Hoteliers hope pay bumps and perks will attract workers

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Hotels are extending benefits packages to workers as well as increasing their pay.
Hotels are extending benefits packages to workers as well as increasing their pay. Photo Credit: Lunopark/Shutterstock

With hospitality among the industries hardest hit by the "Great Resignation," hoteliers are pulling out all the stops and getting creative to lure new hires. 

"The mass exodus has impacted us from top to bottom, and we've had to get creative in the ways we attract and retain talent," said Dan Bienstock, chief people officer for EOS Hospitality, a hotel management company that operates 40-plus properties across the U.S. "Now, we're really looking at the word investment in a different way, as in, how do we invest in our employees?"

For many operators, employee investment efforts have centered on paying higher wages. 

After receiving social media backlash over inadequate staffing, among other guest-experience issues, Vail Resorts announced in mid-March that it would be upping its minimum wage to $20 per hour across all 37 of its resorts for the 2022-23 ski season. Vail reported that the move would result in roughly $175 million in added labor expenses for fiscal 2023.

Sid Upadhyay
Sid Upadhyay

"We're seeing that compensations across the board have gone up," confirmed Sid Upadhyay, co-founder and CEO of online job recruiting platform WizeHire. "At a broad level, across the hospitality industry, we're seeing wages that used to be in the low teens go into the high teens or 20s per hour."

WizeHire's clientele includes around 100 hotel companies, with Upadhyay estimating that the platform currently has somewhere between 500 and 800 hospitality job openings.

"Still, hourly wages are just one of the levers that businesses are starting to lean on," Upadhyay added. "We're seeing a lot of companies extend their benefits packages."

Some hospitality companies are extending 401(k) plans to their property-level workers, said Upadhyay, while others are offering more flexible scheduling options or payroll solutions that allow for next-day or two-day-out payments.

"These are things that really line up with the reality of this pandemic economy," said Upadhyay. "And it's about businesses recognizing that to get great talent, you have to meet people where they are. Someone may have childcare or family care obligations or whatever the case may be, and businesses need to work around that."

Taking care of families

Family obligations were a focus for EOS Hospitality when the company debuted its latest job benefit: 10 weeks of 100% paid family leave for all full-time employees. 

Rolled out earlier this year, the EOS Family Matters family leave benefit is gender-neutral and applies to natural birth, adoption, surrogacy and foster parenting. Both corporate and hourly employees are eligible for the benefit after one year of employment. 

"The hospitality industry, traditionally, can be pretty damaging to the family unit," said EOS Hospitality's Bienstock. "It can be long hours, inconsistent schedules, low pay. And so, we decided that one of the best ways we could invest in our employees is to invest in their families."

Bienstock added that in addition to being "the right thing to do," the family leave program is expected to significantly reduce employee churn, helping EOS save on turnover-related costs.

"We're confident that this program pays for itself," he said. "And ultimately, we're going to build loyalty, and it's going to be a real differentiator for us as we continue to grow."

Other hotels, meanwhile, are looking to help shoulder some of the financial burden related to the rising cost of living, such as fuel. 

In Napa, Calif., the Meritage Resort and Spa and its neighboring sister property, Vista Collina Resort, recently unveiled a commute-related perk, promising new hires gas reimbursement for the first three months of their employment. 

"The competition for top talent has never been more intense, so we decided to get creative and offer an incentive that addresses one of today's most glaring challenges, which is the price of gasoline," said Joe Leinacker, managing director of the Meritage and Vista Collina resorts.

The ongoing labor shortage, however, isn't limited to the U.S. According to Yvonne Donohue, director of sales and marketing at the Shelbourne, a luxury property in Dublin, staffing issues are a "global challenge."

"In Dublin, as in any big city, the cost of accommodation and the general high cost of living is part of the problem," she said. "What we're looking at doing is renting some private houses and then taking students from some colleges and hotel schools and giving them a place to live for a placement of maybe nine months."

Amina Dearmon
Amina Dearmon

For travel advisors, the hotel industry's efforts to increase staffing levels are a much-needed step in the right direction.

"The labor issue is something that needs to be managed as we get back out into the world," said Amina Dearmon, luxury travel advisor and owner of New Orleans-based Perspectives Travel. "I think as some of the restrictions around Covid begin to wane -- and as we see very high prices for hotels, air and just travel in general -- people will be expecting a certain level of service and, at some point, the labor shortage won't be seen as a viable excuse anymore."

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