The Antidote to the Labor Shortage Issue

A recent article in the New York Times (“Historic’ Shift in Labor Force Favors Workers,” Neil Irwin, June 6, 2021) noted that middle- and lower-level positions—the equivalent to our front-desk staff, housekeepers, and kitchen staff—are changing jobs more often than at any time in recorded history. While the pandemic can be blamed for a major disruption to the work force, especially for this segment, the shift could be seen before the pandemic, with record low unemployment—4% or lower—and even a declining population of working-age Americans.

Regardless of the reason, hiring challenges for all hotel positions is here for the foreseeable future. Whether hiring a manager or a front-line employee, finding candidates using the old criteria of education and experience and then, once hired, expecting them to work long hours isn’t going to work.

There is hope, and this article cites several ways to begin to solve this issue:

  • Offer programs that develop the existing team for other positions rather than rely on hiring outsiders for open positions. Consider reinstating apprenticeship and mentor programs to encourage people to stay. Re-evaluate the necessity of a college degree as a prerequisite to be hired.
  • Increase wages so employees aren’t forced to take 2 jobs and then jump as soon as an opportunity, often outside the hospitality industry, with a higher salary is presented.
  • Provide flexibility in where and when staff work. While a front-desk agent doesn’t have the ability to work from home, sales managers, finance teams, and reservationists can. Insisting they do their job only while sitting in the hotel office (often in sub-par spaces) is a limiting policy that will hinder your ability to fill vacant positions.

And here are two of my own recommendations:

  • Train and coach your leaders to be ‘the best.’ While it isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about being fair, compassionate, and engaged and making wise decisions.
  • All leaders, from hotel GMs to middle managers: spend time with your team. Walk around and provide immediate recognition when staff do something out of the ordinary. Roll up your sleeves and deal with problems, including difficult guests.

The hospitality industry is especially vulnerable to a smaller labor pool and employees’ desire for greater flexibility and higher salaries. It’s going to take an innovative hotel general manager or a creative executive team to determine a short- and longer-term plan for training, developing internally, and being more open-minded about candidates who in the past would have been eliminated. It’s a shift toward candidates who may not have the technical skills but an overall desire and the skills to serve the public. It’s a shift toward spending more time with employees and becoming an employee-centric organization.


"Companies are going to have to work harder to attract and retain talent. It’s a historic moment for the American labor force." – Karen Fichuk, CEO, Randstad North American

"We all struggle with work-life balance and there’s no easy solution. I think everyone needs to find the right balance for themselves, and to do this, we need to have more dialogue about work and family, especially among men, and at higher levels of the corporate hierarchy." – Max Schireson, former CEO of MongoDB. (Schireson left his job as CEO of MongoDB, an Internet database company, to spend more time with his family and work toward better work-life balance.)

Take the Next Step Now

Hire Jo-Anne to:

  • Remove silos and other barriers to employee productivity.
  • Engage a trusted advisor for consultation and recommendations.
  • Support your leaders with leadership executive coaching.
  • Create a healthy organizational culture.
  • Conduct a deep-dive review of your sales and marketing organization.
  • Develop a strategic plan to manage today’s uncertainty.

If you would like to hear more, simply reach out to Jo-Anne at
[email protected].

About Jo-Anne Hill

Jo-Anne is an industry expert who founded JH Hospitality Consulting to help hotels around the world dramatically improve revenue and profitability in creative ways. Her strategic thinking, skill, and practical approach to problem-solving come from hands-on experience at companies such as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, the Mandarin-Oriental Hotel Group, the Dorchester Collection, and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts.

Jo-Anne’s recently published book ‘Cultivating Leadership: How great leaders make a difference, one hotel at a time” dives deeper into the equation: happy staff = happy guests = more revenue.

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