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AI for Hiring: The Time for Hospitality Is Now

Fitness and retail have already begun using AI successfully to both hire and retain new employees.
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It’s shaping up to be a blockbuster summer for the U.S. hospitality industry.

Hotels are packed, restaurants are thriving, and vacationers continue to travel.

Personalized recommendations on everything from where to stay, what to do, and where to eat — powered by artificial intelligence tools — are redefining the guest experience. For hotels, frictionless bookings and in-room conveniences such as voice-activated digital assistants (“We need extra towels in room 305.”) offer a tantalizing glimpse of efficiency via intelligent automation.

Hotel room pricing, with its data intensity, could soon be ripe for disruption.

By almost every conceivable metric, hospitality providers have bounced back from the pandemic. Projections are looking up in nearly every category except one: staffing.

A survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that 82% of their members are experiencing talent shortages. There are more than 120,000 open hotel positions across the country, with housekeepers ranked as the top hiring need. Restaurants and retailers have similar talent gaps.

With a seemingly daunting number of vacancies industry-wide, hiring in large volumes is a three-way balancing act — equal parts quality, quantity and speed. 

AI for Hiring & Retaining

Across industries like retail, hospitality and food service, the days of candidates waiting days or weeks for a job offer are long gone. AI and automated hiring tools can help reduce the time to fill critically important hospitality positions.

For example, a popular national restaurant chain opens about 100 new cafes a year. In less than a month, the company registered more than 12,000 candidates through its career site and talent email campaigns — resulting in more than 2,000 same-day offers to candidates and 1,300+ same-week hires.

At Life Time, which operates athletic country clubs in North America, AI empowers the mass hiring of almost 9,000 seasonal workers within a matter of months, resulting in a workforce headcount that can reach as high as 40,000 depending on the season.

Last year, 350,000 people applied for roughly 29,000 positions at Life Time. With a recruiting chatbot on their career site, the company had over 100,000 interactions that led to 20,000 applications.

Many of those hires (lifeguards and summer camp teachers, for example) have to be licensed or certified by a governing body. In general, keeping track of where each candidate is in the hiring process can be daunting — but not if you’re running a data-rich, single source of truth talent acquisition platform.

In the same way that AI helps attract talent to organizations, it’s also a useful tool to retain them.

The Warehouse Group, one of New Zealand’s largest retailers, used AI-powered internal mobility and employee portal capabilities to launch a microsite to educate employees about a major corporate restructuring a few years ago. Knowledge of the huge undertaking was key to the employee experience since new career paths and opportunities were forged in the new organization.

A Unified HR Interface

A job candidate’s experience with a hospitality business starts the moment they land on the career site. They're reading job descriptions, learning more about roles they’re interested in and expressing an interest in the company.

Once someone starts the application process using a chatbot, for example, employers have the opportunity to provide distinct hiring journeys based on the position of interest. Now, one common candidate experience can serve those who are interested in a job for housekeeping, front desk services or site and facilities management.

That means greater efficiency for HR teams since they don't need to manage separate hiring flows or dedicate role-specific recruiting teams.

Another benefit — the use of in-house intelligent, automated hiring tools can significantly reduce the costs and oversight required for staffing agencies or external sourcers.

Some third-party agencies might not have the same standards of screening and vetting that the corporate entity does. HR teams at senior levels are focused on hiring the best possible people who are available at the time and place they are needed. Ideally, these will be employees who are going to stay with an organization, preventing a repeat of the expensive recruiting process all over again.

That is something to keep in mind as rising labor costs are holding down hotel operating profits.

An Engaged, Active Talent Pool

It's very important for hospitality enterprises to a) create, foster and constantly engage with an active talent pool, and b) run effective recruitment marketing campaigns, where and when they’re needed. That goes for companies in always-on hiring mode or seasonal hires, or even those that want to retain their talent.

National Hotel Employee Day is on Sept. 1, just before Labor Day weekend. What better way to celebrate than to help your employees grow and develop professionally. If employees don't feel tied to their employer, they will cross the street to work for someone else for a few dollars more an hour. That's why employee engagement is so important. Help talent build a sense of affinity with the organization regardless of whether they are in front or back of the house.

Three Takeaways

To summarize, AI has the power to help hospitality companies:

  • Compete for talent with transactional skills
  • Reduce time to hire because time to paycheck is critical
  • Develop and retain workers in an industry long known for high turnover

As mentioned at the outset, hospitality providers have the wind at their backs for the first time in years. AI will keep this good thing going by building a lasting and sustaining talent pool that will deliver an impeccable, white glove guest experience.



Thompson has led product innovation for human resources and human capital management technology companies throughout his career. He has years of experience driving agile product development by leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing.


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