Analyses - February 2, 2006



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February 2006


Print Human resources, Issues,

Recruiting tourism workers: The time is now!

The declining number of available workers in the labour force is becoming even more of a concern because tourism is not the only economic sector facing a labour shortage. This creates fierce competition; we are entering the era of the competitive labour market. Businesses must build reputations as desirable employers and think of their high quality workers as both product ambassadors and competitive advantages.

Challenges abound

The tourism industry is facing a monumental challenge when it comes to human resources:

  • The pool of available workers is shrinking. According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, there were 1.67 million employees in Canada’s tourism sector in 2003 and, in the next decade, the industry could have problems filling over 300,000 new positions.
  • Staff turnover in the tourism industry is very high (around 30% in Quebec).
  • It is expensive to hire new employees.
  • Jobs in this sector are associated with instability and seasonal fluctuations. They are often considered transitional jobs to other careers.
  • Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and expect employees in this sector to be knowledgeable about their products, accessible and easy to talk to, and capable of providing assistance.

Caught up in the demands of day to day operations, managers too often wait to hire staff at the last minute, relegating human resource management to a secondary level and failing to provide new employees with what they need to integrate successfully.

And yet, what can help a business reach its objectives, give it a competitive edge and ensure its development? “Happy employees, happy customers” is not simply a cliché; businesses must treat their employees the same way they would like them to treat customers, giving them the consideration they are due.

High staff turnover

Businesses need to examine their human resources from a financial standpoint. High staff turnover is a major financial drain. The time devoted to posting jobs, interviewing candidates, training new hires, etc., combined with lost productivity is very expensive. Managers end up working in reaction mode all the time, and waste precious time dealing with staffing problems instead of getting down to business and taking care of customers.

A recent study reports that the average turnover level in the US lodging industry is approximately 25% for management staff and around 50% for other types of jobs. In addition, the shrinking labour pool means the hiring process is becoming more and more expensive.

Businesses plagued with high turnover need to ask questions: Why do people quit? Are current employees satisfied with their working conditions? Managers who examine these issues are on the right track to solving their staffing problems. We are learning that the factors motivating people to change jobs are (1) a better salary, (2) more interesting working conditions and (3) opportunities for personal development. In a study published by Cornell University, most respondents said their primary motivator is ?the opportunity for personal and career growth and the chance to make a contribution to the organization.? Although there is no scientific way to define the ABCs of being a good employer, there are simple things one can do:

  • Hire the right person for the right job. Carefully define the profile of your ideal candidate. Do not hire overqualified individuals who will take off at the first opportunity on the pretext that the company cannot provide the challenges they seek. Select people who share the company’s values and who will make a difference. Taking the time to find the right candidate is an investment in the company’s future.
  • Pay employees what they are worth. Minimum wages often produce minimum performance and attract workers of minimum talent and motivation. Although quality obviously costs more, it can make a difference.
  • Take some time. Take the time to welcome new employees: explain the company’s vision and goals, the role they are expected to play and how their work fits into the chain of operations. Take the time to help them integrate into the workplace and listen to what they have to say.
  • Recognize the value of the work. Motivate staff by highlighting the good things about their job: the enjoyment experienced by visitors, the employees’ direct contribution to a service or product sought by tourists, the opportunity to work with people and make a positive contribution to the quality of their stay.
  • Create a workplace where people want to work. Compensation is not the only thing that counts. The work atmosphere, job enrichment, advancement opportunities, training, the attention and respect commanded by employees, steady feedback, team spirit and the proper work tools are all elements that help retain employees. It is also important to know how to play to each worker’s strengths by assigning tasks that suit the worker’s profile and interests.
  • Develop a reputation as a desirable employer. Candidates assess companies just as managers assess job candidates. It is important to encourage interest in working at your company. To this end, travel company Thomas Cook has developed an employer brand using two slogans as the basis of a major recruitment campaign: “Great people make our world go round” and “You’ll Go Far.” Companies must ensure their employees are proud to work for them and proud of their service. Happy employees make excellent service and product ambassadors and have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

High staff turnover does not help a company’s image and leaves it constantly scrambling to attract both customers and potential employees.

– Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council. “Total Tourism Sector Employment in Canada,” March 2005.
– Dalby, Colin. “Developing an Employer Brand at Thomas Cook,” Strategic HR Review, Vol. 3, No. 5, July August 2004.
– Gardinier Emmanuel. “Staff Turnover, You Can Fight It,” Hospitality Trends [], March 14, 2005.
– Hendrie, John. “The Grass Is Always Greener – Good Retention Strategies Can Break The Myth,” Hotel News Resource [], February 14, 2006.
– Hendrie, John R. “Darwin Was Right – A Good Employee Selection Process Will Make You The Fittest!” Hotel News Resource [], January 16, 2006.
– Myers, Linda. “Free Web based Management Tool Helps Hotels and Restaurants Weigh Employee Turnover Cost,” ChronicleOnline, Cornell University, July 19, 2005.
– PKF Consulting. “Fixing a Leak in the Hotel Profitability Pipeline – How to Manage the Costs of Employee Turnover,” Hospitality Trends [], October 14, 2004.
– Taylor, Masako A. and Kate Walsh. “Retaining Management Talent: What Hospitality Professionals Want from Their Jobs,” Center Reports, Vol. 5, No. 1, Cornell University, January 2005.

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