With a limited pool of skilled workers available, competition is fierce in hotel industry recruitment as players big and small vie for the attention of jobseekers with attractive remuneration packages, flexible working hours and employee benefits.

For this reason, improving the hospitality employee experience should be front of mind for all employers looking to attract and retain skilled workers.

Here, Steve Volz, Director of Solution Consulting, ANZ/SEA, at HR management company UKG explains what makes a great employee experience in the hospitality industry and shares tips on standing out in this competitive environment.

What are the most successful ways for hotel/hospitality companies to attract top talent?

Hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit sectors over the past couple of years, and it’s an incredibly tight market. While there’s undoubtedly a need for businesses to attract top talent, attracting talent of any kind can be difficult, especially in an industry like hospitality which can be challenging and competitive.

For hotels and hospitality businesses, it’s important to look beyond attracting talent within the sector alone; companies should look further afield and consider how they can attract talent from other sectors, such as retail or healthcare, to also bring in additional skills and experience to the business.

One of the most effective ways hotels and hospitality businesses can attract talent is by creating opportunities for permanency. This could include permanency on a part-time or contract basis, which still delivers a level of flexibility that is also appealing to many workers. However, offering permanency to workers can help to provide the peace of mind that comes with guaranteed hours and greater visibility over income for a set period.

While rate is also a critical factor in attracting talent, permanency can offer more significant benefits to workers, such as sick leave, that offset the rate cut they may see by moving from a casual to a permanent role.

Hospitality businesses can also help to attract talent by underpinning these benefits with valuable tools that make it easier for employees to achieve flexibility with their roles. Even permanent part-time roles with guaranteed hours, but not set days or shifts, need workers to have flexibility. Modern technologies that make it easier for staff to swap shifts or pick up additional hours can help businesses deliver more significant opportunities to potential staff that other businesses may not be offering.

What does it take to stand out in such a competitive recruitment environment?

Ultimately, hospitality businesses need to offer more than their rivals to stand out in a competitive environment. The competition currently comes from other hospitality businesses and industries; it also comes from the rising gig economy, which offers much more flexibility and control to workers than hospitality.

However, it is possible for hotels and hospitality businesses to offer greater flexibility than some of their competitors. For example, larger organisations and hotels can offer flexibility for staff to work across various locations within one chain, or even different brands under one business umbrella. This also lets workers capitalise on the opportunity to work in new places while travelling.

To achieve this, businesses must look to eliminate siloes within the organisation wherever possible. Organisations that don’t operate within a siloed environment tend to have lower attrition rates and better engagement. Retaining staff is another crucial challenge; however, businesses that can successfully attract and retain talent will save on costs relating to hiring and onboarding, especially when they may ultimately lose that talent if they can’t entice workers to stay.

Technology is also a key factor here; businesses that are successful in changing their systems and processes, and leveraging intelligent workforce management tools, will be more flexible and can offer more to potential staff.

Where does pay rate in terms of priorities for hospitality workers?

Money will always be important however, the devil is in the detail, and the rate becomes more critical when it is considered in tandem with hours and shifts available. While casual staff can earn more on an hourly basis, employees aren’t always guaranteed the hours they need; sacrificing a higher rate for permanency can ultimately be a better financial choice for workers, making it so appealing.

And, while rate is essential, realistically an enterprise agreement that offers award rates or above would really be the deciding factor in a like-for-like scenario, and it is rare that things are equal: not all businesses will offer the same contracts or benefits. Not all companies will provide the tools that staff need to empower them to pick up extra work and hours seamlessly. This is the next step for hotels and hospitality businesses.

What makes a hospitality employee stick with a business for the long term?

Many factors will encourage an employee to stick with a hospitality business, however, the opportunity is probably one of the biggest. This includes the opportunity for hours and remuneration, as well as the chance to extend those while maintaining balance in their lives. It also includes education, training, and other ways of upskilling team members that will benefit the business and the individual.

While some businesses may see this as a risk that workers will capitalise on new skills and take them elsewhere, ultimately there is a greater risk to not offer these opportunities. Failing to offer career progression is a key differentiator because, if one business doesn’t offer it, another will, and that’s likely to attract more talent.

Visibility and flexibility are other major factors for workers in hospitality. This includes visibility into pay and the potential to earn more with additional shifts, as well as where those opportunities are to pick up more shifts and earn more income. It also includes the flexibility to swap and change shifts, as well as the ability to work within different areas. This will also help encourage workers to stay with the business for an extended period.

Businesses increasingly need to look at smart workforce management technology solutions to drive flexibility, supported by data and analytics tools. Without the right tools in place, management can’t efficiently make decisions regarding leave and rosters, among other things. However, implementing smart solutions gives greater visibility to both employers and employees, especially around shift work.

For example, absenteeism is at an all-time high and, while this has dipped slightly within the past six months, last-minute absenteeism can be influenced by the inability to easily swap shifts. It also comes with a cost, both for the business and employees. Employees that have to cancel a shift last minute due to illness or other extenuating circumstances lose flexibility over being able to swap shifts easily or picking up substitute shifts at a different time. It also costs the business in terms of paying higher rates for last-minute changes.

The use of data analytics tools can also help businesses to attract and retain talent. This is essential for management to help identify employees that may have worked enough hours over time to be given the opportunity to be offered permanency. Without the right data and analytics tools in place, this can be challenging to see and act on.

How can companies capture the interest of potential candidates based overseas?  

Like local talent, opportunity and flexibility are driving factors for international talents, especially for those candidates travelling on working holiday visas. Guaranteed hours are a big drawcard, and this is complemented by the flexibility that affords a great work/life balance, or even a work/holiday balance.

Hotels and hospitality businesses that can offer the chance to work across various locations will be able to attract talent, especially if they can also let workers seamlessly pick up shifts or move between locations. Having tools in place that deliver that visibility is vital.