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Fighting turnover: The hospitality industry faces an old problem that the pandemic has made worse

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown cold water on Nevada’s longstanding hospitality industry rotation problem from Lake Tahoe to Lake Las Vegas, forcing the entire industry in the state to review the quality of its human resources services, its staff recruitment and integration strategies and its high staff turnover rate.

High turnover has traditionally been considered a necessary evil in the state’s hospitality industry, but the pandemic has caused strategists and executives to rethink their expectations for recruiting, retaining and managing staff.

“Learning and development roles are finally returning,” said Michele Kline, CEO of Las Vegas-based Kline Hospitality Consulting, which hosts a podcast focused on hospitality training using real-life stories. “As organizations see how much of a revolving door there is, learning and development becomes key, so new hires are ready to take on their roles successfully.”

Dealing with turnover

“The pandemic has not only changed businesses, it has also changed workers,” said Shermana Walker, CEO of SW HR Consulting, also based in Las Vegas. “Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are staggering and those rates continue to climb, and the COVID-19 pandemic has played a huge role in that.”

Walker cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a staggering 130% turnover rate for the hospitality industry in 2020. The turnover rate measures the total annual separations between employees and hospitality locations across the country. .

“That number is extremely high, but even before the pandemic the rate was 79%,” Walker said. “With this high employee turnover issue, there will be more employee burnout, lack of coordination, frustration, and working long hours without adequate compensation.”

The 2021 hospitality turnover rate soared even higher to reach its pre-pandemic level of 85%, continuing the current trend as newly identified pandemic rollover solutions, such as more effective recruitment and retention, have yet to take hold across the industry. To address the turnover issue, the state’s hospitality industry is now focusing on effective recruitment for the impending post-pandemic era.

“One of the most exciting changes the pandemic has brought to the recruiting process is the immersive expansion of the talent pool,” Walker said. “Through telecommuting, many companies have shifted internal positions to include remote or hybrid environments. The whole world is your talent pool these days.

Focus on recruitment

Remote positions have helped solve some of the turnover issues in Nevada’s hospitality industry, but for the vast majority of positions that require in-person presence and a base in the Silver State, Staffing Recruitment receives now more attention than ever.

“As a process improvement expert, I see inefficiencies in the recruiting process now more exposed than ever before,” Kline said. “Candidates applying for a job don’t want an answer [from a single employer] longer, they jump at the first opportunity that knocks on their door. Making sure the process is flawless and your brand stands out is the secret sauce.

Recruiting staff in the new pandemic world has been a long, arduous journey, a journey that Nevada Resorts Association president Virginia Valentine says is reaching its peak.

“Over the past two years, the Nevada resort industry has worked tirelessly to bring employees back and recruit top talent to fill vacancies,” Valentine said. “The recent upturn in international travel and the normalization of trade show and convention business will boost mid-week business volumes, creating more job opportunities that bring the industry closer to pre-Secondary job leads. pandemic.”

This increase is leading to a more intense focus on retention across all sectors of the hospitality industry.

Rethinking retention

After successfully recruiting a new employee, more attention is paid to the onboarding process of this new employee than ever before.

“How you onboard people goes a long way in keeping employees engaged and effective in your organization,” Walker said. “That’s true in any industry, but in the hospitality industry, with its notoriously high turnover rate, it’s even more vital.”

Walker says the days of anonymous hires in the hospitality industry should be over. New hires, regardless of position, title or location, should be shared well in advance with close colleagues. If this cannot happen, this puts even more emphasis on the orientation and training session on the first day, with an introduction by name to the team members involved.

“There’s now a shift from a focus on employee experience to employee life experience,” Walker said. “It brought more radical flexibility and more focus on when employees are doing their work, and how much work they are doing, not where people are working.”

Both Kline and Walker agree that effective employee retention starts with a corporate culture reset and that traditional tactics are often outdated and ineffective.

“The employee appreciation party is a popular retention strategy that I believe is a thing of the past,” Kline said. “Team members want to feel part of the bigger picture. 2020 has made people stop and reflect, now they see the value of understanding that they have a purpose in the overall purpose of the organization and see the value of understanding their role in it.

How Hospitality HR Changed Forever

Human resources and personnel management have changed throughout the hospitality industry, not just in Nevada.

“I believe what’s primarily changed forever in the hospitality industry is the timing of turning a candidate’s journey around, keeping the candidate warm and engaged throughout that process,” Kline said. “In addition, the new emphasis must be on training, we must invest in the development of our staff. Not only candidates who come from other industries or organizations, but also hiring managers, recruiters and human resources personnel. »

According to Walker, Nevada’s emerging human resource trends in the hospitality industry revolve around training programs for new employees, management and sales. Combined with new and updated mentorship programs and innovative ways to measure performance results, the state’s hospitality industry finally has a plan to tackle long-standing turnover issues, Walker said. .

Working life before COVID-19 feels like a distant memory, so much has changed and so much water has flowed under the bridge,” Walker said. “Employee expectations have evolved beyond compensation, benefits and perks – a sense of shared identity, interactions and a fulfilling employee experience are crucial to post-pandemic business success.”

The Culinary Workers Union passed the Nevada Legislature a “Right of return” law who gave some laid-off workers the right to be offered their old job or a similar one, as these jobs become available. The law went into effect July 1, 2021. By then, according to the Culinary, about half of the union’s 60,000 members had returned to work. By January 2022, that number had risen to 40,000, and the union declared the law a success.

Culinary officials did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

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