Are Hoteliers Asking The Wrong Questions When Wanting To Address Labour Struggles?

March, 2019 -  Elliott Mest, Associate Editor at Hotel Management magazine, says "the [hospitality] industry continues to struggle with a growing pool of open positions and high turnover as the U.S. unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent. According to experts, this issue could be solved by educating young workers about the opportunities hospitality offers, but fears of automation have complicated the situation for line-level employees."

Talking to AETHOS New York-based Managing Director Keith Kefgen, Mest hears about some of the challenges. "I see a lot of people in our industry talking about people issues, but I don’t know if I really see the kind of commitment needed to accommodate them," says Kefgen. “When I first got into this business, it was an operator’s business. Operators get it; it’s still the people business to them. Institutional investors may talk about needing good people, but their actions speak more to increasing real estate value and making money on deals. They are talking cap rates, financing and transactions; they aren’t really talking about people.”

On the topic of scarcity of talent, Kefgen further comments "I wish I could say I have seen a lot of bright ideas recently, but no one has showed me they are doing something extraordinary to attract people to their organization. [...] The earlier you can get to people the better. I would be recruiting at high schools if I was interested in attracting line-level employees. The other thing I would do is sponsor events, whether social, sporting or otherwise, to build a rapport with young people. You want to show them the industry has some upsides that come from a long-term career and that progression is possible.”

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