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How to Recruit, Retain Gen Z into the Hotel Workforce

Showcase the upward mobility hotel jobs offer, promote employee wellness programs and professional learning opportunities, and connect with students while they’re still in school.
Gen Z students
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The hotel industry faces multifaceted challenges in recruiting and retaining personnel. These challenges have intensified as the industry grapples with evolving consumer preferences, economic fluctuations, and the pressing need for a more skilled and adaptable workforce, all while over 80% of hotels report staffing shortages.

The demand for cutting-edge technology to streamline operations has never been more apparent, but equally pressing is the need for tech solutions that support the recruitment and retention of personnel. 

Investing in the next generation today will yield dividends for the industry's future, particularly as improved business and group travel and an increase in international visitors accelerate hotel industry growth into 2024. Hospitality leaders can consider the following strategies to connect with younger potential applicants and build robust teams.

Reconceptualize What it Means to Work in Hospitality

For many first-time workers, the hospitality industry is their entry point into the workforce. The question we would like to address from our vantage point as an education solutions provider is, “How do we turn a first job into a lasting career path?” 

It is a basic misconception that all the jobs in hospitality are low-wage. There is an opportunity to better showcase a real path of upward mobility – to retain those who might start their career in an entry-level position but then flourish into many of the middle and upper management jobs that don't receive as much visibility. 

Simultaneously, the modern workforce – particularly younger generations – holds different expectations regarding job satisfaction, work-life balance, and career development. For some, hotels are traditionally known for demanding schedules and high-pressure environments. It is crucial to change this narrative by promoting employee wellness programs in job postings, as well as professional learning opportunities. 

When reflecting on my early days working in the service industry, I often think about my daily interactions with customers, solving complex problems on the fly and doing so with the poise and standard that was established by my employer. It was so much more than a “job”—it was its own ecosystem that I helped to run alongside my colleagues on any given shift. I made friends and honed skills that still serve me to this day. This is the narrative that can help frame opportunities in hospitality. The flexibility while attending school, different degrees, and internship opportunities are all advantages that students can consider as they map out their futures. 

Catalyze Change with Tech

Stakeholders must recognize the importance of adopting a holistic approach, combining technological solutions with strategic recruitment and retention practices.

Hotels’ tech stacks should be evaluated for their ability to inspire the next generation of younger workers, including at the high school level. Connecting with students is about more than just filling future job vacancies – it's about nurturing a genuine passion for the hospitality industry and empowering students to connect the dots between what they learn in the classroom and the wider world. By fostering early interest and providing educational resources, hospitality leaders can inspire the next generation to view hotels as dynamic, innovative, and fulfilling workplaces. 

One potential solution that can help shed light on all of the dynamic roles that make up hospitality is Career Connect, a digital platform designed to bridge the gap between aspiring professionals and diverse industry workplaces. This platform facilitates communication, allowing classrooms to connect with industry experts to gain insights into the wide-ranging career opportunities across a variety of industries including hospitality and hotel management, from front desk positions to corporate roles. 

By reaching wider communities of students, Career Connect nurtures interest, gives young people role models to look up to, and provides visibility into how career professionals apply the lessons and skills students are learning about today to their real-world jobs. After all, what makes the hospitality industry unique is that it is incredibly accessible and offers opportunities and pathways that begin at entry level. 

Meet the Needs of an Evolving Workforce

Retaining skilled and motivated employees is as critical – and as difficult – as recruiting them. Workers need more skills development opportunities – 49% self-report wanting to develop their skills but not knowing where to begin. Technology should play a role in employee retention by advancing professional development, operational efficiency, and overall job satisfaction. 

By strategically deploying tech solutions that give employees an opportunity to volunteer and serve younger generations, hotels can improve internal operations and the bottom line, enhance the guest experience, foster loyalty, and ultimately contribute to higher employee satisfaction. 

Investing in the shifting workforce of today yields dividends for the industry's future. As school-age individuals mature into young professionals, they bring fresh perspectives, adaptability, and a deep understanding of contemporary trends. This infusion of new talent is essential for keeping the industry vibrant, innovative, and responsive to evolving customer expectations. 

The Workforce of the Future

The fast-growing hotel industry requires awareness as the world opens up post-pandemic, especially considering it’s where many tech leaders and service innovators begin their careers. 

Ensuring a robust future workforce demands a forward-thinking approach. One key strategy emerges: empowering and inspiring the next generation about their career goals to cultivate the future hotel workforce. Career Connect provides the hospitality industry a new, effective way to inform and inspire the next generation of leaders. This proactive engagement addresses immediate staffing needs and lays the foundation for sustainable talent acquisition, underscoring that hospitality personnel are just as important as processes. 


About the Author

Amy Nakamoto is General Manager of Corporate Partnerships and Social Impact at Discovery Education, a global provider of educational technology solutions. Over her professional career, she has worked to expand upon great programs and policies that positively impact students, schools, and communities. Nakamoto has also led revenue strategy for companies and nonprofits, and managed established organizations like the Meyer Foundation and St. Andrews School.

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