From an original TV series showcasing their workplace culture to covering commuting costs for new hires, hotels are using innovative strategies to position themselves as employers of choice in the midst of a historically tight labor market. Some are also beefing up perks, addressing new labor preferences, and increasing staff outreach to often marginalized communities.
At Mohegan Sun, the new season of Back of House, an original digital TV series that goes behind the scenes at the gaming resort, is now streaming on backofhouse.tv and the property’s website. Not only designed to entertain and promote Mohegan Sun, but it’s also a way to position the resort as a fun and rewarding workplace.
With six episodes, Back of House follows the endeavors of 10 Mohegan Sun employees as they plan and execute challenging events at the property, including a gala Chinese New Year celebration complete with an arena concert and Lion Dance ceremony, a luxurious red-carpet after-party, and the 100th anniversary of the Miss America pageant.
Along with booking a room or purchasing show tickets and gift cards, backofhouse.tv viewers are encouraged to apply for positions at Mohegan Sun.
“We initially used this as a tool for brand awareness and content creation. It’s also great for employee retention as employees are really proud of it and share it with friends and family,” explains John Washko, vice president of sales and marketing of Mohegan Sun and chair of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. “It highlights what a career in hospitality can look like and all the different avenues that exist in a large integrated resort like Mohegan Sun.”
The creative use of video, even if it’s only a short posting on social media, is a smart strategy for hotels to use in appealing to potential staffers, according to Steph Drilon, head of supply for Sidekicker, an on-demand staffing platform for the hospitality industry.
“With video advertising taking off, as seen in the launch of apps and features such as IGTV and Facebook Live, it may benefit your business to create a 15-minute quirky commercial,” Drilon said. “We recommend including attention-grabbing visuals, a catchy jingle, and a compelling story to increase the likelihood a candidate will remember your ad, potentially send in an application, and increase word-of-mouth.”
For Kimpton Hotels and Resorts, a strategy for not only finding new staff but achieving greater diversity in the workplace is built around forming partnerships with organizations representing those who sometimes face discrimination. These include Trans Can Work, which provides job-seeking services for the transgender community, the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, and The Mom Project, a career marketplace geared toward working mothers and those re-entering the workforce. Kimpton is also developing a mentorship program with the National Urban League.
“It’s important for us to broaden our search to ensure we’re reaching out to all communities and creating an inclusive workplace,” said William McKnight, Kimpton’s vice president of people and culture.
Along with community partnerships, McKnight said Kimpton is reaching out to refugees seeking employment and is strengthening its J1 and H2B program offerings for migrant workers.
The company is also targeting the increasing number of people seeking flexibility. McKnight said Kimpton is implementing on-demand staffing platforms such as Qwick and Instawork that cater to the hospitality industry and provide opportunities for people who want to pick up a shift here and there or make their own schedule.
Hotel companies are increasingly addressing the labor shortage with improved pay, benefits, and working conditions, sometimes with new twists that address current preferences for flexibility. Some are targeting the high cost of living faced by hotel staff in pricey resort destinations.
In Northern California’s Napa Valley, where gas prices are some of the highest in the country, the Meritage Resort and Spa and its sister property Vista Collina made headlines earlier this year by offering to reimburse new hires for their gasoline commute costs during their first three months of 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 two resorts.
Vail Resorts, after receiving much-publicized complaints about poor maintenance at several of its ski properties, earlier this year announced a $175 million annual investment in improved pay and benefits for employees. These include a $20 per hour minimum wage, increased HR support, greater employee discounts, more schedule flexibility, and an expanded leadership development plan designed to encourage long-term careers at the company.
EOS Hospitality, a hotel management company with over 40 properties, recently introduced Family Matters, a gender-neutral program available to both corporate and hourly employees after a year of employment. It provides 10 weeks of paid family leave in the case of natural birth, adoption, surrogacy, and foster parenting.
Photo credit: Mohegan Sun Back of House features employees as they plan and execute challenging events including the Miss America pageant.