A Strong & Growing Workforce

By Tim Clark Contributing Editor | March 01, 2007

When it comes to recruiting and retaining the best and brightest employees, the hospitality industry faces an uphill battle. Turnover is constant, and therefore a rising number of employers in the hotel and restaurant space are looking to bolster "soft" ideals like empowering work environments with cutting edge technology. By using a dynamic mix of people, process, and technology, forward-thinking companies like Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Rock Bottom Restaurant Group and are reducing employee churn while realizing significant costs savings.

Creating a consistent view
With nearly 150,000 global employees, Starwood Hotels & Resorts struggled with a deficient, homegrown e-recruitment system that wasn't able to provide a consistent, company-wide labor management strategy, according to Norm Perreault, director of organizational capability, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "Every hotel was operating in its own fashion and had its own way of dealing with applicants," says Perreault. "The corporate office had little oversight into how it worked. We had very limited data and nobody gave much consideration to terms like 'time to fill' or 'cost to hire' or some of the other basic metrics of e-recruitment functions."

In response, Starwood, whose hotel chains include Sheraton, W and Westin, rolled out Taleo ( www.taleo.com ) technology throughout its North American operations with plans to go global this year. "From the recruiter's perspective at each hotel, it's a very thorough system and it really has all of the functionality and then some," says Perreault.  "They probably have plenty more to learn to fully utilize the system but its definitely working for their purposes."

Perreault says Taleo has allowed Starwood to accomplish a major initiative in differentiating one brand from the next. In essence, Starwood is trying to reinforce not just to guests but to job seekers as well the difference between working at a W or Sheraton, for example. "Before, there was one company called Starwood, known for having a ton of different hotels out there," says Perreault. "The emphasis is more on making them the same by following similar processes."

Taleo functionality offers different career sections and allows Starwood to create different looks, feels and verbiage for each of its brands. Potential employees who visit W's career site, for instance, might notice a look, feel and sound very different than Sheraton's Web site. "It allows you to ask questions to employees in different ways," says Perreault.

Cleaning up the competition
Because Starwood doesn't like to simply "swap people out," according to Perreault, a clear advantage is realized over competitors when it comes to retaining talented employees. "We like to think that as employees climb the managerial ranks, if someone is a great general manager at a Sheraton, our hope is that the same employee would make a great general manager at a Westin as well," says Perreault. "We've always encouraged the movement from one hotel to the next."

A talent review process, powered by Taleo, keeps track of the top ten thousand people in the company. These employees are asked to enter into the system their resume and other information about themselves. Managers are also asked to enter information about employees, such as how fast can they be promoted, for example. The employee data is fed into an internal candidate profile via Taleo.

"Every HR professional in every hotel that we own or manage has access to the database," says Perreault. "We are trying to break down those walls where someone files for a position and their material disappears into a filing cabinet. That's a competitive advantage because now if somebody isn't quite the right fit for one hotel, they may be the perfect fit for another."

Rock solid diversity
With five different restaurant concepts and 8,000 employees, Rock Bottom Restaurant Group deals with a lot of employee turnover and, like Starwood, is making sure to reduce turnover while retaining top talent.

"We have a lot of churn going on but at the same time we have a lot of employees who have been with us for a very long time, some of them up to 30 years," says Sugi Randall, senior vice president of human resources and training. "We have the advantage of managing healthy turnover by having a great culture. It's a key way for us to recruit and retain people."

Randall says Rock Bottom also employs the Kronos ( www.kronos.com ) hourly applicant tracking and assessment methodology, which has been installed in its restaurants for about six years. Some of the Kronos functionality now offered to the causal service segment was jointly developed between Rock Bottom and Kronos. "Technology is only as good as how it's applied and how it's constructed," says Randall. "Having a hand in that as well as a viable partner in Kronos has been a key ingredient in how successful it's been."

While Rock Bottom hasn't been able to measure a return on its Kronos investment, Randall says the company has enjoyed a 10 percent to 25 percent reduction in turnover, depending on region, due to the "red, green, yellow" light system of Kronos. This system allows Rock Bottom managers to be more targeted with interview questions and make more concrete decisions about candidates.

"It streamlines a process that still needs that human touch in recruiting," says Randall. "It allows hiring and pre-selection paperwork to be online in addition to other paperwork like emergency contact, W-4 and benefits. It's great to be able to set up e-files as opposed to setting up paper based ones. It's a definite advantage."

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