HR in the hospitality sector: Part 1

16 Mar

HR departments play a critical role in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is growing. It's not just a talking point – it's the truth. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the restaurant and bar industry has created nearly 1 in 6 new nonfarm jobs since the economic downturn. The Department of Commerce revealed that travel and tourism spurred almost $1.5 trillion in spending in 2012, and the industry's main subsectors – accommodations, air travel and food/beverage services – only continue to thrive.

This means the hospitality sector needs to be prepared to not only hire, but use human resource systems to hire efficiently and effectively, especially with some of the high turnover rates the industry sees as a whole.

It all starts with hiring
Most HR professionals love offering qualified candidates a job, but that doesn't mean they can hire every individual who walks through the door. What are the most important soft skills to look for to ensure you're bringing on a strong applicant who will prove to be successful with your organization?

  • A good attitude. Someone who claims to have a "positive, can-do attitude" in a cover letter or resume is certainly being cliche, but there's something to be said for candidates who have this skill. You want to hire people who won't spread negativity to other employees and are willing to do what it takes to complete a job well and without complaint. 
  • Easily transferrable skills. Some of your candidates may never have worked in hospitality before, but that doesn't mean some of their skills won't be relevant to the open position. Don't write off applicants who seem like they have no relevant experience – they may surprise you.
  • The ability to communicate. Successful hospitality workers need top-notch communication skills. If they're not able to express themselves, their ideas and problems they face, they won't be able to work well with others or, more importantly, present themselves and your brand positively to patrons.

The orientation and training process
Welcoming new employees to your company is a key element to starting them off on the right foot. Your orientation process should make new hires feel comfortable while giving them a thorough overview of the company, detailing exactly what their job will entail and assigning a them a point person to go to with questions. Don't forget to schedule time to have someone give new team members a tour, introduce them to other people they'll work with and give them a chance to thoroughly review the handbook or paperwork. Orientations will vary greatly depending on company culture and goals, but don't be afraid to mix things up and make it entertaining or interactive – you don't want an employee's mind to wander while they're supposed to be absorbing information. For employee engagement ideas, ask your recent hires what the most and least effective elements of their training were and update your program based on that.

As you're introducing employees to the company, they may have questions about scheduling and compensation. It may be worthwhile to explain shift differential scheduling, if this wasn't covered in the interview stages. Shift differential, or the extra compensation an employee may receive for working outside traditional business hours, may be confusing for some workers, especially if they are unfamiliar with this type of work, so providing them with a cheat sheet can help clear up confusion.

After employees have gone through orientation, they'll need to start learning the essentials of customer service so they can begin doing the job they were hired for. But will you use a vendor-produced tool, or an internally created one? There are benefits to each:

  • Vendor-provided systems don't require you to do any additional work – you can simply use the tool as is, over and over again.
  • Content created especially for your company is personalized and can be tailored to specific policies and situations your employees will face on the job. However, it may require some tweaking over time to get it just right.

Depending on how unique your service policies are and how involved you want to be in the customer service training process, you may prefer one over the other.

Measuring success and controlling costs
Turnover in the hospitality industry remains a problem, as it's significantly higher than the rest of the private sector. Deloitte estimates turnover in hospo is as high as 31 percent, a number that poses significant challenges for any business and highlights the importance of employee engagement.

By measuring this number alongside others, companies can see where they're going astray and how they can potentially lower turnover, while simultaneously increasing productivity and engagement metrics. Decreased turnover isn't the only advantage – Gallup research indicates companies with greater engagement have higher earnings per share. Not only that, but they receive better customer ratings, are more profitable and experience greater productivity. 

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