What Hotel Owners and Operators Can Learn from the Chicago-Area Hotel Worker Strike

By Team Hireology,
September 12, 2018

More than 6,000 hotel workers from 25 downtown Chicago hotels went on strike on Friday, September 7, after their contracts expired on August 31. The employees on strike are represented by the union UNITE HERE Local 1 and include housekeepers, doormen, cooks, bartenders, room service attendants and more.

As reported in The Chicago Tribune, the primary demand of the striking workers is to include a guarantee of year-round health insurance in their new contracts. Currently, many hotel employees lose their health insurance when hotels temporarily lay people off during the slow season, generally October through March, and have coverage reinstated when they are brought back to work when the weather warms.

While the strike is limited to the Chicago area, this news is a wake up call to hotels across the country. Now is a better time than ever to refresh your people strategy to attract and retain quality employees across roles. Consider the following tips to meet the demands of today’s job applicants and build your best team.

Build a Strong Employment Brand

A strike and contract negotiations might leave some employees so frustrated they end up looking elsewhere for employment. And whether there’s a strike in your local area or not, it’s critical to have a strong employment brand to attract top job seekers at your hotel.

A strong employment brand should include details on the workplace culture, career progression, and benefits in both your job descriptions and on your career site to help job seekers see the opportunity working for your hotel offers. Highlight career paths such as the opportunity for front desk workers to get promoted to managers and line cooks growing into head chefs. Benefits can include healthcare, paid vacation time, family leave, a transportation stipend, discounted fitness memberships, budget for professional development, and more.

Also make sure to continuously share engaging content on your career site, social media and other channels, so candidates can glance into a day in the life at your hotel. For example, you can highlight pictures or videos of your team, company outings, unique spaces in your business and community events, among other content.

Continuously Hire

Many positions at hotels – including housekeepers, wait staff, room service attendants, and more – need to be filled on a regular basis. Because of this, you need to have a strategy in place to continuously hire. Not only will this help you fill open roles quickly at any time, but it can help ensure your hotel stays fully staffed in the event of employees leaving following a strike or related instance.

Even if you don’t have an immediate hiring need, you should always have at least a few job openings posted on your career site. This will get applicants excited about the possibility of working for a growing brand and help you capture passive candidates. In fact, 84 percent of candidates would consider leaving their current company – even if they are happy in their current roles – if another company with an excellent reputation offered them a job.

If the right candidate comes along, you might even consider making a hire sooner than anticipated. And if you don’t have the resources to make a hire right away, you can still keep in touch with top candidates. Then, when you need to hire for an open position, you’ll already have a list of potential candidates to fill the role, which will ultimately reduce the total time to hire and increasing productivity.

Hire Your Best Team or Lose Business

Needless to say, if you don’t have a people strategy in place to hire your best team, you’ll end up short staffed, either due to lack of applicants, turnover, or, as is the case with many Chicago-area hotels, an employee strike. A shortage of employees ultimately means you’ll end up turning away business or end up offering a poor experience to the customers you do have – such as long check-in lines and lack of room service. And this poor experience can lead to customers opting for a competing hotel – and your hotel losing their business for life. With stiff competition in the hotel industry – including similar hotels, Airbnb and other options – customers have countless options to stay elsewhere.

For more tips on attracting and building the best team at your hotel, download our resource, “The Hireology Employment Brand Playbook.”

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