No other industry has suffered from the pandemic as much as hospitality has. Many hotels have closed completely; others had to cut their personnel to survive. To manage the crisis, HR practitioners in the hospitality industry had to adapt. HR managers have invented new ways to reduce layoffs, make employees more multi-functional, and protect workers’ mental health.
The number one HR challenge that the hospitality industry faced because of the pandemic has been the need to lay off employees, which forced many hotels to adopt new palliative strategies. Since hotels were closed for the better half of the pandemic, few of them could afford to keep paying employees their salaries. The unemployment rate among hospitality workers was at about forty percent last year (Lytle par. 1). Hence, hotels across the world have invented new approaches to avoid even more mass layoffs. They include cutting working hours and, more unconventionally, voluntary pay reductions for senior personnel aimed at supporting lower-level employees (Zhong et al. 11). The new strategies may remain helpful for dealing with any future crises. HR departments in the hospitality industry will be quicker to react and show more efficient crisis management.
Another innovative approach that HR practitioners have come up with to survive is cross-training, and it may actually become the new normal even after the pandemic is over. Cross-training refers to the practice of teaching service employees basic skills of other positions (beyond those required for the position they currently occupy). For example, a hotel front-desk employee can also be trained to acquire at least some competencies of an entry-level worker in the law or accounting department. This way, if hotels are forced to cut their personnel again, they can avoid losing valuable staff and pay the remaining employees more for doing beyond what they were initially hired to do (Lytle par. 9). Cross-training can be helpful not only in crisis but also during the off-season as a cost-saving strategy. Most hotels are less busy in the winter months, which means that employees often have much free time during their working hours and can take on new responsibilities.
Finally, the pandemic drew HR practitioners’ attention to the importance of employee wellbeing; hopefully, they will still focus on it after the pandemic ends. The need to protect employees’ mental health because of pandemic-related stress is not unique to the hospitality industry. Over the past eighteen months, workers across various sectors have experienced heightened anxiety due to the fear for their health, job, and the future of the world in general. However, as employees of the industry the pandemic hit the hardest, hotel workers were particularly affected. To uphold personnel’s productivity and promote emotional wellbeing, HR managers in hospitality have adopted more employee-centered HR practices, such as increased flexibility, online leisure activities that promote career self-management, and free counseling, among others (Zhong et al. 11). Given how essential mental health is for workers’ productivity, job satisfaction, and turnover, focusing on employee wellbeing should outlive the pandemic.
To conclude, the new practices that HR managers in hotels have embraced because of the pandemic include crisis management techniques that help reduce layoffs, cross-training, and more employee-centered HR practices. They have proven effective during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future, these strategies will likely become commonplace in the hospitality industry.
Lytle, Tamara. “Top HR Challenges in the Hospitality Industry.” SHRM, 1 Dec. 2020, www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/winter2020/pages/top-hr-challenges-in-the-hospitality-industry.aspx.
Zhong, Yifan, et al. “Risk Management: Exploring Emerging Human Resource Issues during the Covid-19 Pandemic.” Journal of Risk and Financial Management, vol. 14, no. 228, 2021, doi:10.3390/jrfm14050228.