Mr. Kwok

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Are you Ready to Face the HR Challenges Created by Web2.0?

By Linchi Kwok, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management, Syracuse University

By now, almost every hotelier understands how importance social media and the Web 2.0 technology mean to operations. If used appropriately, social media can help business in many ways, such as increasing awareness, sharing information, forming customer opinions and attitudes, making purchasing decision, and evaluating their post-purchasing experience. As a matter of fact, social media (e.g. travel review websites) has become the essential mechanism for travelers when they plan a trip or make a hotel reservation. Travelers may actually trust the comments posted by other consumers on social media websites more than the reviews published on travel agent websites. In responding to the new dynamics of consumer behaviors, many hotels have already integrated social media in their strategic plans, especially in the areas of sales/marketing and communication.

In HR, social media has also been widely used in talent requisitions. The impact of social media on hotel HR, however, might have been more significant than anticipated. The following discussion presents some opportunities and challenges created by the Web 2.0 technology to HR, including job analysis and job design, recruitment and selection, training and development, compensation plans, performance appraisals, discipline and retention management, social responsibility, and ethics. It is hoped that this paper will open up a forum where hotel executives and scholars can share their experience and best practices of coping with the HR issues created by Web 2.0.

Job Analysis and Job Design

Job analysis is the process of determining what needs to be done according to a hotel's strategic objectives, one of which is to meet the expectations and needs of hotel customers. Challenges can emerge when travelers become more tech-savvy: they often compare prices on the internet and make reservations online or with their smartphones; they expect hotels to assist them if they experience some technique issues with their gadgets during their stays; and they will very likely share their hotel experience on social networking sites at any time. Facing such changes, HR needs to conduct a job analysis to determine whether the hotel has the manpower and equipment to accommodate guests' needs. Ultimately, HR needs to address the following questions: what responsibilities should be added to or deleted from current positions? What position(s) or department(s) needs to be created or eliminated? Is the current organizational structure efficient and effective? If a social media manager is needed, what is his/her job involved? Is it better to place a social media manager in the corporate level or in the property level? To whom should a social media manager report to? And, how soon can the proposed changes take place?

There are hotels and restaurants that have made changes because of social media. Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, for example, introduced a new position called "Navigator" to replace the traditional Concierge a year ago. The Navigator can perform tasks as a concierge, a Front Desk agent, or a restaurant manager. In addition to the newly created position, Renaissance also launched the Navigator app for mobile devices. CNN News reported earlier this year that there are about 300 restaurants in the U.S. that have already adopted the menu-tablet service, where consumers can play games, view pictures of the menu, order meals, and make a payment directly on a tablet device. The role of servers in these restaurants is very different from the one in a more traditional setting. Hotel HR may need to review the job responsibilities of different positions and re-structure the hotel's organization.

Recruitment and Selection

The recession has resulted in a high unemployment rate in many countries since 2007, which means that many people are eager to find a job. The large applicant pool, however, does not necessarily make it easy for hiring managers to recruit and select the "right" candidates. On the contrary, hiring managers would probably tell you how difficult their job has become. A recent Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks attracted 7.6 million job applicants for about 65,000 corporate and retail job openings in 2011 (about 120:1). It takes time and effort to do the screening. If a company has the budget, the hiring managers can purchase a computer program that ranges from $5,000 to millions of dollars to automatically screen resumes based on the pre-set keywords and criteria. Then, they need to continuously monitor the reliability and validity of the computer program. If a company operates in a tight budget, especially during the recession, the hiring managers themselves have to screen hundreds or even thousands of resumes for every vacancy the company has.

In addition, HR managers need to shift their skills from the traditional recruiting methods to the new social media approach. Not long ago, HR managers just gave up classified ads on newspapers for internet job boards, but now Twitter and LinkedIn are taking over. LinkedIn has more than 150 million users as of February 16 2012 and is considered the most effective social networking site used in HR. While many recruiters and hiring managers are still learning how to effectively utilize LinkedIn in recruiting and selecting qualify candidates, more social media tools are entering the market. Facebook just launched a job-seeking app called BranchOut, with over 4 million monthly users as of February 16 2012. There are also companies using alternative approaches, such as video games, to recruit candidates with specific skills. Caesars Entertainment, for example, evaluates job candidates while they are playing video games that are specifically designed to reveal the desirable competencies and make job offers to the winners. Such examples can go on. The biggest challenge is hotels will not be able to leverage the full potential of social media in employee recruitment unless the company's hiring managers understand social media. Hotels must ask: are the hiring managers good at social media? If not, what trainings need to be provided?

There are also many companies using a candidate's information posted on social media for employee screening. It is true that a candidate's persona on social media can reveal rich information about his/her credentials, work history, and personality, but "peeping" job candidates' social media profiles also brings risks to the employers. Hotels must be very careful when checking candidate's social media profiles and get ready to defend the rationale of every hire. An alternative approach for hotels is to hire a third-party agent to screen candidates' social media profiles without recording the "sensitive" demographic information.

Training and Development

Once job candidates are hired, they usually go through the hotel's orientations and receive trainings on the job. Many hotels also provide continuous training and development programs for employees. Social media also creates several challenges in this area.

First of all, hotels must train their associates on how to appropriately use different social media tools if they will be used in operations. Surprisingly, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 73% of the companies being surveyed failed to provide any training to employees who use online platforms to reach external audiences and potential customers even though social media has become the most important B2C communication tool. Hotels are advised to review their training materials/curriculum and make sure they provide adequate training to the staff who manages the companies' social media accounts.

Then, hotels need to consider developing and preparing new training materials that are built on social media platforms, such as Podcast and video games. Millennial workers grew up with social media. They may find it easier to learn and process the contents if they are delivered on social media. Most of all, if employees are expected to interact with customers on social media at work, there is no better method than conducting employee training right on social media.

Last, many hotels may have known that social media (e.g. blogs) can be very useful in engaging with current employees and seeking inputs from them. For many hotels, the challenge may include: who should manage the internal-communication content on social media? How can it be done?

Compensation Plans and Performance Appraisals

It may seem that business and scholarly discussions often focus on social media's power in promoting sales. Accordingly, I often hear the following inquiries: what is the ROI (return on investment) for our effort of building a large social network? Is there a formula that tells me how much a "follower" or a "fan" is worth in dollars? The truth is social media is not about sales. To a large extent, social media is about building an on-going relationship with customers and gaining insightful information from them (e.g. their preferences and needs). Sales will come after the relationship is established.

Because (a) the effects or ROI of using social media tools may not immediately reflect on the button line, (b) the effort putting on social media does not have a linear relationship with sales, and (c) there are not that many "benchmarks" in the market, HR managers may find it difficult to determine the ranks and pay scales for the employees who manage the company's social media presence. The same challenge also applies to HR managers when they conduct performance appraisals with the associates who work on social media.

Discipline and Retention Management

Hotel Indigo in San Diego adopted iPad in guest service operations in April 2010, several days after Apple introduced the product. The hotel offers a "GuestPad" program, allowing guests to find recommendations on local business, receive confirmations for reservations, and get directions. Since then, many hotels and restaurants adopted iPad or other tablet computers as an information kit or electronic menu. Frontline employees are expected to interact with customers on social media with the mobile devices provided by hotels. Hotels must establish a social media policy and provide guidelines for employees. Employees need to be aware of when they are allowed to access social media sites and in what capacity, what corporate information they may or may not post on the company's page or employees' personal social media profiles, and what are the consequences of violations. Hotels are also advised to learn from the good examples of social media policy, such as the one of Microsoft Corporation.

Besides the policy issue, the fact that employees are "visible" on social media also requires hotels to pay close attention to managing employee retention. If LinkedIn allows your HR managers to research and reach the top talents who are currently working for your competitors, it will also allow your competitors to do the same to you. Hotels must treat their associates well. Otherwise, they will end up working for the competitors.

Social Responsibility and Ethics

Many HR departments are also responsible for developing/executing a hotel's social responsibility program and defining the ethical standards for the company. When developing a social responsibility program, hotels are advised to engage with the stakeholders on social media. Ideally, hotels need to ask for suggestions and inputs, post updates, and broadcast the results on social media. On a regular basis, hotels also need to communicate with the stakeholders on social media about their values and ethical standards. The challenges for hotels may include: do you want your HR or the other department to manage the content about social responsibility and ethics? If HR is not directly involved, what procedures should be in place to ensure that appropriate contents were shared efficiently?

In summary, social media has already created many challenges for hotel HR, with many considerations that require hotel executives' attention. Nevertheless, hotel executives must put HR operations into considerations when developing a compressive social media strategy. It is also important to note that this paper is not a comprehensive review of the topic and that social media is still an evolving phenomenon. As a result, more discussions are needed.

Linchi Kwok is an Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management at Syracuse University (SU) in Syracuse, New York, where he developed and teaches several hospitality and management courses, such as Managing Service Organizations in Social Media, Hospitality Human Resource Management, Hotel and Resort Operations, and Leadership and Career Management. In 2011, Mr. Kwok was named a Kauffman Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at SU to support the university’s initiatives in teaching and research excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation. Mr. Kwok holds a Ph.D. degree in Hospitality Administration and a Master of Science degree in Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management from Texas Tech University. Mr. Kwok’s professional portfolio also includes several years of managerial and hands-on experience in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and mainland China. Mr. Kwok can be contacted at 315-443-2162 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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