Do you feel it? The marketplace has shifted from employer-driven to employee-driven. Demand for workers, especially in the hospitality sector, is at an all-time high. It’s definitely a rough time for business owners trying to figure out what workers want. Here’s what they’re telling our staff.

The phrase the great resignation, coined by a Texas A&M professor, says it all. More U.S. workers are quitting their jobs than at any time in the last 20 years. In April, the share of U.S. workers leaving jobs was 2.7%, according to the Labor Department, a jump from 1.6% a year earlier and the highest level since at least 2000.

Whether someone is a white collar professional or an hourly restaurant team member, employees know they’re in demand and that means business owners need to understand what workers want to attract and retain workers.

Our national team works with business clients to staff their hospitality jobs in nearly 40 U.S. markets including Indianapolis, where we’re headquartered. Here’s what we’re hearing job seekers and gig workers say they want in a job.

Opportunity to try something new

Over the past 18 months, our gig workers used their skills to try new types of work since most hospitality venues closed down due to COVID. They excelled and told us they appreciated the opportunity to try something new. Employees do not want to be siloed into one specific job type. Just because a team member has always worked in accounts payable or been a hostess at a restaurant does not mean that’s what they always want to do. Ask employees how they’d like to use their skills and what they’d like to learn about for future growth.

Shorten the hiring process

Everyone has a story about a long, drawn out hiring process with a punch line, “And then I didn’t even get the job.” Review interviewing/hiring processes to make them quick and painless. Taking too long to respond, scheduling multiple interviews, and ghosting candidates will definitely drive good employees away and poorly reflect on your business. Those potential employees won’t come back a second time, and they will tell their friends about their bad experiences.

Offer a fair wage

We have a new client in a west coast market that was struggling to find and retain talent. The client asked us what they should be doing differently. The honest answer: pay more money. The client did and has been able to staff the required jobs needed and retain those employees. We’re not the only company recommending better compensation. McDonald’s CEO declared the $15 an hour rate is here to stay.

Outline clear expectations

We surveyed our gig workers in the first quarter to hear about their experiences during the pandemic and get their expectations for this year. Some told us that their short-term job assignments were not as clearly outlined as they could be. Whether an employee is a full-time office professional or part-time gig worker, people want clear job expectations. Questions range from: what are my hours, what exactly does the job entail, is there overtime required, is there weekend work, what should I wear to the office, what’s compensation, can I work from home? And the list goes on. Be clear during the interview process. No one likes surprises.

Provide flexibility

Workers see the world differently now that many have worked at home. The ability create balance to work and schedule personal appointments without asking to leave the office is freeing. Can you offer flexibility to accommodate this new perspective? Can a job be done remotely instead of in an office that requires an hour drive time to and from work? Could someone work a four-day work week effectively?

Caring culture

COVID is still here and people still have many different personal points of view about their health and wellness. This is important for an employer to keep in mind. Some parents have children under 12 who are not able to choose vaccinations. Managers cannot ignore culture in an employee-driven market. Listen and respond appropriately.

Back your staff

Hospitality workers have been on the front line for over a year. From having to tell someone to wear a mask to not having enough team members to properly serve customers, these workers have borne the brunt of consumer-COVID frustrations. The customer is always right is not the mantra in hospitality right now. Listen to your front-line workers and back them up (or they’ll quit the job fast for another opportunity).

Go for creative not over capacity

If you don’t have capacity to serve at 100%, pare down the menu and/or number of tables. Give customers the proper expectation for their experience. It’s ok to ask customers for patience as you work to get back to pre-COVID days. Diners would rather be turned away than wait two hours for dinner. We’re hearing a number of our client say their guests appreciate it.

Give feedback

How many times do managers get frustrated and say their teams are not doing what they need them to do? Instead of feeling frustrated give feedback. Nearly 9 out of 10 human resources leaders surveyed for a Forbes article agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes.

Acknowledge a job well done

Appreciation is the easiest and lowest cost benefit anyone can offer to retain a team member. A study from O.C. Tanner found 37% of employees agreed that recognition is the most important method of support a manager provides. Saying thank you for a job well done is priceless.

George Lessmeister is CEO and founder of LGC Hospitality, a hospitality staffing firm that works with hotel and restaurant leadership. The company is headquartered in Indianapolis operating in over 30 cities across the country.

Story Continues Below