Hotel Management

Recruiting in a Tight Market

businessman with laptop talking to a female business woman

When he accepted the coveted Stephen W. Brener Silver Plate Award at June’s NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in June, Marriott International president & CEO Arne Sorenson cited the important role played by motivated rank-and-file employees in the industry’s continued success.

Recruiting and retaining the best entry-level associates is actually more critical than ever, Sorenson pointed out, considering the current shortage of qualified workers, not only in the hospitality field, but across most segments of the economy. The country’s jobless rate, in fact, ebbed down to 3.8 percent in May, the lowest rate since April 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The last time the rate was lower was in 1969.

Given the competition for the best entry-level employees across various industries, restaurants and retail among them, it’s not surprising that pressure should be mounting on hotel owners and managers to pay a competitive wage. A living wage is certainly important, but so are other indicators of job satisfaction.

Among the top five: supportive management, congenial work environment, a career path, flexible work hours and cross-training opportunities. Then too, considering our multicultural world, it’s important to acknowledge that English isn’t necessarily everyone’s first language. And, lastly, in a nod to the growing #MeToo movement, employees expect a harassment-free workplace.

Managers at our company support these ideals along with most of the rest of the industry.

In closing, Sorenson repeated words of wisdom spoken years ago by the company’s founder that have come as close as any to an industry mantra: “If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers and your customers will keep coming back again and again.”

There’s no better truism.

Extended Stay’s Special Challenge

woman with coffee next to map

While guests staying at business hotels typically spend no more three or four nights per stay, guests who choose extended-stay hotels may spend weeks or even months. In ways both large and small, hosting long-term guests calls for a different approach to service.

After years of experience operating business hotels, M&R Hotel Management this year will assume management of our first extended-stay hotel, the 113-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott at 324 W. 44th St. in New York. Getting this new relationship right is a top priority.

On the simplest level, extended-stay hotels strive to be more residential in feel. Design of the guest room as well as the public spaces tends to be more home-like. Guest rooms come with kitchens, allowing guests to prepare their own meals, although complimentary breakfast typically is provided. Consequently, many brands offer grocery shopping services. Similarly, they offer off-site dry-cleaning service and on-site laundry facilities.

But at a deeper and ultimately more critical level is the social aspect. Recognizing that being away from home for an extended period can be an isolating experience, extended-stay hotels may sponsor evening socials, movie nights or seasonal or holiday-related parties, where guests get the opportunity to mingle and “meet their neighbors.”

The staff of an extended-stay hotel typically become familiar with long-term guests, unlike those who arrive at night and leaves early the next day. Regardless of the type of hotel, hospitality is at the core of the business: Our job is the same, to put the guests first.

On the Delicate Subject of Hotel Security

Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South chair next to bed in guest room

Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South

It’s understandable why hotel security is such a sensitive matter. Addressing the issue in detail would risk giving insights to wrongdoers.

Nevertheless, hotels go to great lengths to reassure travelers that they and their possessions are safe while on the premises. Such assurances are part and parcel of the larger presumption that surrounds the hotel experience, that hotels provide a safe and comfortable home away from home.

The challenge of assuring safety can be formidable, considering that hotels generally conduct business in an open atmosphere that provides 24/7 unfettered access to guests who are total strangers to their hosts. It is a cornerstone of hospitality that all guests be made to feel welcome from the moment they arrive until the morning when they check out.

Holiday Inn New York City – Times Square guest bedroom

Holiday Inn New York City – Times Square

While hotels are employing increasingly sophisticated technology to enhance security, the most important safeguard is employee training. And while training may involve specialized techniques and procedures, everyone knows to follow the Golden Rule of security: if you see something, say something.

Sometimes our commitment to guest safety simply means going an extra mile. Take a recent guest comment posted on TripAdvisor. After checking out from one of our hotels in New York’s Times Square neighborhood at 4 a.m., out-of-town guests called a taxicab for a ride to the airport. Given the early hour, a hotel staff member took the initiative to wait with them at the curb until they boarded the cab.

While we have detailed manuals that spell out the way we expect our employees to perform, this example illustrates the importance of common sense, courtesy and concern. The example discussion on TripAdvisor also puts a human face on the whole matter of hotel security. It’s all about ensuring that the guest presumption of safety is a reality.

When a Citywide Meeting Comes to Town

group of business people using laptops at table

Large industry and association meetings can bring thousands of attendees to a destination, booking big-box convention hotels and the city’s convention center. Such meetings can bring millions of dollars in revenue to transportation providers, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. Cities vie for the chance to host these often-elaborate events, nicknamed “citywides.”

Major hotel companies make sure their properties are included in the room block. Marriott International’s dedicated Convention and Resort Network unit helps coordinate its big box hotels’ request for proposals.

What’s less widely known is that citywides benefit smaller hotels, too. While attendees are typically book the headquarters hotel or hotels, event planners often need additional rooms to house a range of other participants: consultants, speakers, facilitators and trade show exhibitors, not to mention designers overseeing stage sets and lighting, audio-visual and IT teams and entertainers.

M&R Hotel Management welcomes this business. In New York City, a popular group destination, many of our hotels are centrally located, attractively priced and offer complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi. They’re also a smart choice for attendees looking for a good value to extend their time in the city with some pre-or post-convention R&R.

Managing an Expanding Workforce

front desk attendant writing on card

As job creation remains a serious priority for the national economy, the hospitality and leisure sector continues to add jobs at a healthy clip. One month during the summer, for example, 45,000 of the 255,000 new jobs created were in this sector, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

This was especially good news for the labor-intense lodging industry and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the industry’s trade association, was quick to take note, describing the industry’s rate of growth over the last six years as “extraordinary.” According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel and tourism directly employs 8.1 million people and supports another 7 million people in other industries.

The robust employment numbers are equally good news at the property level. Given the service nature of the business, hotels and resorts hire large numbers of entry-level workers and devote significant resources to recruitment, training and retention. For many of today’s entry-level candidates, English may not be their first language, nor may our culture of teamwork and empowerment be concepts they’re used to.

But these are reasonable challenges to deal with. The latest Labor Department numbers indicate the economy’s accelerating job growth is helping a broader range of workers, including those entry-level candidates who likely have less education. But if they’re willing to learn and are motivated to succeed, there’s a place for them under our industry’s welcoming umbrella. In fact, entry-level jobs often lead to satisfying long-term careers.

Ultimately, their enthusiasm makes our industry stronger, which is good news not only for owners and operators, but guests as well.

Follow M&R Hotel Management on LinkedIn for the latest news and career updates.