Staffing Challenges in the Hospitality Industry

Nancy Anderson
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Several years back, the U.S. Department of Labor expressed concern for workers in the hospitality industry. The DOL wanted to be certain that those who wanted to work for hotels and restaurants could find good jobs with good wages. They also wanted workers to be able to pursue a career in the industry. A series of meetings were held involving not only industry leaders but also educators and those who developed workforce systems. Through these forums, a half-dozen challenges—top concerns that needed to be addressed—were identified:

1. Image. The participants thought hospitality employment was stereotyped as low-wage positions with little chance for advancement. Because of this, workers were unaware of the range of hospitality careers available.

2. Recruitment. Traditionally, the hospitality industry has relied on young workers; but this pool of workers appears to by drying-up and the industry must develop strategies that develop untapped workers.

3. Retention. Because workers view hotel/restaurant work as entry-level positions, they often move on to other jobs. The negative image cited above makes it difficult to retain skilled workers.

4. Soft-skills. New hires can be trained in the use of equipment and the computer software used. The biggest challenge in the hospitality industry is to find workers who practice “hospitality.” Because so much of the work in the industry involves contact with people, in all sorts of situations, hiring employees with “people skills” is a must, and they seem to be less frequent each year.

5. Skills Certification. While managers may be pursuing degrees from colleges and trade-schools, most workers receive only the training offered by the hotel/restaurant that hires them. With each employer having their own internal training program for new hires, it is hard for employees to change their employers.

6. Language Skills. Several employers are finding it necessary to add basic English lessons to their training program for those who do not have English as their primary language. To provide good customer service and to understand safety requirements, employees must be able to communicate clearly with other staff members as well as the patrons.
In the end, however, the DOL determined that these challenges were too complex. In lieu of a solution, they offered token grants totaling $2,000,000 to encourage the discovery of workforce systems that can be replicated within the industry.

You may not have the solution to these issues, but now that you are aware of them, how are they affecting your hotel and/or restaurant; what steps to address them are you taking?
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