What to do about those Labour Shortages

Labour shortages panel from left: Benjamin Guth, Peter Watson, Brody Purser and Sean Billing.

Sean Billing.
Labour shortages panel from left: Benjamin Guth, Peter Watson, Brody Purser and Sean Billing.

RAMARA, Ont. — Brody Purser of Deerhurst Resort, Peter Watson of Loube Hospitality Resources and Benjamin Guth of Mobilize pondered ways to deal with persistent labour shortages at the Resorts of Ontario conference held at Fern Resort and Casino Rama last week. Involvement with colleges is key — and goes far beyond attending job fairs. Sean Billing of Frontenac Club was the session moderator.

Benjamin Guth.

Benjamin Guth.

Guth is no stranger to human resources, as his family business was one of the first foreign recruitment agencies in the business, and his first job at age 9 was answering the phone. Today he runs Mobilize, which provides jobs for all ages based on a travel adventure program. To date he has sent out 1,600 people, working in the U.S. as well as Canada.

He stressed the need to harness new media to attract candidates. “Get videos and pictures, of things like cocktail making with the head bartender or cooking with the executive chef — things you can do only if you work there.  Look outside the norm.” Guth's company is based on looking outside the norm and attracting professional people who want to take a break. “That's how I get some of my best people. [The Mobilize travel adventure program] is way better than working at a desk in Toronto.”

What's your brand?

Peter Watson.

Peter Watson.

Watson's career started at the Skyline Hotel on the Toronto airport strip (now the Delta Toronto Airport). He then worked for CP Hotels, which morphed into Fairmont, and in recent years has been involved with retirement homes and long-term care. He said there are many similarities between the two sectors.

“I propose that your most effective retention strategy is your best recruitment strategy,” said Watson. “When I ask people how they got their job, 80 per cent say it is through referral — that they heard what a great organization it was. What's your brand? What are you doing with your brand to get people in? Are you proud of your brand? Is your recruiting reflective of your brand? What's your onboarding like? What is your messaging?  Hopefully it is not all rules and regulations! Do you have rewards and recognition — it's important to find out how people like to be rewarded.

“There's no silver bullet or quick fix,” he added. “In some cases [building an attractive brand] is a three or four year exercise. The challenge is to make raging fans of whoever you have working with you in 2019 — because best people know other best people.”

Getting right in front of students

Brody Purser.

Brody Purser.

Purser is director of human resources and development at Deerhurst, and also teaches at Humber College. He has worked at Fairmont icons including Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge and the Royal York. He came to Deerhurst the year of the G8 summit, and has been there ever since.

“Recruitment has turned into more of a sales function where you are marketing your resort, hotel or restaurant,” he said. He has a few solutions to make his resort more appealing to prospective staff. 

“Nobody wants to be in housekeeping in one place for the rest of their life, and so we are creating a position with multiple opportunities in a short period of time.” The new position is called Resort Service Attendant, and an employee might start their day by with a couple of hours cleaning rooms, then serving at a banquet, and then finish with kitchen clean-up.

He also stressed the benefits of getting into the college and working directly with the system. His teaching position allows him to interact with students on a weekly basis, and he notes that three key people at Deerhurst are working in major colleges across the province.

“When I was recruited to Fairmont, they came to my class and said, 'How would you like to work in a castle in the Rockies?' ” Purser noted. Even if time doesn't allow for a college teaching position, he is always looking for experienced operators to lecture in his class.

“At career fairs, some booths just had desks with business card.  Deerhurst and Horseshoe [Valley Resort] had eight managers in front of the booth doing interviews. You are there to market your business, ask them about their careers and provide a roadmap for their careers.”

Sean Billing.

Sean Billing of Frontenac Club, moderator of the panel, had this to add: “Get candidates to show up by inviting them for breakfast. Invite colleagues in to experience your product. Stay with us, eat with us drink with us. Think about what you do best and how to communicate that to someone six or 65, regardless of language.”

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