Industry Update
Opinion Article26 February 2019

How Hotels Can Better Draw And Retain Teen Workers

Teen workers are finding the hospitality industry less and less hospitable.

By Steve Kramer, CEO at WorkJam

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Over the past two decades, there's been a sharp decline in the number of teens who choose to work in hotels and restaurants. Back in 2000, teens comprised over one-fifth of the hospitality workforce. By 2017, that number had dropped to 16 percent — shrinking what was once a viable pool of workers.

There are a number of external factors that account for the decline. One of them is the growth economy: Because we've been in an economic upswing for the better part of a decade, companies are more likely to offer paid internship opportunities that draw qualified teens away from hourly work.

Career-focused pressures are another element deterring prospective teen hotel workers. Compared to previous generations, today's teens face increased pressure earlier on to compete for college admissions and solidify a career path. For this reason, they'll often look for volunteer or pre-career opportunities where they might once have sought out a summer job.

From a hotel hiring standpoint, the decline in teen employees should be cause for concern, since these workers can be a huge benefit. First, they're more likely to want flexible hours to work around their shifting school schedules. This flexibility means they can often fill shifts on short notice. Second, the fact that school breaks include holidays and the summer months means they're more available to work during higher-demand periods.

But to effectively attract teen workers — and keep them around — hotels can't necessarily use the typical playbook. Instead, they should consider how to appeal to teen candidates on their terms, including:

  • Enhancing communication to improve the employee experience: If a teen is weighing a hotel job against, say, a volunteer opportunity, they're likely going to consider how that job can serve their long-term career goals. For this reason, hotels are well-served to create more engaging roles for teens to fill. Hotels can be more proactive about bolstering communication to more directly meet the interests and aspirations of workers. By using secure, encrypted digital communication tools to better connect the head office to the frontline, hotels can lay the foundation for the development of a better employee experience while keeping guest information safe.
  • Offering continuous training with digital tools: Today's teen workers aren't content with just a paycheck; they see every job as an opportunity to learn and grow. Hotels can give them that opportunity by implementing digital tools that make training and leveling-up a continuous and exciting process. With leading digital workplace tools, hotels can provide their teen employees with interactive training materials and instructional video content that will keep them engaged and motivated.
  • Getting task management in check: If your hotel has a chaotic and unclear approach to task management, then you're not ready to take on qualified teen workers. To keep younger employees around, you need to give them a foundation for success in a clear and organized way, with explicit delineation of processes. When hotels deploy digital workplace tools, they can easily bring order and clarity to task management.
  • Creating flexibility through modern scheduling practices: When it comes to when and where teens work, they desire flexibility. Hoteliers can provide self-service, digital tools that allow employees to autonomously trade shifts, claim open shifts, or adjust their work schedules while maintaining workflows, business rules and policies. This practice gives teen employees the ability to work across different locations, satisfying their needs while optimizing labor allocations and reducing scheduling errors.

In a growth economy with abundant internship opportunities, hotels will need to go the extra mile to land qualified teen workers. That investment will pay dividends in the long run with a more engaged and age-diverse staff.

Steve Kramer

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