The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the virtual shutdown of lodgings, resorts, restaurants and bars as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the U.S. Today, it’s still one of the hardest hit, but now, by a dearth of workers to support the recovery.
All employers are feeling the pain of an unprecedented labor market. Job creation is huge – nationally, leisure and hospitality alone added 164,000 jobs in October. It’s been running apace in Southwest Florida, where in August, the Fort Myers and Naples areas each added 2,100 leisure and hospitality jobs. But many jobs are going unfilled, whatever the sector.
The reasons are varied. Retirements have accelerated. Many are changing career paths. Changing values among younger workers about work, lifestyles and work/life balance and flexibility have a role. And continuing fear of COVID amidst new waves of contagion is another.
Employers are having mixed returns with their recruitment efforts. Higher pay, bonuses and incentives like college tuition reimbursements are no guarantee against getting ghosted – not just on interviews but with no-shows on hires’ designated first day on the job. Compounding the problem is the potential loss of current employees during “The Great Resignation,” as record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs.
The solution may take a strategic repositioning of the employee value proposition and approach to total rewards to ensure that employers are delivering what their current and future workers really want.
What matters to employees today
Appealing to employees in 2021 requires a deeper understanding of the nuances that influence how they live and work and how their expectations of employers are colored as a result. Traditional benefits like health plans and paid vacations alone may not sufficiently meet them.
Today, according to Gartner, 80% of employees want to be seen as people, not just workers, and they want their employers to accordingly support their whole lives, not just their work lives. That argues for a shift in how employee value propositions should be repositioned and upheld.
A more human-centric value proposition must express an organization’s ecosystem of recognition, rewards and values. But “support” is also paramount as the employer increasingly must provide a bridge between an exceptional work experience and what’s ultimately an exceptional life experience.
Rethinking the EVP
The employee value system must serve the organization’s long-term interests, of course. But it must also reflect what’s important to its people in order to solidify their stake in contributing to its success – and theirs as well – over time
The EVP needs to be treated as a living, breathing thing that needs to be regularly refined and adjusted in order to be relevant to the times. It’s not something that’s “owned” exclusively by HR or senior management. There’s a collective stake in it. That means employees themselves should be involved in driving the EVP’s evolution. Employee resource groups can lend important insights to ensure its relevance – and will also heighten engagement.
Further, it’s not merely a statement just to be trotted out to support employee recruiting efforts. Employee retention is as pressing an issue as recruitment. The precepts must consistently be in front of, upheld and communicated with all employee audiences – infused into the fabric of the organization. The EVP’s effectiveness must be regularly evaluated and measured.
The employer as a life/work ‘interventionist’
A rethinking of the EVP is only part of the challenge as organizations struggle with changing workforce dynamics. The “support” aspect of the EVP ecosystem also needs to re-examined, to ensure it reflects the increasingly holistic view today’s employees have of their work and personal lives.
That puts emphasis on benefits beyond the traditional — like medical and life insurance — to those more aligned with stops on their life journeys, like a child’s birth or adoption, loss of loved ones or job status change. To support the worker’s “whole” life requires the employer, through HR, must take on more of an interventionist role. It must become the first stop when solutions are needed for significant work and life events.
The employer thus can truly meet its people where they are at, and in real time, with benefits they couldn’t necessarily access easily or cost-effectively on their own. Some can simplify their lives, like home insurance or on-demand healthcare. Others can improve their lives, like mental health services or career coaching. Others underscore the value the organization places on its people, like recognition programs and helping with their skills development.
All told, this is how organizations can create positive employee experiences while ensuring the authenticity and impact of the value proposition.
These days, there is no “business as usual” in recruiting and retaining employees and no one can predict how the disruption eventually will all play out. But re-examining values and benefits that align with them against the changing new mindset of American workers will give employers a more solid and strategic basis for moving forward.
Hanan Nemeth is vice president of human resources consulting at Hub International in Florida. Contact corporate headquarters in Newberry at 425-489-450 or the Fort Myers location at (239) 433-4471.