Confronting the Labor Shortage – By Brian McSherry

Brian McSherry
Confronting the Labor Shortage – By Brian McSherry

When Jonathan Tisch, conference chair of the 41st annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, opened the event last month in New York, he wasted no time in addressing a core issue currently facing the lodging industry: dealing with the country’s current entry-level labor shortage or as he put it, 'keeping our talent pipeline full.'

While politicians celebrate reports that this spring’s national unemployment rate has dipped to a 50-year low of 3.6 percent, the dwindling labor pool means hotel general managers are struggling to fill openings across the board.

Agriculture, retail and construction, among the others, also are struggling. Closely tied to recruitment is retention: for every associate who stays on the job and thrives — seeing their job lead to an eventual career path — there is one less vacant position to fill.

As it happens, a number of widely known hotel company CEOs over the years got their start in the industry, working in entry-level positions such as dishwasher, bellman and night auditor.

In his remarks, Tisch offered a number of strategies for coping with the challenging situation. Two stood out: First, he urged hoteliers to make diversity and inclusion is a core goal. If for no other reason, he said they should make sure their teams are as diverse and inclusive as their guests.

There’s another good reason for hoteliers to promote diversity. We’re welcoming more and more international guests. It, therefore, makes good business that hotels offer multilingual staff.

For those who say automation and robotics is the answer to low unemployment, I say that’s wishful thinking. At its core, hospitality has been and is likely to remain all about the human touch.

Brian McSherry, a 38-year lodging industry veteran who has served Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in senior corporate roles, is chief operating officer of M&R Hotel Management, based in Great Neck, New York.

He previously was vice president, operations, for Stonebridge Companies, a hotel management company in Englewood, Colorado. From 2009 to 2012, he was regional vice president for Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co., a hotel development and management company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

McSherry came up through the ranks in food and beverage and served as general manager of hotels operated by Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Meid Enterprises, Columbia Sussex Corp., Regal Hotels International, Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in hotel management and associate degree in culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island, and a master of business administration degree in global management at the University of Phoenix, Arizona.