Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

2021 Summer Recruiting Roundup

Earlier this year, we published our 2021 Staffing and Recruiting Outlook. In looking ahead to try and predict what the hiring landscape would look like back in January, we predicted that this would be a tough year to hire, due to: a) the effects of ongoing fiscal stimulus and b) the reduction in the availability of international employees. We now would add to that c) A year of COVID lockdowns has given folks the time and space to reevaluate their life and career choices, and some hospitality workers have decided to leave the industry to pursue other types of work options.

Despite the fact that we are currently in a historically above-average unemployment environment, hiring is very competitive, especially for service industry positions. From national news segments spotlighting the crunch that seasonal employers all across the country are facing, to the phone calls we’re fielding daily from employers that are exasperated and not sure where to go from here, it’s a challenging moment for our seasonal hospitality industry. As of spring 2021, we’re looking at a kickoff to a summer operating season that’s uniquely unlike anything that we’ve seen before. From the CoolWorks viewpoint, this is turning out to be the most difficult recruiting season for seasonal employers since we launched the site in 1995. 

Right now, you’re likely in one of three scenarios:

  1. You’re at or near 100% staffed, excited about the crew you’ve put together, and looking forward to welcoming your new team and kicking off what will hopefully be a great season.  
  2. You’ve hired for a lot of positions, but you’re actively trying to fill in some remaining gaps (in 2021, it’s likely kitchen and housekeeping staff). You’ve got the crew you need to get things kicked off, but you might be concerned that your operation will be stretched if you experience any early- to mid-season turnover, which could spill over to creating employee burnout. 
  3. You’re a good ways behind where you’d hoped to be at this point. You’re not getting the responses that you’d like from your job advertisements, and you’re anticipating that the shortage of employees is going to impact your operating season, including the possibility of reducing capacity and/or shortening business hours.

So what does that mean for the months ahead? If you’re in Group 1, it’s clear that the package of wages, benefits, and employee experience that you’ve put together for your 2021 staff is successfully attracting interest and candidates in a labor market that – especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries – is experiencing a massive shortage of candidates. Kudos, and keep it up! Like all companies, you’ll likely experience some mid-season attrition and will need to refill some positions as the season gets underway.

If you’re in Groups 2 or 3, it’s time to start taking that canary-in-the-coal mine role to heart and discussing with your leadership team what can be done to increase interest in your opportunities. Employers are approaching that through a variety of strategies: some are sticking to their staffing plans and wages set out for the year ahead while others are innovating and getting competitive by offering signing bonuses, referral bonuses, higher end of season bonus incentives, travel stipends, and/or upping hourly wages. We encourage taking a look at your total compensation package in order to stay competitive in attracting quality candidates.

So if you’ve still got positions to fill, it’s time to roll out the competitive hiring environment playbook! We review each listing that’s posted to CoolWorks, and we have been seeing employers offer travel stipends, signing bonuses and end of season bonuses for hard to fill positions. Starting hourly wages are ticking up. If you’ve been offering the same wages and benefits for the last several years, you are going to struggle to attract candidates. The gradual uptick in inflation and increased competition for candidates is placing upward pressure on wages, and job seekers have plenty of options to shop around.

If you’re not yet advertising your starting wages in your hiring advertisements – we encourage you to start! Put it all out there, job seekers need to know the full scope of the cost and compensation package that comes along with working with you to make sure that they can come to work your jobs and also pay their bills. They’re less likely to invest the significant time and effort required to apply with you without that information upfront.

The good news is that market analysts and economists are expecting a surge in tourism and recreation this summer as vaccination rollouts allow businesses to loosen social distancing requirements, and months of pent-up demand and higher levels of consumer savings have folks itching to get out and about this summer. Hopefully, you’ll all have your hands full with visitors this summer – make the necessary adjustments now to employment offerings to ensure that you have a full and happy staff ready to take on the workload created by those visitors.
Check out these relevant-to-this-moment Employer Resources to help you make those tune-ups today:

On a final note, we do anticipate that competition over talent will continue to build throughout the summer season. Keeping this in mind, make it a priority to establish an open and productive environment for communication and make sure to address feedback and concerns promptly from your staff this summer. Do you have an open door policy, or an anonymous way for staff to communicate important issues to you? Communication is the oxygen of a healthy relationship. Once you get staff on property, you’ll want to provide the environment that helps you to retain those folks you worked so hard to hire!