Doubling Down During the Hospitality Staffing Crisis

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I would have lost my last dollar if last summer anyone bet me that a year later we would be in the middle of the worst staffing crisis the hospitality industry has ever faced. Discussions about how we got here can become politically charged, and this is not the forum for that debate. What is relevant is how we, as an industry, address this problem.

If I had any money left after the above-referenced bet, I would have lost it all in a subsequent bet as to whether we would find ourselves intentionally capping occupancy to account for the limited number of associates available to clean rooms and provide other essential services in our hotels. But according to a survey conducted as part of the virtual Revenue Strategy Forum on May 19, 2021, more than 25 percent of hotels are doing precisely that. This type of cannibalization is obviously not sustainable. At a minimum, we must find a way to hire the associates needed to meet the current level of business demand.

Here are three approaches we should all consider:

  • Lead with culture. The hospitality experience is not only for our guests but for our associates as well. To source and retain staff, offer an environment that is based on respect, acknowledgment, appreciation, and rewards that provide both competitive compensation and intrinsic value.
  • Do a wage and benefit audit, and reward tenure. How do your offerings compare, not only to other hotels in your market, but to jobs with similar skill requirements? Openly promote your hourly rates upfront (including any temporary or seasonal hourly bonuses), which helps the job seeker move quickly when deciding to apply for an hourly position. And how are you rewarding your longer-tenured associates to show appreciation for their commitment and loyalty? What are the needs of associates in your market, and how are you providing assistance? This does not all have to be provided by your hotel. There are several community organizations supporting workforce development that can assist with needs such as child care, bus passes, and the like, which make it easier for a potential candidate to accept your job offer.
  • Be where job seekers are looking. Indeed has proven to be an excellent source for job seekers and provides the ability to apply with just a few clicks via a mobile device. It is the best way to quickly capture candidates for your available positions.

This all starts with meeting people where they are from both a physical and emotional standpoint. As an industry, we hire people from all walks of life and at all times in their lives—as a first job, a job to put themselves through school, to launch their careers, and to create lifelong legacies. So, as we have always done with our guests, let’s double down on our associates by opening a door, pulling out a chair, and looking for more ways to connect.

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Michael Evans is president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts. Marcus Hotels & Resorts is a hotel management company with a portfolio of 19 hotels across the country, primarily full-service assets, both branded and independent.


  1. Nice job Michael in laying out some simple, common-sense ways to deal with this employment crisis in a succinct and to-the-point manner. I especially want to endorse your comment on rewarding tenure. I was very fortunate to have many managers, supervisors, and line-level employees work for me for my former hotel company for 15, 20, 30, and even 35+ years and when I would speak with other hoteliers and tell them how we continued to provide annual increases as well as a variety ways to bonus and incentivize them, they would be astonished that we didn’t have pay ceilings for each position. If owners and managers really examined the benefits of retaining good staff and treating them well – after all these are the employees that are taking care of your guests – versus the costs of turnover including recruitment, onboarding, training, the impact on your guest service, etc., they might not be experiencing quite the level of difficulty they are in this very unusual and difficult employment market.

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