Staffing in 2007: Plenty of opportunity but less room for mistakes
…Keith W. Trowbridge, Ph.D.; President, Executive Quest, Inc.
2007 is shaping up to be a critical year for human resources in the hospitality industry.
The residential real estate market, still lurking somewhere near the bottom, has caused a
ripple effect throughout the economy, with serious effects on travel, second home and
timeshare purchases. These conditions also have brought a record number of potential
employees into the job market. To use a fisherman’s analogy, the rough seas of the past
18 months have brought a record number of fish to the surface.
I´ve had the good fortune both to have spent three decades in the timeshare industry and
many wonderful weeks fishing with my sons Mike and David (a professional fishing
guide), in some of the most spectacular fishing spots on earth. So please permit me to
take that fisherman’s analogy a bit further to explain why the sharp CEO can lure the best
of the best for a banner year, even in a down market.
Trophy Fish or Fish Story?
As a fisherman knows, no matter how bad the fish population is in general, there are
always those big shiny ones out there that will not only survive but thrive --and, if we
can hook them, will earn us the coveted trophy. These are the top producers who,
through no fault of their own, got caught in the real-estate-driven belt-tightening. They’re
successful and motivated individuals who are either actively looking or passively open to
employment with companies that are both strong enough to weather this economic hiccup
and smart enough to utilize what they can bring to the table.
The bad news is that there are also plenty of fish out there that maybe don’t smell so
good. They’re the ones who were marginal in the first place. They managed to hold their
own while the economy was strong and business took care of itself, but when the market
tightened, they proved to be a weak link in the organization.
The biggest winners in the hospitality industry this year will be those who have the tools
and the savvy to recognize the keepers and throw back the rest.
The One that Got Away
On of the key challenges the hiring authority faces is the ability move swiftly enough to
find and recruit these winners ahead of the competition. Based on my 32 years in the
hospitality business, I know that the most significant hires happen through very quiet
connections. Often the new hire is a done deal before the rest of the industry knows the
person might have been available.
“If I only knew he/she was on the market, I’d have snapped them up in an instant,” is a
lament I’ve heard all too often.
It works the other way, too. A top-tier professional may approach a company for a
position, and get hired; and then hear later from other potential employers, “We would
have offered you 20% more and better benefits had we only known you were looking.”
Knowing When to Catch and Release
Sometimes the job seems to fit the resume, and the resume seems to fulfill the job
description, but in retrospect the human dynamics just weren’t there for a successful
match. Two common mistakes made by employers are (1) assuming that money is the
prospect’s primary motivator; and (2) making a match based on resume alone, without in-
depth research on dozens of issues including family situations, diversity of corporate
cultures, personal business style and job motivations.
Anyone who has ever hired an employee knows that when the cost of moving, training,
office space and equipment, insurance and other benefits are factored in, the cost of
hiring the wrong person could more than double their annual salary. Obviously it’s best
not to get into that situation, but if it happens, the parties must act quickly to reassess,
reassign, or, if necessary, cut the line.
Using the Right Gear
The experienced fisherman is going to show up with the right bait, lures and hooks to bag
the specific fish he’s after. He knows from experience where and when the fish run, and
spawn, and feed. For the open seas, he has sophisticated sounding equipment to guide
him. He knows he can’t catch a hundred-pound tarpon on 20-pound test line. In short, he
gears himself for success with every tool available to him. One of the most over looked
tools is the professional recruitment firm –a company that specializes in your industry
that has an active database and relationship with thousands of potential employees; that
not just understands but has experience in your business; that has inside contacts with
your perfect candidates, who may or may not be actively on the job market. A
professional recruiter can look at a candidate from various other hospitality fields and
even totally non-related industries and see transferable skills. The professional recruiter
serves as your own private investigator to get inside the personality and character of the
prospect, to match the right executive to the right culture, and ferret out any possible
stumbling blocks to an ideal match.
When I was in the timeshare business, such a service did not exist. I wish it had. When I
retired, I wanted to ensure that the next generation would have access to the same kind of
professional recruitment that the legal, medical and general business sectors enjoy, so I
created such a resource myself. After 25 years I’ve seen, hundreds of times, the five and
six-figure savings a company makes by hiring the right candidate for the job.
As an owner, CEO, president, or HR manager in the hospitality industry, if you do not
have a professional hospitality- industry recruiter in your 2007 tackle box, you’re missing
some essential gear, and that’s a pretty risky situation in this promising, but difficult
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5 Tips for Catching the Right Fish
1. Don’t limit your search to your specific industry.
2. Compare your corporate culture with that of your candidate’s experience.
3. Look past the resume and find out how the candidate manages, or works with team
members. Never underestimate the importance of talking directly with references.
4. It’s rarely just about money: find out what really motivates your candidate and tailor a
5. Don’t limit your search to those actively on the market. Discretion is essential here; let
your executive search firm do the groundwork.
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Keith Trowbridge, Ph.D, was a pioneer in the timeshare industry in the mid 1970s, and
has led some of the most successful organizations in the vacation resort industry
throughout North America and the Caribbean. Also a professor and author of several
books on timeshare management and investment, and a frequent public speaker, he now
serves hundreds of top name hospitality and timeshare clients as president of the leading
executive search firm, Executive Quest, Inc. The company has a database in excess of
15,000 qualified specialists in this industry, handles placements throughout North And
South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It specializes
in top level positions including CEO, COO, CFO, Controller, Project Manager, CPA,
Sales Manager and Marketing Manager, as well as sales and telemarketing personnel.
Though he´s rarely out of touch, via Internet, for more than a few days, Trowbridge
occasionally slips off with his sons in search of salmon in Alaska and the big game fish
of Costa Rica.
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