Prism Hotels & Resorts is experimenting with deploying its sales teams to help address the talent shortage.
Everybody complains about the weather, the old joke goes, but nobody does anything about it. Likewise, everyone in hospitality is talking about the talent crisis, but who’s doing anything about it?
Allison Handy, chief commercial officer for Prism Hotels & Resorts, for one. Recently, she decided to refocus some of Prism’s properties across the country from sales blitzes to recruitment blitzes — where instead of prospecting for group business, sales teams prospect for candidates to help fill line-level job openings, including in housekeeping, front desk, and culinary. A member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, Handy talked to us about why salespeople make good recruiters, where to look for hospitality talent, and how the blitzes are working out.
Where did the idea for the recruitment blitz come from?
I visited of all of our hotels in one city and talked to everybody to understand our roadblocks to recovery. I’m sitting in one revenue meeting and hear they’re raising rates to close that inventory because they don’t have enough housekeepers to prepare for the arrival of a group, so they’re slow-playing selling those rooms. The next day I’m with another hotel where they’ve had to take rooms out of inventory in general because they don’t have the staff yet to be able to get them ready for sale. For the most part, we’ve been able to stay operational, but I’ve got large groups coming in one hotel in October and as of right now we don’t have a culinary team to be able to service the volume of people that we’ve got coming. And, I listened to our HSMAI Sales Advisory Board discussing everyone’s collective struggles with lack of staff and knew this problem was universal and that Prism had to find an innovative solution.
And so, I said to the sales team, “Hey, guys, it does no good for us to continue to book this short-term business if the operations teams can’t service the business in such a way that we’re going to give them an amazing experience that they’re going to want to rebook.” Then it dawned on me: Who’s best to recruit for these positions than our salespeople. Our salespeople are trained to prospect, to qualify, to close, to sell; they give features and benefits. Why wouldn’t we just translate those skills from closing on revenue to closing on sales candidates? Not that operations isn’t good at that per se, but we have a unique skillset to be able to do it.
I had two hotels go out and do it, and they came back with seven candidates apiece. We typically do a sales blitz every month. It’s a different segment every month, and so for August it was supposed to be universities and education, and I gave all the hotels and the general managers the option to have their team continue to do the regular scheduled blitz or to do the recruiting blitz. That’s how it started.
How did the logistics of it work?
We gave them a list of ideas of where to go. We looked at it in two different facets — those that were working and those that were not working. For those that were working, we were sending people to Starbucks, to fast food, to small restaurants, to 7-Elevens, to drive-throughs — all of the minimum-wage, line-level employees — just looking for great people. You see someone that has a smile on their face, that’s giving great service, and then approach them. We were careful to use the phrasing “Would you like another job?” versus trying to recruit them off of their existing job. That might’ve felt a little intimidating. So, “Hey, would you like a second job? Here’s what we have to offer,” and then talking about the hotels and going through a sales process to try to capture them.
Then we also looked at those who were not working. We sent teams to different apartment buildings, to laundromats, to coffeeshops, to community centers — places that people who were not working but were employable maybe would be hanging out during the day, and then approaching them with “Hey, would you like a great job?”
We had flyers made up, because we’re offering a referral program right now for all of our employees that if they refer candidates there’s a referral incentive. They pass out the flyers, so that if a candidate came in and applied, the salesperson would be part of that referral process and incentive.
How many of your properties participated?
We had about six that participated. I had expected more, quite frankly, but I think that the draw to do the university sales blitz, which is a segment producing good business right now, was a bigger draw than I thought.
Can you share the results you’ve seen so far?
I don’t have much to report yet. We got six applicants that came in for one hotel. We’ve got an interview scheduled for another hotel. We had another hotel that had five or six phone calls inquiring about the flyers they got from our team. But it just concluded at the end of last week, so it’s too soon yet to say how many people we actually hired.
Either way, is this something that you’ll continue doing?
Without a doubt. Once I saw that not as many hotels did it as I expected, we’re going to go back and do it again, because the talent shortage is a major problem. I was at a hotel last week where the chef was going to the local culinary school and talking to the instructors there to figure out who do they have available, because he’s got three kitchen positions that he’s got to fill. The sales team was going to partner on that to try and help capture some folks from the culinary school. At the end of the day, if they want their groups and their customers well taken care of, they should be very motivated to ensure that we have the staff to take care of them.