Addressing the talent attraction dilemma in hospitality

Addressing the talent attraction dilemma in hospitality


Shangri-La’s MEIA VP of HR, Hein Dames, highlights challenges in hospitality recruitment and sheds light on the industry’s struggle to attract new talent.

When you step inside any successful hotel, you’ll undoubtedly be greeted by a perfectly curated scene. It is the result of countless hours of dedicated service by a skilled and diverse team. In harmony, the team diligently collaborates to provide a seamless experience, catering to guests’ enjoyment, irrespective of their preferences or needs. With my years in the industry, I equate it to witnessing artworks come to life. It is similar to a Mona Lisa-in-progress, inspiring a sense of awe that’s hard to articulate.

Mastering hotel HR

Hotel effectiveness in HR programs and hiring practices stems from their ability to provide guests with a seamless experience. However, this art conceals pressing challenges, which include attracting, training, supporting and retaining the right talent with the right mindset in an ever-changing landscape. This is an ongoing dilemma faced by hotels. At Shangri-La, we implement both market-specific and company-wide adaptations in our ongoing efforts to build and maintain a thriving community that can offer our guests the best experience possible.

The dilemma unpacked

With the pandemic now firmly in the rear-view mirror, the hospitality sector has woken up to a new set of challenges, thus learning on its feet as the world barrels back into overdrive. In the US, for example, despite a 4.6 percent annual increase in hospitality wages, the industry is still struggling to reach pre-pandemic employment levels. Moreover, 65 percent of hospitality professionals now prioritize career growth and flexibility over salary, bonuses, pensions and holidays. The shift in priorities signals a need to reevaluate traditional recruitment and retention strategies.

In markets like the GCC, with greater access to foreign and domestic talent pools, we focus on upskilling our workforce. Furthermore, we strive to build a community capable of delivering the memorable experiences we wish to deliver to our guests.

Global recruitment strategies

The response to these recruitment challenges varies by region and country. In addition, beyond increasingly competitive wages and inflationary pressures, there’s a growing focus on career development programs and work-life balance. Furthermore, work-life balance now ranks second for jobseekers after career progression and improvement. The pandemic gave civilization itself a wake-up call and the opportunity to rethink priorities. It opening our eyes to the rollercoaster of the digital revolution and trauma-inducing social media.

Attracting talent in the KSA hospitality market

In the Gulf, the KSA market presents unique challenges. Despite system-wide fast-tracking overhauls, hospitality groups can’t attract talent fast enough. This is compounded by the efforts of competitive regional markets like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, vying for the candidate’s attention. While salary is crucial, the decisive factor in attracting talent is a flexible career path within a supportive community, essential in competitive candidate-led markets.

Furthermore, Saudization is a key focus for all companies. However, despite proactive hiring strategies, it’s clear that there’s still work to be done. Hotel companies must intensify efforts to reposition the nation’s rich home-bound hospitality traditions, altering the negative social narrative around service work. This is crucial to counter the add-on costs and logistical demands associated with sourcing foreign talent.

Employer branding with engaging storytelling

Though the challenges in KSA are localized, they highlight the wider global trend. Furthermore, a recent LinkedIn report underscored the importance of employer branding, stating that 75 percent of job seekers are swayed toward certain employers by their brands. The industry has taken note of this.

Furthermore, hotels worldwide are now actively showcasing their company cultures. Additionally, their values are shown through compelling narratives of employee growth, success and community. It is a notable shift toward selling the brand before the paycheck.

Conscious consumerism is here to stay. As a result, candidates, being consumers themselves, want to align with companies that share their values. This consequently makes it more important than ever to demonstrate your brand values by aligning with causes that matter to your people. In addition, it should align with those whom you want to attract.

Unlocking success

In today’s hospitality industry, operating in a candidate-led market, understanding and aligning with modern professional motivations is key. Consequently, it’s about offering holistic career paths that resonate with aspirations for growth, balance, and purpose.


In addressing talent attraction challenges, a clear strategy is vital: adapt to global trends, comprehend regional specifics and establish community-first environments for thriving talent.

Hein Dames HR article about recruitment

Hein Dames,

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