Originally featured on Hotel Business Review 


This year’s holiday season seems to be bearing early gifts for the travel industry, as average daily hotel rates seem to be trending up year-over-year, according to the same Orbitz study. However, as consumers are paying more, it becomes incredibly important for hotels to provide value that lines up with the increased prices. Various studies show that prospective guests have increased their expectations with rising costs, which can mean a variety of requests from free WiFi and continental breakfast, through various personalization and technological advancements.

To meet consumer demand at the holiday rush, hoteliers must staff accordingly to ensure a successful travel season. This can mean staffing up with temporary employees to support the seasonal rush as well as being prepared to work the busiest season of the year without many of your best employees. After all, many hoteliers must decide to offer their best employees time off for the holidays in order to retain their top talent.

This Catch-22, where hotels may need to go their busiest few days without their best employees, happens each year, and there is virtually no way to handle the situation perfectly.

However, that’s not to say steps can’t be taken to help prepare for a hotel’s busiest (and perhaps most profitable) time of year. After all, we all know that the Wednesday before the fourth Thursday in November will be a busy one, and we have a pretty good idea of when the other holidays will fall.

Below are six tips that can help hotel leaders be prepared for the upcoming season, and to recruit a top notch staff accordingly.

1. Start Looking Early

While it may be somewhat common place to wait until the last few minutes to begin one’s holiday shopping, this is a luxury that hotel management can’t afford to participate in. The most organized, professional candidates are likely to begin their search for seasonal work early, and tapping into this group will require hotel leadership to begin at the same time. Many candidates have likely already begun their search. This means that, at the very minimum, your property’s website should have posted the roles you’re hoping to fill.

2. Hire Like They’ll Be Permanent Employees

It’s easy for hiring managers to take interviews for temporary or part time employees for granted. This can be human nature (hiring managers may not want to invest heavily in employees who may not be around for more than a few weeks or a couple months), or simply due to decreased expectations on what a part time employee may bring to the table. Either way, it can be harmful to building the right team for the holiday rush. Approaching the hiring process in the same manner one would for a full time employee has two benefits, one short term and one longer. In the immediate future, it will mean a stronger team for the critical holiday season. Longer term, it can begin relationships with employees who may one-day grow into full time status.

3. Ask All the Interview Questions

Part of treating a seasonal hire like it could be a full time employees is doing everything in an interview that a hiring manager would otherwise do for a full time employee. This includes covering expected schedule, daily duties, what they’ll need to pick up quickly, what they must know in order to do their job well and asking about their plans for vacations. Will they be taking a vacation or require any time off? This is particularly crucial when thinking about offering a hotel’s best employees time to spend with their families during the holidays. Furthermore, be certain to include questions that highlight a candidate’s ability to empathize with guests. Travel can be stressful. The holidays can exasperate the stress, with seasonal depression and anxiety being far more common than one might imagine.

4. Excitement is Both Contagious and Required

Whether you’re interviewing a 20+ year hospitality veteran, or a school kid looking for his or her first part time role, enthusiasm should always be a requirement for hiring. Inevitably, there will be a time where a guest has a problem; travel schedules/delays and time with the in laws can have that effect. But many of those issues can be overcome with a smile and an enthusiastic approach. Full time or not, this is a lesson that needs to be remembered in the hiring process.

5. Recruit From Within

In many cases, a hotel manager has a team of experienced professionals who know the hotel’s policies and procedures a simple phone call away. It’s last year’s team of temporary employees. If a particular staffer left a strong, favorable impression, hotel leadership shouldn’t hesitate to proactively try to secure a return engagement. It could require a bump in pay, but the ability to avoid training, and to have someone hit the ground running can more than make up the additional expenditure. As a corollary to this, leaders in hotels should also ask their current employees if they know anyone looking. A reference should go a long way in the hiring process, assuming it comes from a standout employee. While many hotels offer a referral fee, this fee shouldn’t dissuade management from asking their troops for recommendations, even for part time workers. As we’ll discuss momentarily, a pennywise approach can have a lasting negative impact.

6. Remember There Are No Quick Fixes

Don’t hire someone to be a quick fix if you know you would never hire them permanently. A quick fix could end up causing problems or quitting right in the middle of your holiday season, leaving a gap that is harder (or impossible) to replace. Perhaps even worse, they may allow a poor guest experience to occur, damaging opportunities to generate repeat business. Visiting friends and family makes up the majority of holiday travel, meaning a hotel that continually delivers great experiences can expect recurring business, year after year. A quick fix hire can ruin that, costing a hotel untold income.

Once a hire is made for the holiday season, leadership within a hotel must operate as though there is no difference between the part time/seasonal employee and the full time team. Management must ensure there is some sort of training in place once a candidate starts their new job. No matter the length of the position, new hires must be fully prepared. This means making sure training materials are up to date (in advance of the hiring) so not to waste time. It also means making sure a trainer covers all details of the new hire’s job and allows for questions.

Employees can also be teamed up with a buddy; someone they can go to when they need help.

Leadership should also be sure to check in periodically to make sure everyone is doing well. This could be a good time for an employee to ask a questions or mention a concern. It’s also a great way to monitor the progress a new employee is making.

After the holidays/busy season, leadership should make sure to show appreciation for a job well done. Gratitude can be infectious, and almost always leads to a happier working environment.

Leadership can also ask for feedback on everything from training to daily tasks. After all, this season’s temporary hire could be next year’s full-time employee, and offering some sort of ownership regarding their primary role can be a great way to show gratitude and interest in an employee’s future.

In football, a coach would never put his best quarterback on the bench for the big game. However, oftentimes, hotel leadership is behooved to allow their best employees to take some time away during the busiest time of the year. Staffing for the holidays can pose a challenge, but hotel leaders who begin their search early, and treat their search with all due professionalism will inevitably end up ahead, meaning happy guests and recurring business.

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