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Marriott - Hoteliers' Voice S4E3 with Florian Hepp: Employer branding, attracting talent and managing staff today

Updated: May 15

Challenges of recruitment in the hospitality industry

Navigating the Recruitment Landscape in Hospitality: Insights from Marriott's Employer Branding Expert

We delve into the intricacies of recruitment within the hospitality industry. In a recent episode, we had the pleasure of conversing with Florian Hepp, the Director of Employer Branding for Central Europe at Marriott, who shared his profound insights on the subject. Join us as we explore the challenges, strategies, and the evolving landscape of attracting and managing talent in hospitality.

The Recruitment Challenge: Special Skills and Demanding Environments

The hospitality and gastronomy industry is facing a significant challenge in recruiting for roles that require special skills or are situated in demanding work environments, particularly culinary positions. Florian shed light on the multifaceted nature of this issue, citing location, labour market conditions, intense competition, and a notable decline in new apprenticeship contracts over the past ten years as contributing factors.

Changing Perceptions and Attracting Talent

One of the key topics we discussed was the perception and image of hospitality and culinary roles. There's a pressing need to revamp the narrative surrounding these professions to draw in the talent we desperately need. Florian underscored the importance of positive communication and the portrayal of these roles in a manner that resonates with potential candidates.

Aligning with the Desires of a New Generation

The expectations of younger associates are shifting, with an increasing emphasis on work culture, career development, corporate social responsibility, and work-life balance. Florian and we delved into how these expectations are shaping the way we think about leadership development and training. He highlighted the necessity for clear communication, transparency, and regular feedback, which are highly valued by employees.

Internal Best Practices and the Role of Technology

Marriott's approach to sharing best practices and values internally is particularly noteworthy. Florian discussed the Marriott Global Source (MGS) intranet as a pivotal tool for communication and knowledge sharing among teams. He also mentioned the significance of regular update calls and task forces in fostering a collaborative environment where ideas and best practices can be exchanged freely.

Employer Branding: The Convergence of HR, Talent, and Marketing

When it comes to attracting talent externally, employer branding takes centre stage. Florian elaborated on how Marriott blends human resources, talent acquisition, and marketing to create a compelling employer brand. He stressed the importance of using both digital and analogue channels to convey authentic stories and experiences of associates, tapping into the power of social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn to engage with various target audiences.

The Impact of Social Media on Employer Branding

Our conversation concluded with a focus on the influence of social media channels in employer branding. Florian pointed out the effectiveness of Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn in reaching a diverse pool of potential candidates, emphasising the need for a strategic approach to leverage these platforms for maximum impact.

Embracing the Future of Hospitality Recruitment

The hospitality industry is at a crossroads, with recruitment challenges that require innovative solutions and a forward-thinking mindset. Through our discussion with Florian, it's clear that the key to success lies in understanding the evolving expectations of associates, promoting a positive work culture, and harnessing the power of employer branding. As we navigate this landscape, it's essential to remain adaptable and open to new strategies that will attract and retain the talent that is the lifeblood of our industry.

Thank you for joining us on this insightful journey. We hope the lessons and insights shared by Florian will inspire and guide you in your own recruitment endeavours within the hospitality sector. Stay tuned for more engaging discussions on Hoteliers' Voice, where we bring the pulse of the industry to your ears and now, to your screens.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes ((00:00:22)) - - Hello and welcome to Hoteliers Voice season four. In this episode, we're going to be talking about company culture, attracting talent and managing staff shortages, with Florian Hipp, director of employer branding for Central Europe Marriott. Florian started his career as a trainee at Marriott International, before working at Western Hotels and Sofitel Luxury Hotels and Resorts. He's going to be speaking at the 21st International Hotel Technology Forum in Barcelona, looking at attracting talent and managing staff shortages. So today we're going to get a bit more insight into some of the plans that he's put into place and what are the key aspects for managing staff today.

Ryan Haynes ((00:01:11)) - - Joining me now is Florian Hepp, director of employer branding at Central Europe Marriott. Florian, thanks ever so much for joining us today., so really, to dive straight in with you and look at this idea of company culture and the challenges of recruitment within the hospitality industry.

Ryan Haynes ((00:01:25)) - - What sort of roles are the most challenging to recruit for at the moment?

Florian Hepp ((00:01:30)) - - Hey Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today and thank you for the invitation. It's actually a good question because that is what we think about, you know, actually every day, where are the, you know, dominant challenges that we are facing. And I have to say, this very much depends on several factors. So sometimes it's location, sometimes it's the labour markets looking at different countries or specific cities. It's about the intensity, you know, of our competition, the internal setup of hotels. But if you look back ten years, for example, we see a 54% reduction in new apprenticeship contracts when it comes to culinary. So this actually explains why we really see challenges. So in hospitality and gastronomy, you know, roles that involve special skills or demanding work environments are really challenging to recruit for I would say.

Ryan Haynes ((00:02:29)) - - Is this because, you know, there's not the investment from businesses themselves to set up some of these apprenticeships? Or is it because perhaps the colleges aren't making that career as attractive of an industry to actually enter at this point?

Florian Hepp ((00:02:43)) - - Absolutely. I think that's really one point which is important to mention. It's it needs much more positive communication around these specific jobs. But it's always a question of image. So I mean and this image is sometimes self-made., if we look back, you know, to the 90s, it was not the case that everybody in the kitchen was treated. Well, you know, it's a very demanding work environment. It is loud. It is hard. It’s you know, you have sometimes difficult working hours. So, it's a lot about doing proper communication around this specific, job pool or this specific area of, tasks.

Ryan Haynes ((00:03:27)) - - I mean, I've been having numerous conversations across the travel and hospitality industry, and obviously, staff shortages are a big issue. And apprenticeships keep coming up as one of the solutions that we need to look forward to., I know obviously over the last 15, 20 years, a big push is that we want to encourage people to extend their academic life and go to university, and obviously, that's putting off people from doing these more vocational, more manual-led sort of jobs and working across Europe.

Ryan Haynes ((00:03:59)) - - Where are you particularly seeing a special difficulty getting people into either these training or these more vocational roles?

Florian Hepp ((00:04:09)) - - I would say so. I'm, I'm focused on Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which in our case, defines the area of being Central Europe., and looking at this region, it's very difficult in Germany and Austria specifically, the labour market is quite tight., and the alternatives are very attractive as well. So I think these two reasons make it very difficult in Germany, but also in, in Austria as well.

Ryan Haynes ((00:04:41)) - - Thank you. I mean, I can just imagine that, and some fantastic hotel schools in and around that region give you a potential pool., when do you have the opportunity to actually engage with some of those? And when you do speak to some of those students, that are looking at graduating and looking at the roles, what are their expectations? from from an actual getting into a job in hospitality?

Florian Hepp ((00:05:07)) - - You know, that's actually interesting., because I think that expectations, of associates have tremendously changed within the last years.

Florian Hepp ((00:05:20)) - - But on the other hand, I read an article just two days ago that if you look at Germany, Austria and Switzerland that, you know, last year we had the second highest willingness of change workplaces. It was just higher in 2019, where it was at 39%, and last year was 37%. But I want to say that, you know, what's key for associates in 2023? If you look back on the full year last year, it's a lot about money. So 67% of respondents would say I want to be paid fairly, which is totally understandable that that is a plus of 13% in comparison to 2022. But it's very interesting that work culture and company culture made it into the top five last year, and that's for the very first time. So I think that you know, work culture and alignment in terms of values are becoming more and more important. You know, talking about inclusive environments, talking about career development opportunities, talking about corporate social responsibility, work-life balance, all those things need to be more aligned with.

Florian Hepp ((00:06:37)) - - The personal goals and the personal desire of. Younger associates?

Ryan Haynes ((00:06:44)) - - Yes. Yeah. I mean, it was always a struggle 20 years ago to try to get on to the next career opportunity to be able to find those training programs for companies to find, and funds or budgets and for certain people to be up and ready for them. And I certainly remember, I think I had one opportunity every six months to take some sort, of course., and I always felt that my, you know, my career was being held back as a consequence of not being able to have that learning and development. And as you say, if the company culture is so, so, so key today, and you're saying that there's quite a bit that, that actual actually people expect from their employers., is it a much more just that professional sort of relationship you've got to put in place, or is there a lot more other considerations you need to make, in and around someone's well-being?, as well, which I guess is an additional consideration and quite a major consideration for employers today.

Florian Hepp ((00:07:42)) - -  Yeah. That's interesting because, Ryan, this survey also pointed out that, that's interesting for you as well. 66% of those who responded to the survey said they were afraid of that company's culture, and they would not even join the company, even if they offered a higher salary. So, it is tremendously important. And, it's not only on a, you know, a professional level. It's really about, creating a safe space for, associates. They have different expectations, and I think there are different talking points. And we could like, talk for hours about corporate culture and what's important to the audience. But, I think to build a great work culture or let's say a culture within the teams I would recommend spending. As much as 1 to 1 time with your associates. What my thought on that is, and what I learned in a training beginning of the year, is what you need to do is you need to create a safe space for dangerous ideas for your associates.

Florian Hepp ((00:08:56)) - - Because, you know, safe spaces make them tell you the truth, make them tell you what they really expect, and that can be very different. You know, for example, someone who's 25 years old, this person would have a different desire than a 32-year-old who maybe has his or her first child, wants to have more work-life balance, while the 25-year-old wants to have more money. So, what I think is that you really need to specifically look into what the expectations are individually and then properly react to that. But you mentioned, you know, personal stuff like mental health, wellness., and that is something that is increasingly important to associates, you know, besides leadership flexibility in terms of working hours, personal fulfilment of meaning when you, you know, decide to do a specific job., but it's not only professional, it's very much about personal things.

Ryan Haynes ((00:10:04)) - - And it's interesting because we've always seen HR, the team, HR being responsible for people, and in managers, themselves, the line managers, you know, were meant to be the experts in their field, especially the ones who are incredibly organized.

Ryan Haynes ((00:10:18)) - - And we're able to sort of put everybody in line. But it sounds to me like the first port of call is a line manager, and that line manager needs to be much more empathetic, empathetic than they ever had to be. And it's a real key skill that is required, over and above, perhaps the expertise within the role today to make sure that, you know, their teams are engaged and that they retain that talent. How much when you're looking at these management leadership roles, is this much more of a consideration of how they manage their teams and how they go about getting feedback?

Florian Hepp ((00:10:56)) - - You know what I can share from within, Marriott is that leadership development and training on being a good leader, like developing great leaders, is very high on the agenda. And I think there is global, there is a good reason for that because clear communication and transparency are becoming more and more important for associates. You know, because open communication and transparency from leadership are essential because employees value them.

Florian Hepp ((00:11:33)) - - And that is maybe different in comparison to ten years ago. Employees value honestly, the regular feedback they want to have. They want to know what are the clear expectations regarding their roles, and responsibilities, and what is the company's direction. I think they have the right and they want to be more involved in that. If you look at the survey again that I shared when we just started our conversation, a poor management style that's interesting would discourage 80% from applying for a new job. And that's why this investment is tremendously important. And you are right when you say that it's not about HR, only you know they can provide you with a proper framework, but it's about every individual manager taking care of the associates in their team. Having the one to one that I mentioned before or, you know, offering the safe space for. Dangerous ideas, or for telling the truth, or for being very open with yours. With what you think. And not only about what you face.

Florian Hepp ((00:12:40)) - - What kind of challenges do you currently face in terms of your job, but much more about what challenges do you face personally? Is there something I can support you with? You know, it's much more about being closer to each other than it was ten or 20 or 30 years ago. I think it was different for my dad, for example, when he was a young associate. He had very different expectations towards his employer than I would have it today, but not only towards my employer but also towards my managers that are, you know, that guide me through my career, that support me in my career. I see them much more as coaches and mentors while it was superior. Decades ago. You know what I mean?

Ryan Haynes ((00:13:30)) - - Oh, God. Absolutely. Yes. I mean, you know, we already know that you know, the newer generations, particularly millennials, are likely to change careers multiple times during their working life. And, you know, they're going to change company.

Ryan Haynes ((00:13:45)) - - Whereas certainly in the past people would get a job and would look to stay at that company for their entire life. So there has been a major shakeup. And we have to be obviously realistic and understand, you know, expectations that of ourselves, of, of individuals and, and what role you can play at that point in time., now, obviously, you've made a point about Marriott and being an international company and say, being such a large business, you've got to make sure that it is some sort of, some sort of standard, I guess, across the company and what people can, can expect now within the Central European region, which you look after, how do you share best practice then between your teams and and try to help you sort you move that sort of employer branding in the right direction?

Florian Hepp ((00:14:33)) - - I'm actually coming back to one important point that I just mentioned. It's all about communication and transparency., you know, we have a huge intranet at Marriott called MGS, which is our Marriott Global source.

Florian Hepp ((00:14:50)) - - And this is an online space where you can log in with your personal Marriott credentials. And this is. A source of sharing best practices, a source of inspiration, and a source of finding the right contact to get answers to your questions. It's a lot about regular update calls within the teams. We do not sit in the same city. We do not sit, you know, in the same hotel, not even in the same country. So it's a lot about communications and being transparent with your ideas. And what I have to say is that all my superiors that I had within the last two, three, four years, they. We are very much into having regular calls with teams asking for please share your best practices. And on the other hand, and that is something very nice about Marriott, is that they create several taskforces from the hotels that come together in different groups that are very diverse, working on best practices from their hotels. And those best practices from several hotels are shared among other hotels.

Florian Hepp ((00:16:03)) - - So I think that the thought of sharing best practices through clear communication, through the intranet, through update calls, through a strong focus on exchange, really helps everybody to actually become better in what they do on the property. And I think that especially the intranet, where you make all the information available in a very simple way, is, it's one of the greatest points that I see in terms of exchanging ideas and knowledge within the company.

Ryan Haynes ((00:16:35)) - - The benefits of technology that's accessible to all. Absolutely., now, showcasing company culture and values is incredibly important. Like you said, beyond, the four walls of Marriott and your intranet, what ways do you go to try to communicate those values more externally to attract the right talent?

Florian Hepp ((00:16:58)) - - You know, I have a marketing background, a sales and marketing background. And, if you look at employer branding, it is actually a combination of human resources, people, talent, but also marketing. And there is a strong focus on marketing.

Florian Hepp ((00:17:15)) - - So when it comes to communication, we do use digital but also analogue channels. But digital is huge. Attracting talent. You know, is a lot about, making associates speak up, allowing them to become brand ambassadors because, I mean, sea level can tell you how great it is to work at Marriott. Sea level can tell you that there is the best employee in the world. But, I think my team is convinced that. It is even more authentic. It is even more credible when associates share their very personal stories about their experiences with marriage. And it doesn't need to be positive always. You know, it can be critical and it just needs to be authentic. You need to be able to believe what the person is saying. And when you look at the younger audience and how they consume media, of course, they have created a kind of bullshit filter in their head. So if you only work with, you know, actors or actresses, when you work with stock images or stock videos, they will realize that you are not telling the truth.

Florian Hepp ((00:18:35)) - - You are bullshitting at them. And that's why capturing authentic stories becomes more and more important. And what we have done at Marriott is we are conducting actually, regular content creation tours where we are touring our hotels in Central Europe, seeing our associates and capturing their very personal stories about the purpose. So why did you decide to do hospitality? Why do you enjoy being a chef? Why did you decide to work for Marriott or a specific brand? we also capture like, you know, wow stories. For example, if you share stories that include acts of kindness or compassion, stories that showcase, the, you know, that showcase, this very specific feeling that people experience at work that can evoke feelings of warmth and empathy., it is showcasing all the unexpected connection that you can make in the hospitality industry. And I can share only one story with you. One doorman is working in Vienna, and that story was told to me during my first content creation for ARIN. Joseph is working for the Bristol, a Luxury Collection hotel in Vienna, and he was visited by.

Florian Hepp ((00:20:03)) - - They were visited by Lionel Richie a few years ago. And there was a woman in the hotel and she was a big fan of Lionel Richie. So she was asking the management, can I please welcome Lionel Richie to the hotel? Can I please guide him to the room? And she was so tremendously nervous about doing that that she went to the elevator with Lionel Richie. Including the security guards. And she was just, you know, turning around for a second while Lionel Richie was in the elevator. The doors of the elevator are closing. Lionel Richie goes up to the fourth floor and comes back just a few seconds later, the door opens, and she is so nervous because she lost Lionel Richie in the hotel. The doors are opening and Lionel Richie starts singing for her. Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

Ryan Haynes ((00:21:02)) - - I mean, can you imagine how emotional?

Florian Hepp ((00:21:05)) - - This experience was for the woman who was serenaded.

Florian Hepp ((00:21:10)) - - Yeah, and I think sharing this.

Florian Hepp ((00:21:12)) - - Kind of stories, this kind of experiences, can be so inspiring.

Florian Hepp ((00:21:18)) - - And that is why we do exactly that in different formats, you know, in different design formats. So we are capturing different stories. On the one hand, it is asking for the purpose. On the other hand, it's all those specific stories that people experience in the industry. And on the other hand, we also showcase skills, you know, transformation and growth. So we show bartenders, we show chefs, and, you know, how they create their meals, how creative they are. What we want to do is we want to showcase associates and want to create a bubble that people want to be part of. So that is the idea behind it. And it's all about communicating how amazing the talents, the experiences and the purposes why people work in our industry and why people work for our brands at Marriott. Does that make sense for you, Ryan?

Ryan Haynes ((00:22:12)) - - Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, this, this, this obviously, you know, so many dynamics to that and that creates, you know, a wonderful three-dimensional view of life within a business and, and what they can expect.

Ryan Haynes ((00:22:24)) - - And with so many different roles within the hotel, it is important to, to show, you know, the different, different viewpoints and, the opportunities that are available now., when it comes final question for you here whilst we got time at, Florian, is that, when it comes to actually getting that word out there, the channels have changed., LinkedIn, and TikTok are big ones. Instagram, Facebook. Where do you really look to concentrate your efforts, and where do you see the biggest impact being made right now for employer branding and attracting the right people? For Marriott?

Florian Hepp ((00:22:58)) - - It really depends on the target audience. But, even if I talk to the translators of my team, I mean, they still say Instagram is, the main, the main channel. While they are very much into TikTok, LinkedIn is becoming more and more important when it comes to building up a corporate influencer program., so I would say those three channels are the major channels.

Florian Hepp ((00:23:26)) - - We are looking at Instagram, TikTok and, LinkedIn. And through those three different channels, you can also reach different target audiences.

Ryan Haynes ((00:23:36)) - - Excellent, Florian, thank you ever so much for your time today for all those insights and for sharing your experiences with us.

Florian Hepp ((00:23:42)) - - Of course. Thank you so much, Ryan, and, hope to see you in Barcelona.

Ryan Haynes ((00:23:47)) - - So that was Florian Happ, director of employer branding, Central Europe. Marriott, who will be speaking at the 21st International Hotel Technology Forum in Barcelona. Thanks for listening to this episode of Hoteliers Voice, part of season four. Look out for some of the others, and don't forget to check out our monthly review shows for travel and hospitality. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. Thanks for listening and ciao for now.

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