Attracting And Retaining Talent | The Hotel Experience

NEW YORK – At last year’s HX: The Hotel Experience, Lisa Lombardo (pictured) shared her wisdom as a panelist during Rebranding Hospitality: Attracting Talent to Return to Lodging. Fast forward almost a year later and labor concerns are still top of mind.

HX: The News once again sat down with Lombardo, chief people and culture officer at HDG Hotels, to get her thoughts on the ongoing challenge of attracting talent to the hotel industry. The topic is sure to be of interest when the show convenes again Nov. 13-14, 2022 at the Javits Center in New York.

HX: The News: How tough is it to fill housekeeping positions these days?
Lisa Lombardo, chief people and culture officer at HDG Hotels: Based on feedback from our regional directors, the applicant pool for housekeeping positions has actually been strong in numbers lately. Whether that’s due to a positive change in the industry or our incredible team members taking advantage of our referral bonus program and promoting HDG’s generous benefits—we’re feeling much better about filling this essential position—especially as we head into our busiest season. When occupancy is up and you don’t have enough team members in housekeeping, it is tough on the team. Our people are our focus.

HX: The News: What positions are the most difficult to fill and why?
Lombardo: According to our regional director, Jeries Alnemat, maintenance/engineer positions have become more difficult to fill as of late. While compensation expectations have been elevated across all departments, maintenance rates of pay have increased even more so.

HX: The News: Why do you think it’s been tough to fill maintenance positions?
Lombardo: Maintenance is a philosophical conversation with the team. It’s an area that requires such specific technical skills and folks with experience are harder and harder to come by. One leader actually said it’s as if the up-and-coming generation just is not interested. Our thinking is, much like the general manager position, if you’re not training and building a bench of talent in this department, finding external talent might be difficult.

HX: The News: What are the retention challenges you face?
Lombardo: It is critical that you retain your hotel leadership. During the pandemic there was a bit of an exodus in the general manager role. Thankfully, HDG Hotels held onto our 95% retention rate of our managers during that time. Now the landscape is more competitive and we’re continuing to work hard to keep our leaders.

HX: The News: How can you keep those leaders?
Lombardo: It is so important to have a meaningful compensation package (including benefits), support system, professional development opportunities, and most importantly culture to keep general managers engaged and on board. We thought we obsessed over our people pre-2020, but we continue to create more ways and spend more time checking in with our people and asking for feedback.

We have changed paid time off policy three times to incorporate more of what matters to team members. We have removed benefits and added new ones based on feedback from team members. Team trainings, team engagement events, over communicating, surveys, and one-on-one check-ins remain high priority in what we call our “standards of excellence” (SOE) that we measure. Our vision is to positively impact—and that starts with our team members.