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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.

Karla Dougherty [00:10:13] Thank you, James.

 

 

 

 

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