The following article was written by Nigel Hurst, Chief Human Resource Officer at HEI.
The COVID pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the hospitality industry, and, along with it, lingering challenges when it comes to hiring and retaining today’s top talent. In order to stay competitive and continue leading the way in human resources, we are implementing a number of recruitment and retention strategies at our hotels and resorts, for example:
HEI Loves – Our commitment to our associates has never been stronger. With the launch of HEI Loves, we have launched industry-leading benefits and streamlined communication between our GMs and associates, and we celebrate and recognize our teams with 100 Love Moments this year (leaders nominate associates for their moments of greatness and associates receive $100 from HEI) and Love Stories (teams submit community service activities, celebrations and wins within their hotels which are published on our intranet called The Heart). Love Notes are custom chalkboards in the heart of house which give our teams the opportunity to leave a thank you note for their co-workers. Each day we memorialize the note by taking a photo before starting anew the next day. These Love Notes are shared at our Town Halls as a slideshow as our team enters and associates are once again recognized.
Traditional recruitment measures are still in place – standard job boards such as Indeed, HCareers, Google, etc. as well as niche pages such as Culinary Agents, Star Chef, etc. We partner with local unemployment agencies and refugee organizations, and post job flyers in areas with heavy foot traffic, such as coffee shops, laundromats and in the home communities of our existing employees.
Employee Referrals – We have reinstated our referral program for all hotels with an incentive that is more lucrative for our associates with tiered payments over longer periods of tenure. Many hotels are also leveraging “flash” referral programs to provide a kicker for any referrals made.
International recruitment programs for the J-1 Cultural Exchange Program and H2B visas.
New local hotel branding programs through Indeed, our #1 source of applications and hires. This promotes the unique identity of each hotel brand in the local community (instead of the generic “HEI”). Candidates more easily identify with the in-market hotel brand and the culture. Our hotel teams are also using this as an engagement tool to respond to employee reviews and drive their overall hotel scores.
Wage and Benefits Reviews – We are reviewing the wages at all of our hotels to ensure we are paying fairly and competitively within the changing market. In most cases, we are at or above market rates and for those positions where we are not, we are making recommendations to you.
Special Incentives – Our hotels have incentive programs in place across all disciplines to help support recruitment and retention. We have been focusing on areas such as sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, recognition incentives, perfect attendance awards, etc.
Digital Tipping Program – In select hotels, we are piloting two digital tipping programs which provide our guests the opportunity to seamlessly tip our associates through a QR code. As we learn more, this program will continue to expand to all of our hotels.
Job Fairs – Our Corporate Talent Acquisition team has developed a job fair playbook to guide all hotels on best practices. We provide custom marketing materials and often travel to support the event so that there is more presence available for interviews and offers.
Social Media – All of our jobs are posted to HEI’s overarching social pages and each hotel uses their own local pages to attract talent. We are piloting the use of new social media platforms (TikTok) to see if this may help attract the younger generation in joining the workforce.
University and College Recruitment – Our hotels have always partnered with their local colleges, and we continue to do so in a new way. We are focusing our efforts on all programs, not just hospitality schools, to widen our reach. We get it that hospitality candidates do not just have to come from hospitality schools. Candidates with the right personality, passion and commitment we will welcome. We are also working with the job board Handshake, which is specifically used for college recruitment, to expand our outreach and participate in virtual events. This area is also inclusive of culinary programs, vocational and trade programs.
Our interview process has been modified to shift the focus from work experience to personality traits that will allow the candidate to be successful for us. We are hiring for soft skills and will train for the rest.
We recognize the interview process can be slow with many interviews required for a singular candidate. Given the environment, we have launched a Fast Track Interview program where the interviews are conducted by our HR leader and GM and then placed accordingly.
HEI’s Veteran Recruitment Program is expanding our partnership with the military and bringing transitioning service members, and their families, into our workforce. We actively target military installations, government partners, military-specific career fairs, etc. to broaden our reach to this group of talent.
We have expanded our Positive Associate Relations (PAR) initiative so that, in addition to our monthly town halls, department meetings and GM roundtables, our GMs now meet alone in smaller groups (2-3 associates) and for more engaging feedback on their ideas for improvement and any support they need to successful and fulfilled in their work. Rachel Moniz and my team follow up monthly with each GM on their reported outcomes and the solutions for every issue raised.
We are conducting virtual town halls that are high-energy meetings sponsored by Anthony Rutledge and allow the hotels to spend a few thousand dollars on spot prizes and awards for those attending. Anthony, Rachel and I attend these meetings and celebrate with the team. Our room attendants have been the major recipients of recognition and celebration at these meetings.
Corporate Director of Training, Operations is a new position that we have hired to provide hands-on training for our front desk and housekeeping leaders and associates on systems, service, and more in order to give these associates a “great beginning” and provide them with the tools and knowledge they need before being exposed to a busy environment.
Our above-mentioned initiatives and benefits do come with an aspect of compliance. We monitor a number of open positions relative to the size of the hotel and constantly evaluate what is not working, make changes and continue to share best practices in each market.
Nigel Hurst, Chief Human Resource Officer