Inaugural Leadership Forum Focuses on Hospitality Workforce Strategies

Workforce recruitment, training and retention are the most significant issues facing the hospitality industry, so it was the clear topic choice for our inaugural Leadership Forum. During the event on November 15, panelists and our audience of industry leaders looked at what we know about the current and future workforce and discussed short- and long-term strategies for retention and strengthening the hospitality industry workforce pipeline.

Our panel was moderated by Chuck Paton, President of Odyssey Resorts, and panelists included:

  • Eric Guthrie | Senior Demographer | Minnesota State Demographic Center
  • Deb Broberg | Executive Director | RealTime Talent
  • David Benowitz | Owner | Craft & Crew Hospitality
  • Liz Rammer | Executive Director | Hospitality Minnesota

A summary of key take-aways follows, and you can find links to the presenters’ slides (where used), additional resources referenced during the conversation, and a link to a recording of the conversation on the Leadership Forum 22 web page.

Dr. Eric Guthrie  |  Senior Demographer  |  Minnesota State Demographic Center

Dr. Guthrie provided baseline demographic data aligned with what is known about the hospitality workforce. The key take-away from his remarks is that Minnesota’s population will increase and become more diverse. The only shrinking segment of the population is of white individuals under age 18. There are three factors that drive changes to the size of the population – births, deaths and in-migration (both domestic migration and international immigration). Migration will be extremely important in the coming years. If achieved, the hospitality industry will benefit because of its deep experience in hiring new arrivals to the state. See Dr. Guthrie’s slides for specific demographic data.

Deb Broberg  |  Executive Director  |  RealTime Talent

Deb Broberg leads RealTime Talent, an employer led public private collaborative that conducts real time labor market analysis to look what is happening now and predict what might be expected to come. The key take-away from Deb’s remarks is that GDP was starting to really slow in Minnesota before the pandemic, with an anticipated labor shortfall of 300,000 workers. The only way that shortfall can be bridged is through technology and greater equity in hiring – across race, age and abilities. Innovative applications of technology to task automation will free up individuals to do the work only they can do. Employers must also overcome assumption biases about underrepresented worker individuals with disabilities or a history of incarceration. See Deb Broberg’s slides for workforce data.

David Benowitz  |  Owner  | Craft&Crew Hospitality

David Benowitz, owner of Craft & Crew Hospitality, has built a reputation for creating a great work culture for his employees. He’s recently begun looking at the issue from a perspective that extends beyond pay and benefits and into training, development and education for staff at every level of the organization. Now, he sees Craft & Crew as a education and development organization. Here’s why: resilience is low, and focused attention on mentoring and coaching is the pathway through challenging situations that arise and can overtake an establishment in an instant. Cultivating empathy in his managers – the most crucial characteristic his managers can possess, in his opinion – helps his team address the rise in mental health issues and build a sense of purpose and satisfaction. One key practice Craft & Crew has implemented is the “stay interview.” It’s a way of regularly and intentionally connecting with workers to help understand their experiences and redirect issues that might become a problem that isn’t revealed until it’s too late – in an exit interview. It also has the benefit of signaling to employees that managers and leadership are there for them. Craft & Crew has also been successful implementing practices that support operations, using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as well as relying on the leadership development work of John Maxwell. Check out David’s resources.

Liz Rammer  |  President and CEO  |  Hospitality Minnesota

Liz assumed executive leadership of Hospitality Minnesota (HM) when it was a management company overseeing three distinct association, as well as that of the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation (HMEF), in 2018. She’s navigated the organization through the merger, which became official just as COVID hit, and has built the strength of both to help solve problems facing the hospitality industry. No issue presents a greater challenge than workforce. The key take-away from Liz’ comments are that by aligning the focus and capacities of the two organizations – HM and HMEF – we are uniquely positioned to create a continuum of workforce development responses. We aim to provide quick solutions through training, information and product partnerships, as well as implement a long-term strategy to build and strengthen the pipeline. That’s what we’re doing through actions like our partnership with Capango, a mobile recruitment app specifically for finding hourly workers in hospitality and retail. Our ProStart and HTM programs are growing, as are our efforts, through initiatives like our Hospitality Careers Student Expo,  to raise the visibility of the hospitality industry as a great place to build a lifelong career. These efforts will, we believe, continue to build, expand and strengthen the pipeline. Other long-term development efforts include our legislative efforts to gain funding for a statewide hospitality training program to help ground prospective employees in the skills needed to be successful in a hospitality role.

Listen to the full panel conversation, including Q&A, and find supporting resources provided by our panelists here.


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