Built to Serve, Now Serving Their Own

By Ron Mitchell  

People who excel in the hospitality industry generally embody a common trait: empathy. Whether they are front of the house and delivering great experiences for guests; back of the house and creating these great experiences; or in upper management and focused on both guest and employee happiness, the hospitality workforce by and large cares about people.

Such empathy has made the decisions within recent weeks to lay off or furlough hotel and hospitality workers extremely painful. Nevertheless, the industry and its leaders have responded to this challenge with the right mix of dutifulness, innovation and compassion that reflects an industry focused on people focusing on helping its people to the best of its ability.

In recent weeks, hotel and hospitality employers, industry associations and the overall community have collaborated in unprecedented ways to do whatever they can to serve their workforce. Here are some of the initiatives hotel and hospitality companies have taken to help their employees and communities:

Working Together for the Better of Their Workers
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has convened a weekly call with more than 70 human resources leaders within the industry to share their best practices and provide feedback and encouragement. Employment policies, benefits and transition plans, often guarded as “trade secrets,” have been shared in efforts to help other employers provide aid to their workforces as quickly and efficiently as possible. In addition, the AHLA has engaged a broad partner network of insurance companies, law firms and government officials to provide expert advice to hospitality HR leaders.

Offering Free Resources
The AHLA Foundation is offering a number of free educational and career management resources including online courses, professional development scholarships and hospitality certifications, as well as ESL, GED and Associate Degree courses.

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), a part of the National Restaurant Association’s Training & Certification Division, is offering free training and resources for the industry.

Highlighting Alternative Jobs
Many employers are leveraging their career sites to highlight short-term jobs in alternative industries in an attempt to provide near-term financial support for furloughed employees. These strategies will also enable the workforce to come back to hospitality when the industry recovers.

As a partner in the industry, Hcareers has added temporary jobs to the typically hospitality-focused platform, including positions  from the “gig economy” and from employers who are rapidly hiring for non-permanent roles due to the economic situation.

Employee Relief Funds
Much of the industry has created emergency relief funds by collecting donations from the public and foundations to help cover employee living expenses during this hardship. Senior leaders throughout the industry have forgone portions of their salaries to contribute to retaining employees and continuing day-to-day operations.

Innovative Solutions to Keep Hotels Open
In order to keep the doors open (and staff working), hotels and hospitality companies have quickly innovated. Most of these solutions don’t get the properties anywhere near profitability, but they allow the property to generate funds to pay bills and debt and keep their workforce employed. Some examples of these solutions:

  • More than 16,000 hotel properties have signed up through AHLA’s Hospitality for Hope initiative to provide housing for healthcare workers and first responders who may be traveling from another city or want to self-isolate from their families and loved ones.
  • Many hotels are reconfiguring their rooms to serve hospital overflow patients.
  • Many restaurants have remained open, switching to a delivery and take-out business model. This allows for some staff members to continue working and receiving their normal benefits.
  • Many companies chose to furlough the workers they are unable to keep on staff, so that they are still receiving benefits, as well as have a position to return to.
  • Some hotels have opened their rooms as work-from-home offices, offering residents in their local communities a quieter place to work away from the noise and distraction often found at home.

Leadership within the hospitality industry has collaborated and innovated in a genuinely empathetic way to support their workforce and the broader community in which they operate. With these being unprecedented times, companies have to turn to unprecedented measures in order to help bring the industry and the workforce back as soon as possible.

Ron Mitchell is CEO of Hcareers and Virgil Holdings Inc.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.