Top tips on attracting and retaining talent to the boutique hotel industry

 by Craig Allen co-founder of The Change Group

In recent years there has been a significant rise in the popularity of boutique hotels. It seems consumers, particularly the less price conscious ones, would often prefer to stay at a boutique hotel than a mainstream branded one and, due to this trend, boutique hotels have experienced a rise in the requirement for talented staff.

Most boutique hotels are very fortunate in that candidates are eager to work for them due to their fresh, quirky and high-end nature, making staff attraction less of an issue than that experienced by other types of hotels.

However, the reality is that there is a skills shortage within the whole of the hospitality industry, so even boutique hotels that are seen as attractive employers will come up against competition. The key is ensuring every recruitment channel available is being utilised and that all of the positive aspects of the product (boutique or not) are provided in the recruitment advertising.

Some examples of recruitment channels to consider:

  • Have a fully functioning careers portal on your company website, where candidates can submit their CVs, apply for jobs, sign up for job alerts and even recommend friends.
  • It is essential to have an up to date database where you can easily search for appropriate candidates and build a network for the future.
  • Launching internal referral schemes can be a great way to open up your network and receive details for passive candidates.
  • Job boards remain a very important channel for sourcing candidates and getting your hotel’s brand in front of appropriate candidates.
  • Having a social media presence will enable candidates to find out more about the organisation beyond what is available on the website. It also helps to showcase your company culture and some of the more fun, light-hearted elements of working there.
  • Recruitment agencies can be very helpful for hard to fill vacancies, volume hires or when recruiting in a new region where you perhaps don’t have an existing network.

So often when we meet with candidates and ask what is important to them when looking for a new job, the answer is progression and good training, structure  and working environment. Obviously money plays a part in the decision making process and those offering good remuneration packages will be considered, but candidates are far more concerned nowadays with feeling valued and working for an organisation that has a modern approach to management and their development.

Some examples of how to make your employees feel valued:

  • Have a clear job description for every role you are recruiting for as candidates like to know what is expected of them. This will also help to reduce people leaving because the job was not what they were expecting it to be.
  • Set out a career path for every candidate. Showing candidates where there is room for promotion or growth within the business shows that you are prepared to invest in them.
  • Have structured working hours, catch-ups and appraisals where staff can express themselves and perhaps raise any issues that need to be addressed.
  • Investing time and money in training programmes, either internal or external, is always a fantastic way to keep employees engaged, motivated and upskilled.
  • Give employees a channel to feed their ideas and thoughts to senior management for business improvement. This can often help businesses move forward effectively and with little cost as well as making employees feel valued and engaged.

One of the most important parts of any new job and probably the biggest selling point and differentiator, is the benefits package offered. We encourage employers not to forget how important this is and to sell a lifestyle when recruiting rather than just a job.

The biggest mistake made when putting together a benefits package is thinking every employee has the same needs. Where possible, offer a set of standard benefits, as well as, a set of tailored benefits which are dependent on the role or personal preference.

Some examples of standard benefits:

  • Annual leave
  • Medical insurance
  • Pension funds

Some examples of tailored benefits:

  • Travel card loans
  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Corporate discounts
  • Charity days
  • Flexibility with working hours
  • Performance related bonuses

We have a client who gives every new chef a pair of Birkenstock chef shoes. This is a great example of a tailored benefit that will really be appreciated by the chefs as it saves them money and ensures they are comfortable when working in the kitchen.

Another client of ours offers all employees a select number of free nights in the hotel and a percentage off food at the hotel’s restaurants. This type of benefit breeds brand loyalty and is a great perk that employees can enjoy with friends or family.

Our final piece of advice to boutique hoteliers looking to recruit:

Staff form a big part of a hotel’s identity; try giving some leeway on hard skills when recruiting and focusing more on interpersonal skills such as personality and attitude, as these types of attributes will inevitably give your hotel the character and persona that keeps customers coming back.

This interview can also be seen in the December issue of Boutique Hotelier. You can get in touch with the Change Group if you’re looking for a hospitality recruitment agency for both front of house and back of house jobs.