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Talent for Hire

In a decidedly grim employment picture, some hotel companies look to add talent. Here's why.

Monday, July 27, 2009
Eugene Gilligan
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Frank Speranza does not mince words when he discusses the employment picture in the hotel industry.

“It’s bleak,” said Speranza, president of the recruiting firm Hospitality Talent Scouts. “Things are tough out there.”

Two positions are most under the microscope in these tough times: the general manager and the director of sales and marketing.

“At the property level, these positions are under the most fire,” he said. With occupancy and ADR down in the majority of major metros across the U.S., owners are more intent than ever on maintaining their market share.

If erosion starts to occur, the general manager and director of sales are most likely to have targets on their backs.

Increasingly, Speranza is seeing hotel companies giving dual roles to their regional managers, who manage a region in addition to taking on the additional task of managing a specific property.

At many hotels in the 300-room range, assistant general manager positions are being eliminated, Speranza said. At larger hotels, in the 700- to 800-room range, the director of rooms and director of food and beverage positions have been combined, and in some cases eliminated altogether, with the general manager assuming these responsibilities.

In the midst of all this bloodletting, however, some hotel companies are using this time to hire strategically.

The Dow Hotel Company, an owner and management company that specializes in full-service properties, has adopted a market-specific approach to its staffing needs, said vice president Randall King.

“In some markets, we don’t need four bellmen, or a concierge on duty seven days a week,” he said.

The company, however, recently made a strategic hire, as well as some personnel moves, to meet specific needs.

Dow recently added an expert on distressed hotel assets at the executive level, because the company is receiving an increased amount of calls from lenders who wanted advice on how to handle the troubled properties on their books.

Also, Dow has moved two of its high-performing general managers into regional vice president positions. One of the moves was made because the individual combined a strong sales background with robust operations skills, while the other general manager was moved up because of his food and beverage expertise, a division usually hard hit during a downturn, King said.

Dow also recently added a sales manager at its Marriott Suites property in Deerfield, IL. The property stands out among its area competitors, King said, and Dow saw the opportunity to increase market share.

“We think there is corporate business out there, and we wanted to beef up our personnel to go after it,” King said.

While Vesta Hospitality has not added staff during the downturn, the company has replaced some general managers.

“We found that some of our general managers did not have the skill sets to manage hotels in a down market,” said Vesta’s president and CEO, Rick Takach.

While Takach said he is usually reluctant to make changes, saying the cost of turnover usually outweighs the benefits, he professes happiness with the new team members.

“There are quality people out there, a great depth of talent,” Takach said. And while it has taken these new hires some time to learn the ropes, this ramp-up time has not been as long as he feared because of the talent and experience of the new personnel. The new hires, some of whom were unemployed, were eager and happy to get back to work.

“Tough times can breed camaraderie, and we are seeing that,” Takach said.

While job-cutting continues, Speranza is now getting an increased number of calls from owners who are looking to add talent to their roster. Some owners are wary of cutting staff too deeply.

Many owners bought their hotels at the height of the market, and covering their debt service has become enough of a challenge for them, Speranza said.

“They don’t want to risk losing their flag because of low guest satisfaction ratings,” he said.

Vesta Hospitality is looking at its staffing needs in concert with its future expansion plans.

“We think there are going to be opportunities to acquire assets, so we are cultivating relationships with talent in certain markets that we want to expand into, at the general manager or director of sales levels.”

But while some hoteliers are hiring strategically, Speranza does not see a vastly improved employment picture in hospitality coming soon.

The one trait that the job seeker in the industry must have is persistence, he said. And, while many will go to great lengths to polish their resumes, he said having a list of references containing a list of their immediate supervisors speaks volumes about a candidate.

“That makes a very strong statement,” he said.
Eugene Gilligan

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RE: Talent for Hire article link
It seems as if in a market like this, relationships are what get you through it. If you know enough of the right people and they respect your hard work and ethics, even if you lose a job, you can get another. Easier said then done, I suppose.
Posted by: Mr. Corey Creed

RE: Talent for Hire article link
How does a seasoned veteran from a background of Management AND DOS postions OBTAIN good references from the past 8 years, since the economic downturn. Isn't the REAL statement True...? Don't companies get rid of their managers and sales reps JUST because they don't allow the GM/DOS TIME to obtain and KEEP and Manage these accounts? Isn't it true that as soon as a GM or a DOS begins bringing in great accounts, the company LETS GO of these positions? Got the accounts and the property in great shape... Now we don't need them anymore!!!!!

I've been doing this for 19 years. Same old story. Finally began my own marketing business !!! Doing great!!! Thank you to all those greedy small property owners!!!

God Bless you ALL.
Posted by: Ms. Danna M. Gordon
Email: dani.gordon@comcast.net

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