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7 Biggest HR Challenges in the Hospitality Industry
HR across sectors

7 Biggest HR Challenges in the Hospitality Industry

Nirvi B
February 12, 2024

When Abraham Pizam returned to Florida, he saw that his house was destroyed by a hurricane that had given serious damages to more than 300,000 homes. “Not being able to stay in my house without air-conditioning, I checked into a local hotel…”

To his surprise, staff of the hotel appeared cheerful & smiling when in reality, “they were worried about their homes and family members who were without electricity, safe drinking water, and internet connection.”

Mr. Pizam recalled facing a similar experience on a cruise vacation.

“While interacting with the (cruise’s) service staff, I noticed that everyone [without exception] was not only friendly but constantly smiling.” Pizam realised that this happened every single time. Even from the employee who was going through some serious personal issues.

When Pizam went ahead to confront, the employee pin-pointed towards number 3 out of the 10 value propositions printed on the cruise line’s card. “We smile; we are on stage.”

Are hospitality employees equipped to hide their feelings? - titled the study of Dr. Abraham Pizam, Dean of Rosen College of Hospitality Management, affiliated to the University of Central Florida.

This kind of “emotional labour” in the hospitality industry is not the only pressing issue.

Imagine going on vacation, arriving at the hotel only to be greeted by a young staffer who was more interested in talking on the phone than helping you check-in. The front desk clerk finally rushes through your check-in process after having you wait ten minutes, and you make your way to your room.

Once inside, you find that the room still bears the marks of its previous occupants: unmade beds, empty pizza boxes littering the floor, and dirty towels on the bathroom floor. What exactly is wrong in here?

A possible answer is Human Resources. In hospitality, the work is nothing if not people-related. This article aims to discuss about the HR challenges in the hospitality industry that includes, but is not limited to - hotels, restaurants and cruise lines.

Top 7 HR challenges in the Hospitality Industry

HR challenges in hospitality industry
Image Credits: SHRM

1. Fishing out the best candidates

'Just ask any HR manger about the most pressing HR challenges in the hospitality industry, the answer is likely to be “not enough qualified help.”'

“A year ago, we couldn’t find people for jobs in hospitality and tourism. Now we’ve got abundance of well-qualified people,” said Robin DiPietro, a Burger King Franchisee. But this doesn’t indicate that the problem of talent shortage in the industry is resolved.

Companies receive floods of resumes, making it difficult to filter out the best applicants. The goal is to employ people with attitudes and abilities that best meet the needs of those being served.

The Solution:

Pay close attention to applicants' demeanour during interviews, and seek for people whose personalities match the position you're hiring for. If you are hiring a host or waiter, for example, an applicant who isn't friendly during the interview or doesn't make an eye contact might act the same way with the guests. To attract applicants who suit the profiles, mention the traits of the perfect candidate in job descriptions.

2. Handling and preventing theft

A survey of over 1,000 European hotels revealed that towels continue to be the most commonly stolen amenity. 78% surveyed hotels reported theft from bathrooms and spa facilities. Several hundred towels are stolen each year in some hotels, resulting in damages of several thousand euros. Believe it or not.

HR challenges in the Hospitality Industry
Image Credits: Carbon Stock

Restaurants and hotels typically have a plenty of high-end wine, food and high-tech equipment. Some staff are unable to resist the urge to steal these products, making this sort of theft unfortunately all too frequent in the hospitality industry. It becomes the HR’s responsibility to instil a sense of loyalty in employees, and reduce this cost.

The Solution:

When companies experience theft, management must be willing to take the necessary steps to prevent further loss. Employee reward schemes, training, and hiring procedures are some preventive solutions to avoid theft.

For instance, employees might be rewarded for reporting theft. This might make them feel motivated after implementing an employee recognition program. Although reporting a coworker can be awkward or cause unnecessary drama, identifying the perpetrator is critical to putting a halt to the behaviour.

“Employees who are more satisfied in their position and with the company overall are less likely to commit internal theft.”

Rewarding them for reporting theft might also make them feel more valued and appreciated by the organisation, and improve communication between managers and their employees.

3. Conducting downsizing of employees

Millions of workers in the hospitality industry were laid off as a result of the pandemic, either as a result of closures or downsizing by their employers.

“There were important decisions to be made like the process of downsizing, evaluating different roles, compensation to the ones that were laid off, and at the same gaining the loyalty and trust of the existing employees.”  - Vicky Kadam, CHRO at Hirevilla.

The Solution:

While some companies are downsizing, there is also a rise of more hybrid working methods and the return of some enterprises to the office full-time.

MakeMyTrip, an online travel company, continues to use a hybrid work paradigm post-pandemic. Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group Chief Human Resource Officer states that the company will not pursue a policy at the expense of its employees' well-being.

You cannot really drive a policy at the cost of personal wellness and at the cost of your employees’ welfare. - Yuvraj Srivastava

4. Taking ownership of training & career development

When life and work profiles were simpler, people got by with mere verbal instructions. Since multinational corporations entered the market, we saw cultural shift in the hospitality industry. One such instance is cross cultural communication.

It is true that hotels, restaurants, airlines, etc. depend on tourists from around the world to generate profits. There is hence a need for employees to bridge the cultural gaps between different cultures.

Also read: Culture and influence in the workplace: Collectivism vs Individualism

Now you might mistake intercultural management & communication with foreign language proficiency, or the ability to impress and converse with international guests. but training and development goes far beyond, and is not limited to - multilingual skills.

The Solution:

Intercultural management can only be achieved via the means of training programs that educate employees about cultural awareness, etiquettes, management style, etc. The Leela Hotels, for instance, launched a Leela Leadership Development Programme (LLDP) that includes functional training of knowledge and skills via on the job training with blending learning module. As planning and executing such programs may increase cost overhead, a more viable solution would be to invest in a more responsive learning system.

5. Attrition & Retaining employees

“At my resort,” said Felix, Director of Housekeeping at a resort, “the emphasis is on, first, the guests, second on maximising profit, and third on the employees." Felix shares how they churn through a lot of employees “who start out with a positive attitude about their work and whose morale goes quickly downhill as they are confronted with things that really shouldn’t happen.”

“We use out-of-date job descriptions to recruit employees and, many times, there’s little resemblance between what new staff think they’re going to be doing and what they actually do.”

Some reasons for poor employee retention may be orientations being conducted whenever there is time, and training being done on-the-run. And if employees don’t grasp things easily, “managers conclude that it’s because they don’t care.”

The Solution:

Workers take pride in their employment and are more likely to stay if they are trained and given new responsibilities. When employees at Century Plaza were given the opportunity to work in a variety of divisions, Leier discovered that they stayed longer and had more empathy for their coworkers. “When someone takes the time to invest in you and let you learn, it builds loyalty and commitment to the organisation," she says.

Courtney Hendricks, HR manager of Cousins Subs in Milwaukee, says that gestures of appreciation like anniversary cakes, gift cards, movie tickets, and especially handwritten thank-you letters can foster loyalty. The restaurant firm also keeps employees by allowing hourly workers to advance into management roles; in fact, Hendricks' boss began out as a 16-year-old sandwich maker. "We have a very clear ladder," says the narrator.

6. Managing and tracking irregular working hours

People in the hospitality industry work for long hours and, unfortunately, many of these hours are overnight, weekends and holidays when others spend time with their friends and families. Employee availability and scheduling choices are two usual areas of HR in hospitality. In such cases, scheduling and tracking employees overwhelm and occupy the majority of a HR’s time.

The Solution:

Conditions in several industries allow workers to work from home for all or part of their jobs, allowing them to cover work responsibilities during hours that are most convenient for them. Employees will also be held accountable for their work if stronger HR systems are implemented.

Some organisations have devised ingenious ways to allow selected individuals to become intrapreneurs. These individuals are in charge of a certain area of the firm and receive a portion of the revenues generated by its successful operation. One example is when a hospitality manager receives a bonus or reward based on specific performance that exceeds financial goals.

Other companies may offer innovative profit-sharing arrangements to employees who are motivated by money. When such funds are used for a specified purpose, such as food, drink, or a gift shop.

7. Employee satisfaction and morale

Today's workforce raises the experience standard higher than ever before, yet the workplace itself struggles to adapt. For their workforces to be competitive and successful, organisations must offer a compelling, competitive, and meaningful experience. However, if you don't hear what your employees have to say, you can't provide them what they want. It seems there’s a massive experience gap to be addressed.

Employee satisfaction directly affects the enthusiasm and effort an employee puts into their work and the organisation, and employee happiness is tied to the comfort factor. Without a question, it stands at the top of the list of things that can never be duplicated.


peopleHum takes pleasure in giving insightful, innovative solutions to firms trying to handle these types of difficulties before they obstruct their growth and success. The insights acquired by peopleHum's employee management system could very well be the difference between a stable firm that excels in customer service and one that fights just to stay alive in the hospitality industry, where competition is severe and the client base is fickle.

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