Building strong partnerships to overcome post-pandemic challenges
Hospitality Staffing Solutions was recently featured in Hotel Management International in reference to their recent partnership with Aimbridge Hospitality to overcome the challenges facing labor shortages caused by the pandemic.
Aimbridge Hospitality, a hotel management company, who has done business with HSS in the past, was looking for assistance when it came to staffing their hotels post pandemic. With the rise in travel, they needed to be able to staff their hotels on a moment’s notice. And that’s where HSS, the hospitality division of KBS, came to play. HSS can provide a national reach to meet to the staffing needs of Aimbridge properties. Together the team has produced strategic ideas and innovated ways to reach the needs of the hotels. HSS has assembled a “mobile team” of hotel room attends to travel to the designated areas to fulfil the hospitality needs of those hotels that require this additional assistance.
Understandably, now more than ever, Aimbridge is centered on guest satisfaction with the cleanliness of the public areas as well as the guest rooms. With that comes great focus on choosing the highest quality staff for their properties. Through HSS’ national recruiting network, they can place the best staff in the roles needed. HSS and Aimbridge Hospitality provide multiple extensive trainings to their employees to be sure they can meet the needs of the property in cleanliness and safety.
“There has always been a high expectation for cleanliness in hospitality,” says Burke. “Moving forward, these expectations are going to be even higher. Beyond guest rooms there will be more attention paid to the cleanliness of public areas, fitness centers, swimming pools, and food and beverage operations.” ED Burke, VP of rooms and engineering operations, Aimbridge Hospitality
Together in partnership, HSS and Aimbridge Hospitality are rising above the challenges to provide a clean and safe stay for all their guests. While serving over 220 properties, Aimbridge realized it is taking more than just housekeepers to keep their properties afloat, but with the bundled HSS and KBS family, they can help provide the hotels solutions to the challenges faced inside and outside of the property.
Aimbridge is grateful to finally have a partnership with the “[same scale reach and passion that we have.
After more than a year, some key areas of hospitality facilities may need attention
As organizations navigate this challenging period of the pandemic, many general managers in the hospitality industry are examining how to pivot their maintenance programs. While it is still important to reduce the spread of harmful pathogens through strategic cleaning and disinfecting, now is an ideal time to examine programs that may have been ignored or deemphasized at the height of the pandemic in favor of intense cleaning and disinfecting activities. This includes cleaning programs that are essential to preserving valuable infrastructure investments in hotels, resorts, and casinos, including:
Parking Lot Maintenance
High Dusting of Exposed Ductwork
While asset preservation programs have always been critical in the hospitality industry, now is the right time to focus on these activities as cleaning and maintenance programs are rebalanced during the transition to the “Next Normal.” Taking these steps builds trust with customers and employees while also adding to the health of overall hotel operations.
Extending Asset Lifespan
The main goal of asset preservation in hospitality has traditionally been to extend the service lifespan of areas like floors, carpets, parking lots, and HVAC systems.
For example, carpets and floors that appear to be clean can quickly degrade without regular and professional maintenance. The average lifespan of commercial-grade carpeting ranges from 12-15 years. Considering the amount of foot traffic in a hotel or the quality and type of carpet fiber, our experts have found that quarterly care protocols can maintain optimal appearance and meet or exceed their range of service.
Similarly, regular maintenance keeps floors looking better longer. After assessing individual use instances, a standard protocol of quarterly, biannual, or annual stripping and buffing can extend their lifespan, prevent permanent damage, and improve their overall appearance.
When considering the upkeep of parking lots, minor pavement fixes and the regular removal of weeds can defer more expensive repairs and significantly improve appearance.
Floors, carpets, and parking lots may have seen lighter use throughout COVID and required less maintenance for hotels and resorts that have been shut down or seen reduced use. However, deferred maintenance through this period can only last so long before permanent damage can occur.
Building Employee and Consumer Trust
Asset protection is always a sound strategy, but there is another reason to implement these programs today: the change in employee and guest expectations around the operational health of hotels.
Because of COVID, people have a heightened awareness and sensitivity to cleaning. While strategic cleaning and disinfecting programs should still be employed, people will also evaluate hotels based on appearance. Employees and guests are now better educated on air quality and filtration systems and cleaning and disinfection practices. Dirty, dusty, or worn-down resorts leave the impression that a hotel isn’t well managed – and even impact someone’s view regarding the overall safety of the building. These perceptions can affect customer and employee satisfaction and retention.
Maintaining Healthier Interior Environments
High dusting of HVAC vents and air intakes is another important asset preservation measure that helps extend the life of expensive HVAC systems. Today, there’s another reason why this particular cleaning measure is essential: airflow.
Optimized and efficient HVAC systems and superior airflow are top-of-mind due to COVID-19 guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other global agencies. The regular high dusting of these areas by specialized teams with the proper equipment ensures a healthier space for employees and guests alike.
Preservation Means Healthy Operations – When Operations Resume
During the recovery, asset preservation should be part of an overall pivot to long-term healthy operations in the hospitality industry. General managers need to implement maintenance programs to account for the higher expectation of cleaning, while also moving toward more sustained programs that consider the needs of a resort over months, years, and even decades. Implementing asset preservation into a hotel maintenance program is a way to address both short and long terms needs for healthy operations.
How Aimbridge Hospitality is Meeting Staffing Challenges During a Critical Time for the Industry
Challenge: Addressing Labor Shortages During Pandemic Recovery
The hospitality industry faced a year unlike any other. The rapid drop in occupancy rates during the COVID-19 era led to hotel closures or limited operations, and industry-wide layoffs. Now, with a dramatic upswing in leisure and business travelers across the United States, hotels are challenged to meet housekeeping and other staffing demands in tight labor markets.
Aimbridge Hospitality, a leading, multinational hotel management company, faces these challenges on a national scale throughout its more than 1,100 properties across the United States. To do so requires a number of strategies, including collaborating with an ally and staffing partner with national reach, hospitality-industry expertise, and scalable, innovative solutions to meet this mega-critical moment.
Solution: National Outsourcing Partner with Industry Expertise
Aimbridge deepened its partnership with Hospitality Staffing Solutions, the hospitality division of KBS, to help hotels nimbly and profitably meet their housekeeping challenges. Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS) is the largest staffing and services provider to the hospitality industry in the United States with 90+ offices in major markets across the continental United States and Puerto Rico. Its parent company, KBS Services, is the largest privately-held essential facility services provider in North America with a broad portfolio in hospitality, retail, logistics, and business and industry.
The HSS strategy for Aimbridge is based upon three central pillars: Strategic Partnership; Nationwide Reach; and Safety, Quality and Compliance.
From Vendor to Strategic Partner Prior to COVID-19, HSS and Aimbridge enjoyed a productive and traditional vendor relationship with HSS providing necessary staffing on an as-needed basis. The challenges of reopening and recovery demanded a new strategic partnership.
The strategic partnership is centered on a Strategic Account Management (SAM) program. This new program connects a specialized HSS team with senior Aimbridge executives to solve problems upstream and tailor solutions to meet the need. Daily meetings are now augmented by a new online-ordering staffing system that allows for real-time delivery based on a hotel’s location and specific staffing needs. This strategic team can centrally monitor and manage staffing across the Aimbridge nationwide footprint, and word to implement solutions as well as plan for the future.
Nationwide Reach With hundreds of Aimbridge-managed hotels across the nation, HSS is the partner that is local everywhere in order to meet staffing needs across the country. HSS provides staffing services leveraging its network of branch offices. The company possesses a decades-long understanding of local labor markets and the available talent pools within each of them. Aimbridge delivers the staff required where and when it is most needed.
In addition, HSS understands where the local workforce cannot meet the needs of a particular hotel or property. To that end, the company developed mobile teams, an innovation in hospitality housekeeping. Mobile teams of room attendants travel to and service a different hotel every three weeks where labor shortages stubbornly persist. This allows properties to maintain high standards amidst spikes in bookings. Safety, Quality and Compliance
Guest satisfaction and quality scores are more important to Aimbridge now, more than ever, with returning guests looking for extra safety and cleaning protocols provided by vetted and professional staffers. HSS focuses on recruiting the best possible candidates for housekeeping and other staff through its national recruiting branch network. The HSS safety team provides regular training for a host of safety protocols outside of COVID-19. The team members also trained under Aimbridge’s AIMClean Training Program, which includes rigorous protocols in the proper use of EPA-approved products. Compliance provides an additional level of guest safety and hotel brand protection. All HSS staff are vetted for identification verification employment authorization, undergo drug screening, and background checks.
Results: Scalable and Reliable Staff Nationwide
In an industry facing significant staffing challenges, Aimbridge hotels are more than meeting the mark. In the near term, thanks to its strategic partnership with HSS, this amounts to more than 1,500 high-quality, AIMClean-certified housekeeping staffers at a total of 224 properties. While keeping guests satisfied and hotels profitable right now, in the mid to long-term, Aimbridge now has a scalable solution nationwide so that its properties have a reliable pool of qualified staff from a high-quality and compliant source. Evolution: Bundled Facility Service
As the hospitality industry continues to recover, it will require more than expert housekeeping services to keep it profitable. Thanks to the breadth and depth of HSS parent company KBS, bundled facility services have been added to the mix. For example, Aimbridge recently began bundling snow removal and landscaping services across its properties. The companies are examining other facility service offerings that can help Aimbridge properties address staffing challenges, manage costs centrally and, overall, raise standards and lower costs.
We sat down with Karla Dougherty, SVP of Strategic Accounts at HSS to get her expert take on what she’s hearing from clients and how HSS is serving their evolving needs during this uncertain recovery period.
Highlight: Flexibility in the Hospitality Industry is Vital During COVID Recovery
One thing that I see as a common theme from our clients is that they know that this period is not over. So, everybody’s sure that uncertainty, unfortunately, is something that we will have to continue to deal with moving forward. But what we are seeing more consistent is from them a shift in being more open and more flexible. And those that are actually making that shift quicker and faster, we see that they are able to solve some of the problems or at least talking about them with us. There is not a quick solution for anything. But we do see that trend, if you will, within some of our markets more than others.
With the changes that we’ve had within the last year, we’ve seen some of our partners be more open to the idea to become flexible in the shift that we’re going to offer to our associates, or they’re going to be more flexible in the protocols that they need to be applying when they’re being onboarded or cleaning the hotel rooms. And indeed, the adjustment that we had to had in terms of the mindset with the labor pools, with compensation. So, we do have some clients that are very in sync with what is happening in the market, very understanding, and who are working with us to be flexible and ahead of the curve, if you will, with the wages and the compensations. And we’ve seen some of them that are still having a little bit of a resistance to it. And obviously those, you know, get on board later on. It just takes them a little bit of more time. So, the key right now that we’ve seen is that flexibility when it comes to what’s happening locally in that market and when having to change the logic that we had six months ago.
Highlight: We Never Stopped Recruiting
[HSS is] working with our current partners to be more flexible in the ways that we are recruiting, to still have a very good grassroots recruiting in each of the markets, to improve the communication with the candidate pool, to ensure that we’re not only telling them that wages are going to be different but also that the flexibility is going to be there, and also to ensure that we make these new roles or these roles that we’re offering in hospitality attractive for them and that they are still very mindful of the workload that they will have to have when they join the hotels. So, having those conversations and still being strategic about that. As a company, we never stop recruiting, not even during the pandemic, which I think has been a competitive edge for HSS because we were able to see firsthand some of that shifting the pools from the hotels to other industries. So that actually has helped us to inform and educate our clients of those trends and then have some collaborative approach on how do we bring back some of those associates to the hospitality industry.
Highlight: Trends Beyond COVID
One of them is related to changes in assets from one management company to the other. So we’ve seen a lot of merging from companies and acquisitions within different portfolios. And with that, it has come also a big awareness at the level of the decision making for new services.
The Full Conversation
James Krouse [00:00:05] Hi, my name is James Krouse, I’m the senior vice president of marketing at Hospitality Staffing Solutions or HSS, a KBS company. Hosting the HSS Hospitality Trends podcast together with Carla Dougherty, who is the SVP of Strategic Accounts at HSS. Today we’re going to be talking about trends and strategies in the hospitality industry moving ahead. Karla, welcome.
Karla Dougherty [00:00:35] Thanks, James.
James Krouse [00:00:37] So first, Karla, can you just describe your role at HSS and also the SAM program overall and how that works?
Karla Dougherty [00:00:47] Sure, our SAM program is part of an alignment strategy that we had as a company after being acquired early last year by KBS. And the main goal of the program is to ensure that we can provide support to our nationwide customers and ensure that we are acting more as a strategic partner for them and adding value based on the services that we currently offer by keeping them informed not only on that, but also on the trends that are happening within the services that we provide.
James Krouse [00:01:21] And, you know, in that role of working strategically with clients, I’m sure that you are involved in discussions and have insight into how hospitality leaders are really dealing with this recovery period that we’re in right now in hospitality and in the economy overall.
Karla Dougherty [00:01:41] Yes, absolutely, and to say that changes happened very quickly is an understatement. So currently, the way that we have seen some of the leaders in the industry acting is by being very open to what is going on, changing not only their standards and protocols and how they do business right now within the industry, but also partnering with us in new ways, venues and ideas to be able to help them with the resources that they need, which in this case, you know, staffing being one of the most critical.
James Krouse [00:02:16] And what about the uncertainty of the period that we’re in right now? How are your clients dealing with that? And do you have any insight into how to deal with that uncertainty?
Karla Dougherty [00:02:28] Yes. And will it have been different for everybody, James. Obviously, we’ve seen some companies that have taken a little bit longer to realize the quick changes that we’re witnessing in the industry. And again, it has been very challenging for everybody. But for the most part, the one thing that I see as a common theme from our clients is that they know that this period is not over. So, everybody’s sure that uncertainty, unfortunately, is something that we will have to continue to deal with moving forward. But what we are seeing more consistent is from them a shift in being more open and more flexible. And those that are actually making that shift quicker and faster, we see that they are able to solve some of the problems or at least talking about them with us. There is not a quick solution for anything. But we do see that trend, if you will, within some of our markets more than others.
James Krouse [00:03:33] Could you just elaborate on when you say quicker and more flexible? Are there some examples you can give?
Karla Dougherty [00:03:38] Yeah, absolutely. So, for instance, we all know that the hospitality industry was very set in its ways in the days prior to the pandemic – from the cleaning protocols to the way that we would recruit and hire and onboard. With the changes that we’ve had within the last year, we’ve seen some of our partners be more open to the idea to become flexible in the shift that we’re going to offer to our associates, or they’re going to be more flexible in the protocols that they need to be applying when they’re being onboarded or cleaning the hotel rooms. And indeed, the adjustment that we had to had in terms of the mindset with the labor pools, with compensation. So, we do have some clients that are very in sync with what is happening in the market, very understanding, and who are working with us to be flexible and ahead of the curve, if you will, with the wages and the compensations. And we’ve seen some of them that are still having a little bit of a resistance to it. And obviously those, you know, get on board later on. It just takes them a little bit of more time. So, the key right now that we’ve seen is that flexibility when it comes to what’s happening locally in that market and when having to change the logic that we had six months ago.
James Krouse [00:05:00] Well, let’s talk a little bit about the current labor situation, because that’s on everyone’s mind right now. What are some strategies that are working in the hospitality industry in tackling the labor shortage that we are facing right now?
Karla Dougherty [00:05:18] Absolutely. Well, let’s start with there’s no magic pill to fix this situation. But with that said, we are working with our current partners to be more flexible in the ways that we are recruiting, to still have a very good grassroots recruiting in each of the markets, to improve the communication with the candidate pool, to ensure that we’re not only telling them that wages are going to be different but also that the flexibility is going to be there, and also to ensure that we make these new roles or these roles that we’re offering in hospitality attractive for them and that they are still very mindful of the workload that they will have to have when they join the hotels. So, having those conversations and still being strategic about that. As a company, we never stop recruiting, not even during the pandemic, which I think has been a competitive edge for HSS because we were able to see firsthand some of that shifting the pools from the hotels to other industries. So that actually has helped us to inform and educate our clients of those trends and then have some collaborative approach on how do we bring back some of those associates to the hospitality industry.
James Krouse [00:06:40] And I know it’s hard to get to look beyond the pandemic, but I wondered if you’re seeing in your conversations with clients longer term trends that that are impacting hospitality good and bad.
Karla Dougherty [00:06:58] Yes, we’ve seen some of these trends. For instance, one of them is related to changes in assets from one management company to the other. So we’ve seen a lot of merging from companies and acquisitions within different portfolios. And with that, it has come also a big awareness at the level of the decision making for new services. In the past, we did notice that general managers at a proper level will have the buying decision. But right now, because of the costs associated with it and obviously the financial stress that the industry has, we see more involvement of their management company, their corporate offices, and indeed the ownerships in the decision process. So in the end, we do see that little by little there will be more opportunities for consolidation of some of these vendors or strategic partners, especially at a nationwide perspective, because they are looking more at the opportunities of having a better deal or improving their service quality and their standards and probably lower their cost. We are having these open conversations with them in order to help them where they need suport.
James Krouse [00:08:15] And that ties into HSS now being a KBS company. You mentioned that at the at the top. You want to just talk a little bit about that acquisition and also the benefits that it’s bringing to a lot of HSS clients.
Karla Dougherty [00:08:33] Yes, absolutely. So for instance, as part of our offer, SAM program last year I mentioned after the acquisition – our company has been very well known for thirty five plus years as a leader in the industry on the staffing side, as we have specialized mostly in that vertical, but with the acquisition of our company, now we have additional services that are critical as well for the facility management of the hotel and their operations. So now, instead of just being one of these two strategic partners for our clients, where we can offer only the labor force, the staffing side, we’re able to bundle some additional services that are also alleviating some of that shortage. For instance, of janitorial services, cleaning their kitchen and their public areas, their restaurants, as they are being open and back online, as well as some of the services involving the maintenance of the exterior, anything from their landscaping of the property, which again, taking consideration that some properties were close for a long time. So, getting these back online is attractive for their guests or keeping that in good shape as well as the parking lot maintenance or even the snow removal services in season.
James Krouse [00:09:51] Great. Well, Karla, that’s all the time we have. I’m sure we’re going to be talking again soon. I’m James Krouse with Hospitality Staffing Solutions. We’ve been talking to Carla Dougherty, who is the SVP of the Strategic Account Program there at HSS. And this has been the Hospitality Trends podcast. Thanks for watching and listening.
HSS President Tim McPherson recently bylined an article for Modern Restaurant Management titled Beating the Labor Crunch: Outsourced Strategies Are Key
While today’s headlines focus solely on hourly rate increases and signing bonuses, an outsourcing model attacks the pain points of a labor shortage in several ways.
First, the amount of time managers spend recruiting can have a distracting domino effect on food service operations. Managing existing labor, attention to customer service, marketing and promotion, vendor relationships – all can suffer when so much valuable time and attention is diverted to finding and keeping talent. Outsourced recruiting for full-time and contingent staff can help and is simply more efficient. For example, HSS and its parent company, KBS, have more than 90 recruiting offices and hundreds of recruiting professionals nationwide. Recruiting professionals within each office are fully focused not just on recruiting, but on recruiting specifically for the hospitality industry. This leads to higher quality candidates, less turnover, and better performance.
Solutions for Hospitality Labor Challenges in 2021
The HSS team is working closely with its parent company, KBS, to offer hotels, resorts, casinos, and restaurants a truly comprehensive set of facility services solutions. This combination can help properties address shortages in labor during this critical time of recovery for the hospitality industry. KBS has just published Five Solutions for the Labor Shortages in Hospitality. The piece looks at how the combination of services can be combined to address labor shortages with:
Full Departmental Outsourcing
Bundled Facility Services
From the post:
As hospitality venues re-open and see increased demand from customers and guests, it’s clear: labor shortages could slow the recovery, hampering businesses trying to capitalize on the booming consumer demand. From kitchen staff to waitstaff to housekeepers to front desk managers, the hospitality industry is faced with one of the tightest labor markets in years amid an economic recovery from one of the worst crises in living memory.
As the hotels, resorts, and restaurants recover from what was arguably one of its worst years for hospitality, the labor shortage brings an additional challenge. With tight budgets coming out of a catastrophic 2020, it may be tempting to reduce outsource solutions. But this strategy will worsen the problem. Now is the time to bring new solutions to bear on tight labor markets that may ultimately lead to long term changes to how the industry addresses healthy operations. The industry may have been hit hard by the pandemic, but, with the right partnerships, there are strong opportunities ahead.