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Lodging Needs You as Travel Rebounds According to Three Top HR Execs

Cornell University School of Hotel Administration with Executives from Hyatt, Accor and Omni Hotels
eCornell Panel "COVID-19s Effect on HR: Hospitality’s Response to the New Normal"

The big global travel rebound is nearly here and will offer unprecedented opportunities, according to the virtual panel "COVID-19s Effect on HR: Hospitality’s Response to the New Normal,” held yesterday by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and featured distinguished industry thought leaders: Nikki Massey, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Americas at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Robert Mellwig, Senior Vice President, Talent & Culture at Accor - North & Central America, and Joy Rothschild, Chief Human Resources Officer at Omni Hotels and Resorts. The event was moderated by J. Bruce Tracey, Professor of Management at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

Short take: the hotel industry has been blown apart by the coronavirus pandemic and “necessity is the mother of invention” as companies completely reimagine themselves and how they treat employees moving forward. As economists are predicting as little as 4% unemployment by year end in the US, the industry is gearing up for a massive talent grab the likes of which has never been seen before.

What to expect as we emerge from the pandemic? New, more flexible career options, better integration of technology, more diversity and emphasis on wellness and mental health… all while retaining the warmth, care and family feel of hospitality, where employees are driven by a greater sense of purpose, say these experts. The devastation of the pandemic has blown up the current systems, they all agreed, and hotel companies are focused on building back better.

What you need to know:

  1. They’re sorry. The pandemic took the world, and the industry, by surprise. Sudden closures and new COVID-safe operating procedures created a swirl of activity, and in hindsight, they feel they could have focused more on employees, both those furloughed and those who remained on property. That said, they expressed pride in the help hotel companies did offer employees through monetary grants, ongoing communication, and physical and mental healthcare support.

  2. Plans to “build back better.” As coronavirus closures and adjustments to SOPs changed across the board, every single job and process is being looked at with fresh eyes and they are learning from past mistakes. Companies are reassessing metrics for success and rewards, not just based on P&L statements, but on the embodiment of core values and implementation of innovation.

  3. Expect more diversity. All three panelists cited social justice, and an openness to all cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, perspectives, and ways of thinking as corporate pillars which are being implemented and tracked like never before.

  4. Focus on flexibility and wellness. The pandemic has shown that work can be done effectively remotely. Zoom/video conferencing has also been a great gender equalizer because it has shown both men and women in their roles as parents and carers. Joy from Omni says they will “meet you where you are” as business returns, if that means working from home, working part-time, or back full time in a hotel. There are obviously customer facing roles that require being on property, but all companies are looking at ways to reshape shifts, roles and paths with the goal of improving overall work-life balance and “connecting people to purpose” according to Robert at Accor.

  5. Career pathing and employee development are huge priorities. With the industry having lost many employees to other sectors during the pandemic, showing prospective and current employees the possibilities within the lodging industry is paramount. All companies are investing in mobile and remote training programs, so employees can engage in learning where and when it is convenient. Nikki says Hyatt is focused on the “employee value proposition” and all companies cited they are planning to recruit from non-traditional sources.

  6. Employees that are open to relocation will see the most opportunity as this offers the chance to advance and diversify your skill set.

To watch the full panel click here; it was organized by the Cornell Center for Innovative Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations (CIHLER).

Bottom line: Projections show a swift and strong rebound for travel. As more and more of the world population becomes vaccinated, expect a wave of new opportunities as companies seek well-trained staff to provide the kind of service that turns moments into memories. Whether you are currently looking for work or employed, make sure the company’s core values align with your own, and be willing to be flexible in both what you do and where you work, if you want to improve your potential for growth.


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