Why Hotel Managers Need to Focus More On Who They Hire

June 5, 2018


One of the biggest Ted Talks on hiring and recruitment is by a woman named Regina Hartley. It’s called “Why the best hire might not have the perfect resumé”, and the message is simple: Managers are conditioned to believe that whoever looks best on paper will turn out to be the right person for the job. A degree from a prestigious university, a consistent work history, plenty of glowing praise from past supervisors – these are the qualities we can’t help but look for. Hartley’s point is that candidates with imperfect resumés may actually possess traits that are more valuable in the workplace. She urges hiring managers to give careful consideration to “scrappers,” or people who have worked hard to overcome adversity


This is by no means a perfect argument, but it is a refreshing reminder that books aren’t always so easily judged by their covers. If conventional signposts of a good candidate always led to the right hiring decisions, talent management wouldn’t be such a complex field.


Nowhere is this more evident than in the hotel industry with its legendary rates of employee turnover. Ours is a business that thrives on a solid core of employees who feel motivated to perform and create positive interactions with guests – yet finding and keeping those people is a perennial challenge. We see it time and time again in business research; such as this survey conducted by Impos, in which hospitality professionals named “difficulty hiring and retaining staff” as the number one issue facing the industry.


If you’ve followed the success of the Henn na Hotel in Nagasaki (which is staffed by 140 robots, and has major expansion plans in the works), you might wonder if hiring and recruitment will even matter in a decade or two. Once robots are perfected, it will be curtains for human hotel employees – right?


Wrong! If a robot remembers a guest’s name, it won’t matter. Cyborgs may be able to complete tasks with flawless efficiency, but it is unlikley they will ever be empathic, caring, aware, and generous of spirit. These are the human qualities that give a hotel its warmth and character.


Interestingly, a “robotic” view of hotel staff is largely responsible for many of our industry’s hiring and recruitment shortcomings. In our search for new talent, we tend to emphasise tasks, skills, experience, and consistency. As Ms. Hartley points out, we look for conventional markers of success instead of asking the deeper questions: Who among these candidates has the right attitude, the right spirit, the right capacity to grow? Who is a people person, with all of the empathic qualities no robot could ever possess? Who is more likely to influence the guest experience, and the work culture, in positive ways?


When it’s time to recruit new talent, hotel managers should be asking these questions. We should be focusing more on attitude and character. We should be looking for intangible qualities, knowing that skills can be built and improved.


At times, this could mean turning down candidates with better resumés and handing the opportunity to someone with strong interpersonal gifts. It could mean hiring someone whose story is unique, who has shown grit and determination in life. And it could also mean looking at cultural diversity as part of our thought process. Dr Ashok Manoharan, a business researcher with Flinders University in Adelaide, published a study last year on diversity in the Australian hotel industry. The benefits of building greater diversity into hotel teams, along with a few of the challenges, are discussed in fascinating detail.


Clearly, we hoteliers have much to learn about hiring and recruiting. There is no blueprint, and it’s unlikely that we’ll make the right decision 100% of the time. But the more we tune into people, not just resumés, the better we’ll be at finding and nurturing human resources that make hotels thrive.


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