much more likely to use social media to find opportunities. Engage the community of potential hires via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest using photos and videos to give them an opportunity to easily get to know your hotel staff and location. Don’t only use these channels to recruit, use them to brand your organisation and tell your story. Use warmth and humour to create followers who may someday be employees.

4. Diversify your employment offering

As well as the traditional culinary and customer-facing roles, make it clear that you also offer opportunities in marketing, IT, HR, procurement and other areas. Potential recruits in this age group often believe that a hospitality job will not make use of their technology and social media skills, so ensure that your hotel’s content strategy includes videos and narratives that illustrate hotel staff using these skills in their work.

5. Write a punchy job description

When you advertise a job you need to emphasise variety, challenges, and how the position fits into the overall organisation. Given this is the texting generation, keep to the point, avoid corporate jargon, and be witty if you can.

6. Advertise entry-level roles

Does the role you’re recruiting for really require previous work experience? Everyone has to start somewhere and you can build upon a combination of a good attitude and communication skills. Focus on strengths instead of making candidates feel dispirited.

7. Don’t rely on conventional interview techniques

Instead of sitting in a room and using a Q&A method, hold assessment activities where candidates can demonstrate their communication skills and problem-solving techniques. This can be done individually or through group exercises, observed by potential managers.

8. Use group interviews to relax candidates

Speed interviewing is a brilliant way of getting young adults to relax. Invite a small group to talk to a member of staff about their holiday, or the town where they live. How they perform even in these simple hypotheticals will clearly differentiate candidates that are indistinguishable on paper.

9. Provide guidance and mentoring for line managers

Not all people are familiar or comfortable with interviewing young people. Ask your existing hospitality staff what support they need during the recruitment process and provide practical advice and tools as to how to select and interview a young person.

10. Ask the right questions

There’s a chance candidates will have little work experience to discuss in an interview. Ask what they expect their relationship with their boss and future colleagues to be like, how they feel about covering up a tattoo or working New Year’s Eve. How do they keep up-to-date with the news? And what would they choose to do if they were awarded time off to work with a voluntary or community organisation? Questions like this will reveal a candidate’s engagement with the wider world and their sense of responsibility.

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2. Conduct an interview effectively

Once you have some appropriate people lined up for interviews, you need to turn your attention to asking the right questions and paying close attention to how an applicant answers them.

You should get a general idea of their personality, which will go a long way in your decision making but you need to know how they think and how they might approach the role.

Give them role specific questions and scenarios, including:

  • Asking about things they are likely to deal with on a day-to-day basis at your business.
  • How they will respond to adversity, such as operation breakdowns
  • What their approach would be to dealing with conflicts between staff
  • How they would resolve complaints from guests
  • If they have ideas on how to improve or boost results
  • How have they gone above and beyond for a guest

Depending on the role you might also want to go through a second round of interviews, assessing anything you missed the first time or giving the applicant a test to do. For example, in the first interview if you focused mainly on their skills and experience, the second interview might be a way for you to ascertain if they are a good culture fit for your team. Ask them what they like to do in their free time, any hobbies or passions they have, and what they love about working in a team environment.

3. Recognise potential personality traits

Personality development happens to every one of us as children and is based on two primary factors – our inherited tendencies and the direct environment around us.

The personalities of your workers are crucially important to the success of your hotel and the contribution it makes to your local tourism sector – and, you guessed it, – the biggest impact here can be made on the guest experience.

Hiring individuals with the capabilities to drive positive influence should be a key deciding factor in the recruitment of hospitality workers.

A study entitled ‘Personality and Organisational Culture as Determinants of Influence’ looked at how individuals in the workplace could attain influence in the very first place.

Using a common psychology framework called ‘The Big Five’, the researchers focused on observable personality traits that can be used to predict future behaviour. It’s a framework that academics increasingly adopt when assessing organisational outcomes.

So what are the five characteristics the researchers assessed? Were they found to build influence? And should you consider them or avoid them when hiring hospitality staff at your hotel to avoid a hospitality staff shortage?

1. Extraversion

The researchers say that extraversion has a stronger effect on a person’s influence level, noting it to be an “energetic approach – including traits such as sociability, activity, assertiveness, and positive emotionality”. This could be perfect for your hotel.

They found that extraversion fits better in businesses where employees work together in teams, adding that extraverts should easily exceed their daily responsibilities. Extraverts should also be given extra time to engage in power-building activities such as organising team events or overseeing guest feedback programs.

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness was found to be more influential in businesses where people work individually and in less of a team environment. Researchers said it “…implies a socially prescribed impulse that facilitates goal-directed behaviour”.

More technical roles in your hotel such as distribution manager or revenue manager could benefit from being less extraverted and more conscientious. However, your front desk staff should be diligent too and have exceptional attention to detail when dealing with guests. 

Researchers concluded that in a more sociable workplace these traits are highly respected, but less influential in some more isolated departments.

3. Agreeableness

This was an interesting one. Although being agreeable might boost your hospitality staff’s performance as part of a high-functioning team, the researchers concluded that such individuals “…are not motivated to attain power”.

They don’t use power assertion tactics and they’re unlikely to be strategic in their networking. But with the makeup of agreeableness commonly listed as being kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, and considerate, they’re not bad traits to look for when recruiting because they could be just what your hotel guests need as they relax and unwind.

4. Neuroticism

Always one to give off negative connotations, the researchers found mixed evidence around neuroticism. They suggest, on the whole, that neuroticism is unrelated to building influence, but they do highlight how demonstrating this behaviour can harm an employees’ admiration and respect.

Neurotic workers at your hotel may have unstable mood swings, or worry a lot, and even become frustrated and angry fairly quickly. The researchers stated that neurotic employees use rational persuasion less frequently and in the setting of a hotel these problematic characteristics should be avoided.

5. Openness to experience

The researchers couldn’t determine whether being open to experience would be more valued in one business over another. Previous studies have found inconsistent effects for openness, which they describe as “…the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual’s mental and experiential life”.

In a hotel environment, hiring hotel staff with an openness to experience is definitely a positive trait to seek out. While it might not hold influence with other hospitality staff, your guests will admire these characteristics, as many travellers look forward to new and exciting experiences during their trips.
Image representing hotel staff

4. Onboard new employees properly

The onboarding process is the time to educate your employees before sending them out into the wilds of your company. Use this opportunity to outline organisational goals and values in detail. It’s important to ensure these messages are ingrained from the beginning if they’re to truly feel part of your hotel’s family.

5. Analyse your recruitment results

Even when your new employee begins to add value, they do not finish ‘paying back’ the cost of their recruitment for around two years. This is your cumulative breakeven point. Every employee that moves on after nine months, or even 18 months, is therefore losing your hotel money.

A simple curve-style graph of cost versus value, with tenure plotted along the ‘x’ axis (marked with breakeven and cumulative breakeven points) and number of employees on the ‘y’ axis will help you pinpoint problematic points.

Is there a spike of employees leaving after six months? Is this an expensive time for them to be leaving?

6. Give feedback and direction

Meet with hotel staff frequently to discuss what they’re doing well, what they can do differently and what they should stop doing. Always give praise and say thank you; show an interest in an employee’s private and professional life. This dialogue helps improve employee performance and builds strong working relationships.

You need to stop problems as they occur and you can only do this by fostering a culture of open communication. Employees must feel that they can come to you with issues and concerns.

Recognise their value

Statistically, a lack of recognition is cited as one of the main reasons that an employee will leave their job. If appropriate, provide and explain clear goals for the position or department. When goals are given to employees, they often are more engaged and committed to achieving them and gaining success.

Recognise their performance

Employees who feel valued tend to stick around. High performance can be rewarded in formal and informal ways. Time off, a preferred shift or even a public thank you can be as or more effective in motivating hospitality staff as a financial bonus.

Provide genuine opportunities

Give hotel staff opportunities to develop and expand their knowledge, skills and experience. Supporting employee development through mentoring, podcasts, work placements, seminars and mentoring shows that you are committed to their success.

Setting up your hospitality staff hiring for success

Once you think you’ve found the perfect employee to join the team, the job is far from done. We know that staff churn is a major problem. For example, in Australia the hospitality industry has the highest turnover rate at more than 16% per year.

Knowing that every worker who leaves within two years is probably costing you money; due the resources you spent advertising and hiring; you need to give them every chance to succeed at your business.

Here are nine tips to ensure your new hotel’s hospitality staff get off on the right foot:

  1. Try to make new hotel staff feel part of the family the second you confirm their application is successful
  2. Create an onboarding program that is designed to educate hotel employees fully, before you send them into the field
  3. Customise onboarding to suit different departments in your business
  4. Address potential friction from the start – offset any negatives of working in the hospitality industry by displaying all the positive aspects clearly
  5. Ensure your management structure is effective – many people leave managers, not jobs
  6. Establish a work culture that is healthy, fun, and engaging
  7. Make hotel employees aware of where they can go to ask questions, seek help, or discover upskilling
  8. Strive to offer fair and competitive pay, work-life balance, and working conditions
  9. Acknowledge and appreciate early milestones – even if it’s just onboarding completion – as part of a regular hotel staff meeting agenda

Setting your employees up for success will make managing them much easier – which in turn will allow them to thrive in your business and stay long term.

How to manage hotel staff successfully

Some people are natural leaders, but even those who aren’t will often find themselves in management positions. Anyone can be a good people manager with some hard work and practice.

Successfully managing your hotel staff comes down to balancing their needs with the needs of the company to achieve the desired results. The day-to-day intricacies of this can get quite complicated, which is why you need to be fully prepared to be a quality manager or leader.

Often you need to be very honest with yourself in terms of your strengths and weaknesses, and remain measured in every interaction you have with your staff, especially during stressful times.

Here are some tips to help manage your hotel staff effectively:

1. Keep your door open

It’s important that you are approachable and that staff know they can come to you with questions or ask for any help they need.

2. Be specific

Your hotel staff will perform better when they have clarity. If there is a problem with customer service for example, be specific about what needs to improve so all staff can address the issue head on

3. Don’t micromanage

An obvious one but important nonetheless. When you assign tasks to hotel staff, you need to trust in their ability to get them done.

Be available to help in any way but don’t stalk their every move.

4. Promote a team environment

It always feels good to achieve and celebrate with others by your side so make sure that any wins you have are shared with the whole team.

5. Take accountability

When something goes wrong, it’s easy to point the finger at someone down the line but a leader needs to be humble enough to recognise when they themselves have not lived up to expectations too.

6. Give individual direction

As a team, you all need to be on the same page but each individual will have their own personality and their own specific role, so you need to communicate on this level to get the best out of everyone.

Measure and communicate results – No one wants to work blindly, not knowing if their efforts are making a difference. Regularly share results and let employees know their work is appreciated.

7. Try to be transparent

There will always be a ‘need to know’ basis in terms of hotel staff meeting topics  but generally, hotel staff know when you aren’t telling them the whole story. Try to be as open as possible to alleviate and stress or doubt within your staff ranks when it involves something that might affect them.

These are all things that you need to do – but what kind of person do you need to be? No matter the industry or situation, great leaders often have some common traits.

Here are some characteristics you might like to work on to ensure your hotel staff are happy:

  • Lead by example to be a good motivator
  • Be an active listener and accept ideas that aren’t your own
  • Be decisive and clear in any communication or decision making
  • Be flexible and don’t panic when things don’t go to plan
  • Have the courage to be creative and try new things

Perhaps the most important point to note is that the best businesses don’t treat hospitality staff engagement as a buzzword, but know that it is a crucial part of success.

Why the satisfaction of hotel staff is important

it’s likely the children will be more positive too. In a hotel, the staff you manage are tasked with taking care of guests and providing them with a satisfying experience. If your hotel staff are bright and motivated, the level of engagement from guests will increase and their mood will shift to mirror that of who is serving them.

If you’re a hotel owner or staff manager, you have to make sure your employees are on board with the mission of your brand; the happiness of guests, who are essentially dependents while at your property, depends on it.

How much difference can happy hotel staff make?

There’s plenty of evidence, both anecdotal and statistical, to support the theory that an actively engaged and cheerful hospitality staff member will dramatically improve a guest’s attitude towards your business. Virgin Airlines swear by it, saying “…happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success”, while Justworks state the key to getting customers who want to undertake repeat business with you is by building a strong employee focus first.

Statistics also suggest:

  • Happy employees are 31% more productive and three times more creative than unhappy employees
  • Happy employees have led to a 12% increase in a hotel’s profitability
  • Hotels with a positive engagement culture experience 24% less turnover

It all makes a lot of sense. Just like yawning, happiness is often contagious and the brain works much better in a happy state. So how can you ensure your hotel staff are content, motivated, and in a position to delight the guests at your hotel?

How to foster a positive environment for hotel staff

In the world of hotels, happy staff means happy guests. Here’s a no-fuss guide with five simple but effective steps to make your hotel staff’s day, every day. These strategies are all about creating a supportive and engaging workplace that lifts everyone’s spirits and empowers them to create memorable experiences for guests.

1. Create a fun work environment

This doesn’t mean you have to throw hotel staff parties every week or hang streamers in the hotel. It is important, however, to create an environment where hospitality staff can enjoy working together. Make sure there’s opportunities for the whole team to bond and establish friendly and relaxed relationships.

2. Show employees that you support them

Constant interaction, check-ins, and hands-on advice will let your employees know that you care about them and are willing to help them if they need it, rather than feeling like they’re always in the deep end. Ongoing training and upskilling will help a lot with this, and also give hotel staff reassurance that there’s a path to progression in a hospitality career.

3. Give rewards, recognition, and share results

Everyone wants to know they’re making a difference and achieving something meaningful. Let your employees know how the business is doing and celebrate any great results. If individuals excel in their role or are given outstanding feedback from guests, make sure you acknowledge it and reward a job well done. This will boost morale and increase motivation across the whole team.

4. Enable everyone to do their best

Your hotel staff can get very frustrated when they feel like they’re being held back. If you’re using outdated technology, whether that’s an ancient vacuum cleaner or painfully slow reservation software, you should really consider investing in new tools. Your staff will be happier and more efficient, meaning guests will also be less affected.

5. Hold everyone accountable

Creating a strong and positive work environment isn’t simply about pleasing everyone, it’s about inspiring everyone to do their best. Make sure everyone is clear about their individual role and if guests do provide negative feedback, share this and ensure your hotel staff understand the impact and how they can improve next time.

An added benefit of investing your time to hire  hospitality staff is that they’ll be more likely to remain with the business long-term. This means their knowledge and experience will grow, reducing the need for training new hires and worrying about returning guests who have certain preferences. 

Your lasting staff members will have all this covered.

Strategies for hospitality staff retention

What all the above adds up to is the ability to retain your hotel staff for as long as possible. Reducing turnover is highly beneficial for you financially and from a brand perspective. If you have long-term hotel staff, they can build better relationships with guests, potentially helping to create loyalty from customers who know they will receive a personalised experience every time they visit.

The more long term staff you have the more your brand values will be instilled in everything you do, and the less money you’ll spend on hotel staff hiring and training new employees. It will also mean you continue to operate at a high level with minimal disruption.

1. Motivate and value your employees

Motivation is a vital ingredient in ensuring your hotel staff perform at a consistently high standard. If motivation wanes, performance inevitably declines. Recognising that different staff members have varying motivations – whether it’s a passion for the job, ambition for career progression, or a desire to contribute to something worthwhile – is crucial.

To cover all bases in keeping your staff motivated, consider these tips:

  1. Provide ample opportunities for staff to upskill, learn, and gain varied experiences. Regular access to development opportunities such as courses, webinars, podcasts, and workshops can be invaluable.
  2. Make time to acknowledge the efforts of your workers regularly, celebrating even the small victories and the hard work done during tough times.
  3. As staff gain experience, increase their responsibilities and trust, allowing them to take pride in their progress.
  4. Be supportive and flexible, understanding that your employees have lives outside of work.
  5. Don’t hesitate to directly ask your team what motivates them, either based on past experiences or personal aspirations.

Additionally, it’s essential to motivate and value your employees consistently. Many employees seek new roles when they feel there’s no room for growth in their current position. By ensuring your hotel’s employees are engaged and feel connected to your hotel, you not only enhance staff retention but also improve guest experience and productivity.

2. Look beyond young workers

Maternity returners and older workers are two key groups that offer an alternative to employees who are only available in peak seasons, for example, the summer holidays.

These groups often need flexible working hours and are well-suited to the hospitality industry and its trading times. Consider creating job share opportunities within your hotel and be open to more flexible options.

3. Encourage hotel staff gender equality

In the last several decades, the business world has come a long way when it comes to gender equality. While there are more women in the work force, there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve true gender equality. 

One of the more startling trends within the hospitality industry is that there are a significant number of women employed in the workforce. According to, nearly half of the hospitality workforce is made up of female workers. 

Improving and encouraging gender equality at your hotel is not going to happen overnight. Rather, it’s important that both you and your team take a series of measures in order to continue heading in the right direction. Some steps to take include:

  • Provide mentorship opportunities at your hotel. Encourage leaders to mentor all of your employees and to groom them for future management positions.
  • Promote from within when you can. If a leadership position opens up, consider your hotel staff members and promote them based on skill level, years of service and dependability.
  • Provide equal pay for equal work, and implement flexible family leave policies that encourage women to stay in the workforce.

From closing the pay gap to shattering the glass ceiling, there’s lots of work to be done in the realm of gender equality. At your own hotel, you can make small efforts and large changes to change the culture and atmosphere at your own property. By making your property a comfortable, welcoming and equal place to work, you’ll find that you retain top level hotel staff members and ultimately improve the experience that your guests enjoy.

4. Assess the skills among your hotel’s workforce

Benchmarking and reviewing the skills that exist within your hotel’s current workforce is a great way to establish where the gaps lie in your team. It also helps you figure out how to make better and faster gains. People 1st can help in many ways with these types of assessments and a good place to start is our 360 degree appraisals.

Alternatively we can help with training needs assessments. It’s important to think about the skills of your workforce – 5% of hospitality employers believe their managers lack the skills the business needs. That figure might not seem a lot at first glance, but it’s 2% higher than the average across the UK economy.

5. Use hotel technology to free up your time

Raising productivity levels takes time and a commitment of your team’s resources. And in our fast-paced industry that might feel like a tall order thanks to the high demands of your hotel’s day-to-day operations. 

Technology that alleviates elements of process saving you valuable time is a crucial tactic for winning back vital man hours. Emerging technology is seen as a key driver for growth according to 11% of hospitality employers, so it’s important to consider how it can help you refocus on hospitality staff growth and retention.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of SiteMinder, the leading technology provider delivering hoteliers unbeatable revenue results. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at SiteMinder. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance and value for accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations achieve their goals.

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