HR in the Hospitality Industry

Colleen Frislid
Colleen E. Frislid, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Table of Contents

The hospitality industry is full of unique challenges that it can be difficult to manage. Navigating the many different roles, the high turnover, tip credit laws, and industry regulations all contribute to a high-stress environment for HR. Read on for more information on tips on how to manage it!

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What Is HR in the Hospitality Industry?

The hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants and bars, event planning, theme parks, tourism, and travel) has a reputation for high turnover. This is the result of several factors, but being an industry that is 100% customer-focused can be stressful for front-line employees. HR is able to support employee satisfaction and retention to reduce turnover and contribute to the industry goal of providing excellent service.

Why Is HR in the Hospitality Industry Important?

HR oversees the employee life cycle, and in the hospitality industry, this is not without its challenges.

  • Demand for talent. There is a lot of competition in the hospitality industry, and the Human Resources department oversees recruiting and onboarding efforts. This gives us the opportunity to build a talent pool of individuals for the company. We can help shape recruiting strategies, provide market insight, and maintain a network of potential candidates.
  • Employee retention. HR is involved in onboarding, employee development, communication between management and front-line staff, job development, and more. We are a key influencer to company culture and can drive employee retention strategies across a company. Utilizing HR to drive employee satisfaction can set your business apart from competitors in the industry.

The Role of HR in the Hospitality Industry

As mentioned above, HR has a role in the entire employee life cycle.

Recruiting and Onboarding

Because of the turnover, it’s important to have a clear recruiting and onboarding process. This process should set the tone for your incoming employees and candidates. HR should constantly build a talent pool to pull from when openings become available.  HR needs to write clear and detailed job descriptions and be clear about the necessary qualifications. You should also develop an onboarding plan to set a positive tone for incoming employees.

Employee Development

Whether it be training, promoting, demoting, or coaching, HR is instrumental. Strive for clear, well-communicated policies and processes relating to employee learning and development. This allows employees the opportunity to plan for their personal growth within the company.

Administration

HR is responsible for understanding employment laws and ensuring compliance with them. In addition, there are regulations that may have a greater impact in the hospitality industry, like OSHA standards for workplace safety, understanding concerted activity (employees acting together as a group to accomplish something—typically better working conditions or higher wages), and union activity.

Employee Satisfaction

From competitive pay and rewards—including benefits and employee incentives—to employee recognition and development, HR is the driving force behind employee satisfaction and retention. You should consider your unique employee base and choose options based on their interests and motivators. You can also choose to model common competitor practices. For example, it’s common for hospitality businesses to offer employees discounts on their services. You may survey your employees and learn that while they are interested in this, they’d prefer more team-building activities and options for healthcare. HR should take this feedback and create practices that bolster the employee experience.

Challenges of HR in the Hospitality Industry

There are particular challenges in the hospitality industry that HR must navigate.

Work-life Balance

Due to the nature of the industry, there is typically a need for employees to work long hours during nights, weekends, and holidays. Additionally, because of the churn of high turnover, employees are frequently tasked with working extra shifts or lose flexibility in scheduling.

Since the open hours are non-negotiable, it may help companies to find creative ways to build flexible work options for employees. For instance, if full-time workers need more time off, you could consider allowing them to split time between more part-time associates/those looking for fewer and more flexible hours. You could also offer cross-training to employees. Employees who understand and are able to perform multiple job functions may have an easier time finding flexibility in their schedules. This can also help with burnout, as clarified below.

Burnout

Navigating the demands of work schedules, coping with being understaffed, and dealing with the stress of being customer-facing can lead to burnout over time. HR must learn how to navigate this and find ways to acknowledge and reward employees with opportunities to wind down, build resilience, and be recognized for their contributions.

As previously stated, there may not be many options as it relates to working hours and the need for coverage during all hours of the day, weekends, and holidays as part of fulfilling the business needs. That said, there may be some things you can do to curb burnout. One, listed above, is cross-training. This allows employees to take a break from the monotony of their current or regular role to learn something new without having to slow down business operations. This gives employees the opportunity for job enrichment and can help manage burnout. Also, it always helps to share heartfelt appreciation and try to ease your employees’ lives where you can. This may look different in each line of business, but showing gratitude and giving employees breaks goes a long way when fighting burnout.

Recruiting

The reputation of a company within the HR industry has a major impact on the customer base and candidate pool. It’s important to be aware of the reputation your company has so you can lean into that when building recruiting and retention strategies. For example, a poor reputation may severely limit your candidate pool and make recruiting more challenging. It’s important to dig into the cause of this reputation and build recommendations for improving it into the overall recruiting strategy for the company.

While recruiting can be a challenge, there are steps you can take to simplify some aspects. Engage your employees in the process. Get their feedback about what they like about working at your business, and include it in your recruiting strategy by either speaking to those points during your process or posting them with job ads or social media.

There are also HR networks you can lean on for advice. You may find forums like this in SHRM, on LinkedIn, or through networking events. Another option is to look at outsourcing. There are companies that specialize in the hospitality industry, but others can be helpful in this arena or with other challenges your business may be having. If you are considering outsourcing, make sure to know what your objectives are, do your research, and choose vendors accordingly.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About HR in the Hospitality Industry

All companies need HR and benefit from having it in their business. The hospitality industry is no exception. An empowered HR department can drive employee training and retention and support managers.
There are outsourcing agencies specific to the hospitality industry, such as Bambee HR or Corban OneSource. However, there are many generalist HR outsourcing resources (and software solutions like Eddy!-https://eddy.com/) that may be able to support your company specifically. It’s important to consider what your specific needs are and shop accordingly.
Colleen Frislid
Colleen E. Frislid, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Colleen manages a team of HR consultants that work with a variety of industries, specializing in the fields of human resources, strategic planning, and human capital management. Colleen applies expert knowledge, industry experience, and relentless energy to solving companies’ issues. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management as well as women in leadership groups. She is PHR, SPHR, and SHRM-SCP certified. She has an awesome pet cat, Attila and, when she’s not working she loves to travel, enjoy the great outdoors, and volunteer with different local charities.

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