Originally appeared in Lodging Magazine in October, 2019
It is no secret that the hospitality industry—like many others—is facing a “war for talent.” Combine the low unemployment rate and tight labor market with the industry’s booming growth, and the demands on today’s hotels are stronger than ever.
These challenges are especially daunting within a market where one dominant hospitality employer is the tourist destination—the Anaheim/Garden Grove market, where Disneyland is king.
In markets with this dynamic—like Anaheim’s counterpart in Orlando with Walt Disney World Resort or Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas—hotels can benefit from the draw created by the hospitality giant. Opportunity is plentiful in Anaheim. The market never stops growing, and is often isolated from issues and seasonality that can be commonplace elsewhere. Disneyland draws strong tourism demand throughout the year. In turn, the distinct culture in Anaheim, mixed with the steady employment opportunities, attracts an exceptional level of talent.
But with this also comes intense competition. So, how can hotels leverage these dynamics to tap into the talent pool? The simple answer is: culture.
Workplace Culture is Key
A hospitality giant like Disney has risen to its preeminence due in large part to its engaging culture. So, culture should be a similarly strong—if not greater—focus for competitors.
Bringing to life a sincere and relatable mission is one of the most critical efforts a hotelier can employ. This mission should not just be words on paper; it should live in every nook of the property. Words—and actions—matter. If team members hear about the value they bring to the hotel and the role they play in the guest experience, this messaging leaves an impression, much more so than a property that speaks to its bottom line. If hotels are meeting their standards for guest experiences, financial success is sure to follow.
Leverage the Hotel Brand & Local Culture
Tapping into the hotel’s brand provides a unique offering that distinguishes a property from the “Disneylands” of the market. Being able to tout a renowned brand like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, or IHG sends a strong statement to associates.
Blending the hotel’s brand into the market can create an engaging workplace dynamic that resonates with team members at the local level. For example, “good neighbor” hotels can mix the Disney magic into their properties in a meaningful way that is “close to the action, without the distraction.” Popcorn movie nights screening Disney films in the lobby or Disney-themed selfie stations enhance the guest experience by leveraging Anaheim culture while remaining separate from the peak hustle and bustle in the core of Disneyland. This work environment resonates well with team members who, living near Anaheim, often embrace the Disney culture.
Recruit with a Focus on Retention
It is important to view candidates in terms of their potential to develop into long-term associates through proper development. Most often, properties will find success by hiring for personality over skill set. When team members display characteristics that embody a company’s values, the firm should invest in the associates by supporting their career development, showing they’re a top priority.
This cultural effort is especially critical in a market like Anaheim, where properties see a significant amount of movement within the talent pool. Candidates are often happy within the market, thanks to the distinctive culture it offers, but they may frequently move among properties. The likelihood of this “property hopping” increases when team members don’t feel a distinct connection to the hotel or manager, and have a plethora of competing hotels to which they can apply.
Should the hospitality firm own several properties in the market, the firm has a distinct opportunity to heighten team member development. By coordinating their talent needs, a hotel network can offer additional training or advancement opportunities beyond what a single property could provide. When working in tandem, co-located properties can scale their offerings to compete effectively in the market.
Turn the Internal Wins into External Buzz
Once a hotel has developed a strong internal culture and program, it should be promoted heavily to external audiences. People want to work at an exciting company. Social media, community promotions, and word of mouth should all be present in a hotel’s recruitment strategy.
Clearly, hotels can learn many lessons from those who succeed in markets with a single hospitality giant.
Richard Auer, Ashley Lopez and Alfredo Sanedrin are the general managers of Stonebridge Companies’ Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites and Hilton Garden Inn properties in Anaheim/Garden Grove, Calif.
By: Richard Auer, Ashley Lopez and Alfredo Sanedrin