[Takeaways] Staffing smarter: cutting-edge hotel recruiting tactics

When unemployment benefits began to wind down, many people in the hospitality industry believed that candidates would come rushing back. But more than a month after key programs expired, the end of the staffing shortage is still nowhere in sight.

“People that are involved in the staffing process will tell you that it's not one thing, it's not two things, it's six, seven, or eight things,” said Sandy Gentles, Vice President of Talent Point at Marriott International. In cases like this, he explained, there’s no one silver bullet — you have to be willing to try everything.

At a recent roundtable, Marc Caplan, VP of Hospitality Partnerships at Instawork, spoke with Gentles as well as Daniel del Olmo, President & COO of Sage Hotel Management, to learn more about the innovative ways the world’s top hospitality businesses are finding and retaining great staff even amid a labor crisis. Read on for a few highlights of the conversation below, and watch the full video here.

Find great candidates in unexpected places

With labor in short supply, forward-thinking hotels are getting creative with their recruiting tactics. Recently, del Olmo spoke with a General Manager at Sage who found a local taco shop to be a surprisingly effective sourcing ground. He and his team of associates would head to the restaurant, strike up a conversation with diners, and treat them to a taco or two.

“It's a very informal, human way to connect,” del Olmo shared. “It really engendered a natural conversation, as opposed to a forced conversation through the natural talent channels.”

He also encouraged hospitality businesses not to rule out candidates who hadn’t worked in the industry before.

“There aren’t a lot of industries that we say we're not interested in attracting people from. Ultimately, it's really more about the profile and the fit with our organization, regardless of their skill,” he explained.

Candidates without experience in hospitality are sometimes wary of it, especially after COVID devastated the industry, but through listening and empathizing, Sage has learned how to address those concerns.

“We’ve sent out messages like this: ‘Make a pit stop with us in your career. You may not have figured out whether hospitality is for you, but let us be a stop along the journey. Allow us to give you an opportunity, and then see where you go,’” he said.

Offer flexible schedules

Hotel workers today have made themselves clear: they don’t want to go back to the old system of burnout-inducing workweeks.

“How we're looking at the current moment in terms of the staffing crisis is really around flexibility and making sure that we understand what it is that those associates need,” Gentles said. “Before, where a hotel may have said, ‘You've got to have availability seven days a week, and we're going to schedule you when we need you,’ businesses are having to ask, ‘When are you available?’”

By posting shifts on Instawork, Marriott and Sage have both attracted a larger pool of candidates that may not be able or willing to work a standard schedule.

Marriott, for example, has built some employees’ schedules around when they have childcare support available, and has a pool of staffers that they can call on during busy days to fill in the gaps.

“The ability to have a hybrid model and flexibility is going to be critical going forward.”

- Daniel del Olmo, President & COO of Sage Hotel Management

Cross-train your staff

Along with flexibility, many hospitality workers want to grow in their careers. By allowing your staffers to try out different roles, you can introduce novelty to their workday, add to their skillset, and give them visibility into other areas.

“We've recognized that we have an incredible amount of utility players that are talented and eager to grow beyond their existing function,” del Olmo said. “That creates a career path that might have otherwise taken longer or not even been recognized. And frankly, nowadays, I think it is critical to ensure retention.”

And as a bonus, it can also help you cover your bases when you’re short-staffed.

“I talked to a GM who was telling me that his valets are the best room strippers and vacuum cleaners he's ever seen, and they're leveraging them during the day to help support the housekeeping team,” Gentles shared. “Making it an interesting place for [staff], where they care about more than just the rate at which they’re working at, is very important.”

If you’re bringing in staff on a temporary basis, Caplan recommended identifying the areas in your business that require the least training so those workers can start adding value as quickly as possible. 

“It may be difficult for staffing companies to have 10 trained room attendants the day before [you need them], but what most of them do have are people that can strip beds or help with laundry,” Caplan said. “Put them in those lower-skilled positions, identify the ones that you think are a good fit, and then invest more time and training in the right people versus hoping [someone with advanced training] is going to be available for you on short notice.”

Although there’s no one way to fix your recruiting woes, there are plenty of creative ideas out there. Even in light of the difficulties so many hotels are facing, there’s tremendous opportunity at hand.

“I think this is an incredibly exciting, while challenging, time in the industry,” del Olmo summarized. “Establishing the right foundation, having the right culture, and then working with technology enables us to do what we do best: enriching lives one experience at a time.”

Watch the Roundtable

While we’ve highlighted some of the key points above, there were tons of additional ideas and insights discussed in the roundtable. Watch the full recording below, or skip to one of the sections to jump straight into a particular topic.


[5:07] Why flexibility is critical during the hospitality staffing crisis

[12:36] Ways Marriott supports their associates through company culture 

[20:11] How to offer flexible schedules that attract candidates

[25:22] Driving career growth and retention by cross-training staff 

[31:18] Unconventional recruiting sources to find top staff 

[40:28] Identifying where temporary staff can add immediate value

[43:24] The technology tools & platforms helping hotels get ahead

[51:19] Why the future is bright for hotels