Three Tactics for Staffing Up Ahead of the Busy Season

From offering flexible scheduling to prioritizing training, these three tactics will help hoteliers improve employee satisfaction and draw in more applicants.
woman shaking hands with hiring manager

Seasonal workers are the backbone of many industries — hospitality included. Unfortunately, hoteliers have long lacked the tools to overcome the issue of being understaffed when the busy season rolls around.

What if I told you there was a secret to not only keep good employees, but to also attract top talent like them? It sounds too good to be true, but trends in the hospitality segment mirror issues around attracting and hiring talent in general.

The secret to running smoothly during high travel months? Hire a full staff before the busy season takes hold — and be sure to take care of your employees too. In this hiring market, the benefits and perks are what singles out one position from the rest for many applicants.

When applicants see how well your employees are treated — thanks to strategic recruitment marketing — you’ll be able to fill your open positions quicker than you thought. To make a difference in hiring volume, your hotel needs to stand apart from various industries. The best way to do that is by offering benefits like flexible scheduling or health insurance while showing employees available career paths in the business overall.

Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to hiring, it would be difficult for a hotelier to appease everyone on their staff. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of three tactics your hotel can implement to improve overall employee satisfaction, which can also be used to draw more applicants via employer branding.

Be flexible

One of the most commonly reported priorities for job seekers is greater flexibility. Job seekers and employees have so many options for work that they don’t have to work for hotels or other businesses that don’t offer the flexibility they need to maintain work/life balance or do things like care for children or elderly parents. You need to find a way to meet talent halfway when it comes to these flexibility demands.

Now, hoteliers are at an admitted perceived disadvantage when it comes to combating seasonal hiring deficiencies with flexibility; it’s not feasible to have front desk staff working remotely, and concierges can’t move vehicles without being in the driver’s seat. However, there are different ways your hotel can offer flexibility to employees so they are satisfied with their role at your company.

You can empower your hotel employees by allowing them to pick their own schedules instead of randomly assigning shifts throughout the week. When employees have more control over their schedules they can plan events or otherwise enjoy their set time off. Between school holidays and the typically pleasant weather, your employees are also parents trying to find accommodations for their children or people with other demands on their time. Show employees that you value them as people by giving them the flexibility to choose their own schedules, at work and at home.

A second way that you can adapt scheduling at your hotel to be more flexible is to break up shifts on busy days during the travel season, like splitting the 7 am to 3 pm shift into four hours each and having two different employees cover those time segments. Busy travel season is typically that way for a reason — guests are either enjoying the outdoors and/or weather, close relatives, or celebrating a holiday, all of which apply to your employees’ personal lives too. It may seem counterintuitive to have so many people coming in and changing shifts, but it can help your hotel hire job seekers who are looking for shorter shifts like these. Plus, by fully stocking your staff before the busy season, everyone will be trained to the degree necessary to ensure every guest’s satisfaction.

By combining these methods and implementing them in the off season, your staff will have these processes down pat in no time — and your guests’ stays during the frantically busy season won’t be impacted by last minute changes to your schedule.

Time for training

When you make hiring a priority during the off seasons, you have adequate time to properly train your new staff members in their roles. If you hire early enough, you can even use the time to cross train employees in other roles too.

Similar to before, hoteliers are at a perceived disadvantage when it comes to providing fulfilling career pathways to employees. There are only so many roles available at one location, making internal advancement for staff seem like a barrier. However, it doesn’t have to be this way — instead, you can focus on helping employees gain an intimate knowledge for the hospitality industry as a whole.

By offering cross training for your employees during the slower seasons, you achieve two goals. One, you provide further education and possibly certifications for existing employees, which can help motivate them to continue working for your hotel. And secondly, it’s a way to show potential candidates that you value their careers beyond just what they can offer for seasonal work. You can show them that they have a future to grow and learn within your organization outside of the busy months.

Secondly, by hiring ahead of seasonal demands, you have ample opportunity to cover the different segments of your business with the staff you do have on hand. For example, you could have front desk staff who also know how to properly clean the rooms like housekeeping staff, or concierges who can work the front desk. By cross training in the slower seasons, like early spring or winter, your staff will theoretically be able to work in every position in the busy seasons in a pinch. This aspect is difficult to conceptualize in a job description, so one way to keep a finger on the pulse of how happy your current employees are is to track how many employee referrals are given. Your staff aren’t going to recommend friends or family to work at a place they think isn’t worth their time — but they will try to get others onboard if they enjoy the work.

When you invest in your employees and their career growth you show them a future at your company — something that many workers are searching for. Plus, you can offer them shorter shifts during the busy season in roles that they weren’t originally hired for, making this a two-for-one solution with flexibility.

Make the work worth it

All of these tactics are well and good, but at the end of the day, your hotel needs to make the work worth it — to both attract and keep top talent. Now, it’s not practical to try and appease everyone on your team, but there are a few creative ways you can incentivize applicants to join your staff.

Of course, competitive pay is always going to be a big incentive for job seekers and existing employees. Paying market value and providing regular salary increases as well as inflation adjustments will always help you attract and retain talent. But we know this isn’t always possible.

In many cases, job seekers are even willing to make less if you offer affordable access to healthcare. So, consider expanding the amount of staff who benefit from your health insurance options. Weigh the pros and cons of offering part time staff options for healthcare, especially if they opt for those shorter shifts we talked about earlier. Odds are your part time employees are juggling more than one job at a time and paying health insurance out of pocket. Healthcare is expensive on the open market.

Another way to compete on more than just pay is by capitalizing on any additional benefits or perks they receive from working for your hotel. At smaller inns and bed and breakfasts, encourage employees to take advantage of free hot meals during their shifts or try to partner with other local establishments for partnered discounts. For larger franchises, remind employees about the discounts they receive at sister establishments across the country. Just because their job includes catering to travelers doesn’t mean they don’t get to experience the thrill of a new place as an explorer themselves, so encourage them to take their dream vacation with your brand. You can also encourage employees to tag the hotel in posts on social media about their stays at other branches; the intention for this tactic is for candidates conducting research on businesses in hopes they’ll be further enticed to apply.

These are just a few of the ways that your hotel can make a position on your staff a rewarding experience for employees. When you take care of your employees, they take care of your hotel — and it shows.

There’s so much stress during the busy season in the hospitality industry that you need to be ahead of the game when it comes to staffing. If your team is spending time interviewing and hiring candidates when summertime starts, you’re behind the ball. Hiring looks different these days, and if your hotel hasn’t adjusted your approach during this hiring crisis, you’re not doing yourself, your team, or your guests any favors. However, implementing these recommendations can help your hotel run smoothly — it all starts with taking care of your employees.



Adam Robinson is the co-founder and CEO of Hireology, driving his mission to help business owners make better hiring decisions using predictive data and innovative technology. 

With more than 20 years of experience, Adam is a noted recruiting industry expert and speaker. He is the author of The Best Team Wins: Build Your Business Through Predictive Hiring, host of The Best Team Wins Podcast, and columnist for Inc.

Adam has been named a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst&Young, added to the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Network of Chicago’s top innovators, listed in the Chicago Tech50 by Crain’s Chicago Business, and named a “Top 25 HR Industry Game Changer Under 40” in 2015 by Workforce magazine.