From Free Knives To Fitness Machines, Hotels Are Getting Creative To Attract Staff

The economy is recovering, states are opening up, and companies are looking for workers. But the number of people in the labor force – working or looking for work – hasn’t risen in a year. Unemployment numbers are down, but roughly the same number of people sitting out of the workforce early in the pandemic are still outside of it.

That means it’s tough to find workers, whether you need people to clean Delta Skyclubs, push wheelchairs in airports, or take on any number of other roles. This is usually attributed to two things,

  • People have more cash from stimulus checks and pandemic unemployment, so aren’t in a hurry to go back to work. Even if work pays more (it doesn’t always0, it’s a lot of leisure time to give up, so why not wait until pandemic unemployment ends. In many states it is ending earlier than Congress planned.

  • It’s more difficult to find childcare, or more expensive. First it was schools closed for in-person learning, and now people who would go find work have to find workers themselves first and they face the same challenges as other employers.

Some companies are raising wages trying to attract workers. But that only goes so far without doubling or tripling pay. And wages tend to be sticky downward, if they increase wages for new hires that may mean increasing wages for existing employees too – and not being able to lower them easily once workers return, likely by fall.

Other companies are trying gimmicks like free appetizers for showing up to a job fair, or gifts of other trinkets. Hotels are getting creative with what they’re offering to new employees, too, “such as free fitness machines, cash bonuses, and a set of knives for kitchen staff.”

The Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel in New York City gave senior staffers a $1,345 connected-fitness machine, called The Mirror, when they returned to the hotel after working virtually for eight months…

Omni Hotels and Resorts told The New York Times that it was offering free hotel stays for some summer employees while they work, as well as bumping up wages.

“We have never taken guest rooms out of inventory for housing before,” Joy Rothschild, the company’s chief HR officer, said.

It’s not just one-off gifts, or benefits like housing or health care (or waiving the 90-day wait period for health care). OMNI is offering kitchen staff “weekly sit-downs with executive chefs.”

That’s great in theory. It might mean mentoring, and the executive chef might also have a harder time being a jerk to kitchen staff knowing they’re going to have a sit down. But many of the people I’ve known who worked in kitchens do their best to avoid too much attention from the chef, because that almost never ends well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — You left out the rampant rent/mortgage free-loading. Some people will be much more interested in employment when facing an actual eviction/foreclosure.

  2. These managers are so out of touch, These low/moderate wage workers don’t care about a 1400 fitness machine – show them the money if you want their labor!

  3. It’s going to be really funny when Republicans figure out that the formal economy is no longer competitive with the underground economy they have forced people into. If you don’t get benefits anyway, why would you work for $8 per hour when you can make more mowing lawns for cash, or selling stuff on eBay? The IRS is way ahead of the business community and their lap dog politicians. They see where the economy has gone, and that’s why the rules changed for platforms to report aggregate sales above $400.

    When people were left with nothing to lose, because businesses laid them off en masse, they found other better paying things to do. The obvious solution is paying more and providing jobs with benefits. Nobody doing this has any trouble recruiting.

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