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Concord Hospitality Gets Creative with Employee Recruitment, Retention Strategies

From refugees to retirees, Chief Human Resource Officer Debra Punke shares how Concord Hospitality is doing its best to combat the current hospitality labor shortage.
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With approximately 6,000 associates servicing its portfolio of 150 hotels, Concord Hospitality Enterprises knows a thing or two about labor management and the current staffing crisis facing the hospitality industry.

Every day we’re seeing our general managers really struggling to deal with the post-COVID travel resurgence while being understaffed. Our team members are getting frustrated, burnt out and stressed,” notes Debra Punke, Chief Human Resource Officer, Concord Hospitality.

When traditional means for recruiting employees proved to be less than stellar, Debra Punke, Chief Human Resource Officer, began looking for more creative ways to hire new employees.

“We truly have a ‘no stone left unturned’ philosophy when it comes to recruiting,” she explains. “We have been trying absolutely everything to attract workers, but it’s been really hard.”

A Mutually Beneficial Option

However, about nine months ago she had an epiphany as news outlets began to report on the influx of Afghani refugees fleeing their country for the United States.

“I remembered when I worked as a general manager about thirty years ago that we employed quite a few Somalian and Bosnian refugees,” she explained. “They were wonderful employees. They were hardworking, grateful for their job, and they brought with them so many beautiful cultural traditions that really helped to broaden the minds of everyone with whom they worked.”

However, as Punke began looking for ways to find, contact and employ current refugees – she was met with a myriad of obstacles. For example, the United States currently has 29 resettlement agencies and Punke was told she would have to call each one individually, explain who she was, who she worked with, why she was interested in hiring Afghani refugees, etc. It was difficult, time-consuming, and for quite a while she wasn’t making much headway.

However, her perseverance paid off when she connected with Abdullah Raqeebi. Raqeebi is an Afghani refugee himself who was immediately interested in helping Punke find and place other refugees in open jobs. Since his employment with Concord, he has become the chief liaison between the hotel brand and the 29 resettlement agencies and has already begun to fill open jobs with available and interested refugees. Having him on board has been especially useful as he is Afghani himself – so he can easily communicate with the refugees, he understands their cultural traditions and can explain American traditions, and he can create training materials in their own language.

“We’re so grateful to have him on staff and we’re so happy that we’re able to help refugees find a job as they restart their lives in the United States,” Punke notes.

Always Be Recruiting

While recruiting refugees to work at Concord Hospitality is rewarding, it’s a slow process. And with approximately 600 positions that are currently open, Punke says that her team has been looking to recruit employees from less traditional places. For example, retirees have become a great resource for Concord.

“Many Baby Boomers have been retired for a few years now and are getting bored,” she explains. “They were accustomed to being in fast-paced, management-level corporate jobs, and now their days can feel rather long and potentially empty. However, they don’t want to go back to the jobs they held before. They’re looking to work a few days a week, interact with people, and have fun while on the job. They’re a great resource because they’re responsible, they always show up, and they’re grateful for the job!”

Concord has also found a lot of success recruiting individuals from bars and restaurants. Servers often possess the same skillset that hotels require: an outgoing personality, the ability to communicate well with a variety of customers, excellent problem solving capabilities, the ability to quickly and efficiently resolve problems, etc.

Same Day Pay

Last, but not least, the company has been doing its best to speak with staff members about the types of benefits that will help persuade them to stay as employees or even help recruit friends and family members as employees. One benefit that stood out: same-day pay.

“I first heard about the idea of same-day pay a few years ago,” Punke explains. “I investigated it and did some polling of our organization, and I saw a lot of interest. So, we decided to launch it.”

According to Punke, the hotel employees loved it immediately.

“Right out of the gate, 10 percent of the workforce was using it, and it wasn’t just frontline workers. We had managers using it as well. In fact, at one point when the technology went down, our workers kept asking for it back. Thankfully we got it fixed, and employees continue to take advantage of the benefit!”

Has it been easy from a technology perspective? No.

“We have a complex payroll structure,” Punke explains, “and we initially integrated with a company that wasn’t our normal time and attendance software. The amount of data that is housed in a payroll / timekeeping system is vast and to build integration files against such large amounts of data is cumbersome and somewhat manual. We have found that if the payroll and timekeeping system has a same day pay solution, that is the most efficient and accurate way to implement and sustain the benefit.”

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