Australian hotel and hospitality businesses are struggling to attract and retain staff, putting pressure on the sales, customer service and operations of many hotels.

A study of UK hospitality businesses by The Caterer showed that 82% of hospitality professionals said it was harder than ever before to recruit suitable staff. 

The situation is no different here in Australia.

Our skilled professionals are leaving the industry due to uncertainty and lack of job security caused by lockdowns and border closures. And it’s increasingly challenging to attract them back to the industry once they’ve left.

But faced with this shortage, hotels and venues still need to recruit and train staff and implement sales strategies for when the borders open and business returns to some semblance of normal trading.

When that happens, the competition for business and leisure travellers alike will be fierce, and the properties that have a well-trained and prepared team (and a clear strategy) will be those that succeed.

The way we see it, recruiting for hotel staff moving forward will involve either:

  1. Promoting from within your own hotel team based on passion and an ability to learn, and training them in the front office and sales skills required to succeed, or
  2. Recruiting from outside of the industry and training in on-the-job skills, or
  3. Employing straight out of tertiary education and mentoring as they gain experience.

Tips to attract quality staff to apply for your hotel front office and sales roles

Offer an incentive

To persuade candidates to apply for your role over another, offer an incentive such as a bonus or voucher upon signing the contract, allocated funds towards training each year, or extra days off per year.

Increase in salary on completion of probation period

When push comes to shove, look at what you’re paying versus another hotel or even outside our industry. As we are pushed to attract people from other sectors into the hotel industry, we need to consider the wages they earn. For example, if a receptionist in a medical practice earns $5-10 above what our industry normally pays, we may need to consider offering higher rates upfront or adding in a pay rise once training and probation are completed.

Sell your property and culture to prospective employees

Play up the company benefits and showcase the fun aspect of the industry. Let’s be honest, working a hotel front office environment is shift work and involves dealing with the good and (sometimes) the very bad, and unhappy customers. All of this can be stressful. Offering daily catch-ups, weekly team motivation sessions, monthly awards lunches and the opportunity to have their voice heard can be motivating and supportive. Balance the challenging with the rewarding and highlight how you support your employees.

Offer flexibility and work from home benefits

If possible, look into ways your phone lines can be directed to work remotely or have role sharing that offers greater flexibility. Could you offer flexible schedules to parents returning from maternity leave or changing careers who only want to work a few days a week? Whereas traditionally there hasn’t been a lot of flexibility in hotel front office roles, the COVID shake-up has forced us all to think outside the box, and this fresh perspective might lead to new opportunities.

Look into apprenticeship programs

If you continue to find it difficult to recruit, contact universities and colleges and enquire about offering an apprenticeship / internship to 2nd- or 3rd-year students. It can be a way to attract high performing students early, and support their education while also training them in your own systems.

The other big challenge will be retaining current and new employees. In an industry that previously had no difficulties attracting staff, very few properties had solid staff retention strategies in place. But as we invest in attracting and training staff (especially sales and front office staff), it will become more important to offer compelling reasons to stay.