4 Unique ways to attract hospitality staff in a tight labor market

If you’ve been trying to hire hourly workers, you don’t need to read the newspaper to know that we’re in a tight labor market — the long time-to-hire, interview no-shows, and ghosting coasting is evidence enough. 

This is especially true in industries like hospitality, where a third of workers plan to leave the industry for good. In a competitive labor market like this, businesses need to do more than simply place an ad on a job board and wait for the applications to pour in.

So what exactly can you do to attract staff today? Here are a few unique strategies to try.

1. Recruiting on TikTok

Looking for work in a job seeker’s market often doesn’t carry the same sense of urgency as it would in an employer’s market — why spend all day proactively searching for the right opportunity when you could just wait for the right one to come along? There are plenty of people who would make great staff members out there that aren’t spending all day on job boards, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t open to new opportunities. But if candidates aren’t coming to your jobs, your jobs have to come to them. 

One place you may want to look into: TikTok. With their short, entertaining, and wildly shareable videos, TikTok practically became a national pastime during the early days of the pandemic when lockdowns and restrictions forced people indoors. Today, they boast over a billion users, and are particularly popular with Gen Z. And companies have been paying attention — TikTok has already become a major hub for marketing, and believe it or not, it’s a growing platform for recruiting as well.

In July, the company launched TikTok Resumes, a product that lets job seekers create short video introductions and submit them for consideration at companies like Chipotle and Target. Right now, the only companies that can post jobs on TikTok are members of an invite-only partnership, but you can always browse user-submitted videos with the #TikTokResumes hashtag, and other ones relevant to your industry, or even create your own channel and content to build up some buzz.

2. Embracing flexible staffing

Workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic but aren’t looking for full-time employment account for a significant portion of the worker shortage. Even as unfilled jobs reach new heights, more and more Americans are choosing to become independent workers. This echoes what we’ve seen internally at Instawork, with a record number of people downloading our app over the pandemic and thousands of Professionals signing up each day. 

Many companies struggling to hire full- or part-time employees have embraced flexible staffing through Instawork, providing them with the right headcount whenever and however long they need. With vetted backgrounds, easily viewable ratings and feedback, and less than a 3% no-show rate, you can be confident that Instawork Professionals are high-quality and reliable.

Add to that the uncertainty inherent in business today — Will shipping delays and other supply chain mix-ups leave warehouse workers standing idle one week and overwhelmed by shipments the next? Will fluctuating COVID-19 rates lead to more or fewer events? — and filling positions with flexible staffing is often the most economical option.

3. Outlining a concrete promotion path

Don’t fall for the misconception that all hourly workers are just there to clock in, clock out, and collect their paycheck — plenty of them want to grow in their careers as well. A recent survey found that 34% of Millennial frontline workers were frustrated with a lack of advancement opportunities, while Instawork’s own poll found that 53% of our Pros are actively interested in developing new skills.

One of the best ways to offer the career development that hospitality workers crave is to provide a clear growth path for them. Consider sketching out a promotion path listing all of the different levels at your company, like this example from Noodles & Company. Add details about what each role entails, what it takes to get to the next level, and how long it takes to get there — a defined timeline will make it feel all the more achievable. And don’t forget to make educational resources available so employees can gain the skills they need to advance. For example, Bill Hansen — CEO of Bill Hansen Luxury Catering and Event Production — made the best of the downtime during the onset of COVID-19 to create a series of instructional videos, while Hilton offers an entire online learning platform for their employees.

4. Think outside the box with benefits

There’s no way around it: pay needs to be competitive. Many companies — including Amazon and Chipotle — have boosted wages for hourly workers. But cash isn’t the only element in a competitive compensation package.

With a lack of stable, affordable childcare keeping many people — especially women — at home, more and more companies are beginning to offer childcare benefits. The perk is even gaining momentum for hourly workers in the hospitality and light industrial industries, as companies like Starbucks offer childcare benefits, and industry groups hold events like Moms in Manufacturing

This doesn’t mean you have to go and build an onsite daycare center, though — there are plenty of ways to offer childcare benefits that don’t break the bank. Companies like Care.com, Bright Horizons, and others offer employee childcare solutions like subsidized childcare and backup care, but you can also offer monthly stipends if you want to keep it simple.

Another unique option is transportation benefits. Many job seekers rule out positions further away from where they’re located simply because the money they’d have to spend on gas, public transit, or a rideshare service would take too big of a bite out of their paycheck. Even for workers who do live close, commuting costs still add up over time. Offering a transportation stipend, or even outright paying for rides, can help allay those concerns — which can significantly expand your potential labor pool.

While the labor market shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, the economy is just beginning to heat up — and if you can’t find enough staff to keep up with that demand, you’ll likely be left behind. But while finding great staff is undoubtedly difficult today, it’s far from impossible. Figure out how to distinguish your workplace from the others — whether that’s by recruiting on social media, offering bonuses, providing unique benefits, choosing flexible staffing, or something else altogether — and you’ll have a much easier time attracting the staff you need to get your business back on track.

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