Op-EdAppeared in Today's Hotelier on December 13, 2019By Alfredo Ortiz

Keeping hold of your labor force

There’s no denying that the economy is thriving: Unemployment rates are at historic lows, wages are rising, and job creation continues. One of the greatest contributors to this economic upturn is the leisure and hospitality sector. However, with this expansive job growth comes an increasingly tight labor market, making it difficult for these companies to retain staff and fill positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently 7.2 million jobs available in the United States – many of which pay $50,000 or more per year. One million of these jobs are in the leisure and hospitality industry.1 This is a drastic jump from 2009, when there were less than 300,000 available jobs in the sector.

The high number likely reflects the hospitality sector’s struggle to retain employees. Just last year, the turnover rate for this industry was over 50 percent.2 But fear not – there’s hope for turning that statistic around.

To retain workers, businesses need to provide employees with the necessary training to adapt and thrive in new working conditions, especially when technology is driving the change. Employers should encourage workers to embrace the benefits that technology brings to their everyday tasks. By teaching employees how to utilize these resources, workflow will be more efficient, and employees will still feel like they’re an integral part of the process.

Consider how other sectors are tackling the turnover problem and the daunting prospect of training a new workforce.

Take fast food chains, for example. This industry also suffers from high turnover rates that often exceed 100 percent.3 To combat the problem, companies have implemented new training and development programs. They’ve identified a sweet spot in employee retention: If an employee lasts 90 days with a restaurant, the chance that they quit in the near future decreases.

Employers now put their focus on integrating workers in those first few months. By investing in behind-the-counter skills and technology training upfront, companies are reducing quitting rates, saving money, and even improving consumer experience.4

But it’s not just about investing early on. Companies are also providing long-term advancement opportunities for workers. For instance, McDonald’s has instituted a tuition-assistance program to help workers cover the cost of college courses or trade school. Depending on the position the employee holds, they can receive up to $5,250 in funds. Unsurprisingly, workers are more likely to invest more time with a company that invests in them in return.

The Trump administration has addressed the growing need to attract and retain workers across a variety of industries. Through the Pledge to America’s Workers, the White House has established a national strategy for workforce development. The goal is to encourage businesses to offer additional training and the opportunity to acquire new skills.

With the participation of the business community, these new initiatives are helping cultivate a workforce that better takes advantage of our modern economy and all the opportunity it offers. Hotel groups are among those to sign the pledge and the sector will play an integral role in ensuring employees have the resources they need to find long-term success in their careers.

My organization, the Job Creators Network, also has launched a companion campaign that focuses on workforce development. The Fight for 50, as in fighting for $50,000 careers, aims to equip employees with the skills necessary to attain good-paying careers, rather than relying on a government-mandated $15-per-hour minimum wage.

With one million jobs available, there are one million chances for hotel businesses to better attract and retain employees, which will help spur the next period of economic advancement. The hotel industry has a strong and capable labor force; we just need to figure out how to keep it.