With international seasonal worker programs currently hanging in the balance, The Boston Globe reports that many hotels in popular summer destinations are uncertain how they will get through the season. At the same time, the US workforce is becoming increasingly temporary. Nearly 40 percent of employees report they are in temporary positions. We can safely surmise that there are skilled and diligent workers out there willing to take roles with competitive compensation and the potential for long-term employment. Hotels that make informed hiring decisions with temporary employees improve their chances of transitioning them to permanent roles eventually. Bonus: they will already be trained when that time comes.
This approach has many benefits. Take reservations sales agents, for instance. Hiring with a vision to convert a percentage of employees to permanent staff at the end of the season allows you to get a sense of whether they are the competitive sales-oriented reservations agents needed for long-term success. With the proper technology, hotels are able to track the success of each and every agent. During the high season, reservations managers can review the calls of temporary employees to ensure the agents are skilled at handling call flow, monitor their conversion rates, and assess their motivation with outbound sales programs.
Further, the temporary period offers an opportunity to decide whether those who excel fit into your company culture, something that is nearly impossible to ascertain in a short series of interviews. Perpetuating a strong sense of culture with each hire is the path toward the strongest team. It also saves money. The Harvard Business Review reports that poor culture fit can cost an organization 50-60 percent of the person’s annual salary due to turnover.
Ultimately, a thoughtful approach to temp hiring offers a rare opportunity to reduce typically sky-high turnover rates. It comes as no surprise that the hotel industry continues to have one of the highest turnover rates of any industry at 27 percent (TINYpulse), but that number can be reduced with the longer vetting process inherent in temp-to-perm scenarios.
Hiring with these considerations already in mind allows you to invest capital (higher pay, insurance, PTO) after the employee is already contributing to the bottom line. With training and coaching happening early on with temporary staff, hotels gain from having a revenue-generating agent from the first day of the investment. A temp-to-perm reservations agent will convert at a much higher rate and bring in more bookings than the average permanent hire will at the outset.
To create a successful strategy, however, hotels must shift their thinking on seasonal labor. Seasonal workers are frequently considered inexpensive (“cheap”) labor, but we suggest quite the opposite. Much in the way of reservations conversions and overall guest satisfaction lies in the hands of seasonal staff. To compensate them as if they are fillers rather than contributors does nothing for the long-term success of any program, but especially reservations. Instead, look toward hiring the best possible candidate for the position and compensate them accordingly. This will bring in higher-quality applicants and increase the percentage that may be qualified to stay on in the long-term.
You might say, “But we don’t have many permanent positions available so this doesn’t really matter.” But consider this scenario: Let’s say you have a small staff of ten agents, including two seasonal agents. You currently have three high performers, two low performers, and everyone else, including one of your seasonal hires, is in the middle. What we often find is that, when carefully coached and seated next to a high performer, a middle performer is likely to become a high performer. And the low performers? They will either weed themselves out or improve their performance. So, with the addition of one high-quality temporary agent, you have increased the performance of your reservations department not by one employee, but in all likelihood, by two when a low performer rises to the occasion or makes space for a new, potentially more successful agent.
So how do you shift your temporary hiring to ensure you’re bringing on staff with the greatest potential to convert to permanent roles? Hire using character traits rather than resumes. Experience as an agent doesn’t necessarily mean a prospect has the qualities you want. The essential qualities you want for any agent are a competitive spirit and an interest or aptitude in sales. Look for someone who doesn’t mind being evaluated and doesn’t balk at transparency in front of the team.
It may be a tough season for hotels that depend heavily on seasonal staff. However, a shift in thinking about temporary to permanent hires can at least alleviate some of the suffering. While you won’t strike gold with every temporary hire, aiming for the long-term with each interview will increase your chances of bringing on someone who can contribute considerably to top line revenues. And someone who has the potential to bring others up with her.