Paying Their Dues: Why Hospitality Workers Entering the Industry Are Saying ‘Not for Me’
By Cindy Johnson, Strategic Solution Partners Consultant and President of Global Hospitality Connections
You know, we all have done it — worked our way up the ladder, pushed ourselves to physical and mental limits or sacrificed our personal plans — just to focus on our upwardly mobile hospitality careers. Over the last several decades, that is how industry leaders as well as new entrants forged their path to success: working hard, working long hours and “paying their dues” to move up. However, here we are in a world since the start of COVID and we find ourselves in the most acute labor shortage the industry has ever experienced. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by closures, layoffs, and furloughs and now companies are eager (ok desperate) to get enough competent staff members to cover all levels of guest experience. For so long, ours has been the industry of long hours and intense work schedules and ultimately an industry that still to this day bodes well for those with that right attitude and skills to move up quickly.
So, what are we to do? The industry is experiencing a labor shortage like none before and is at a crossroads to re-examine what work will look like in the industry. Should we change the work schedules? What will full-time really mean and how should employee benefits change to reflect the new mindset of the hospitality worker? Does the hospitality industry have the courage to reinvent itself to find new ways of structuring work and providing flexibility and purpose for those serving our guests? What will pay structures look like and how are we to retain our top talent and convince them to stay in the game?
Well, to begin, we could create more cross-functional positions within operations and revenue-creating departments, adjust pay upwards as new skills are demonstrated and rethink benefit options for new hires with no waiting periods. We should also be more open to creating and providing hybrid work arrangements for certain positions and embrace new, innovative ideas in general. The important thing is not to get stuck yearning for the days of the past at the cusp of a new era which, judging by the steadfast attitudes of its proponents, is clearly here to stay.