How an AI-Powered Platform Helps Hoteliers Retain Staff

NATIONAL REPORT—In an industry with a high turnover rate, retaining employees is vital. Virgil Careers is a platform that harnesses artificial intelligence to help hospitality employees define their career goals.

Ron Mitchell, founder of Virgil Careers, gained exposure to human resources through a Wall Street internship program that he created for student-athletes. He placed more than 250 student-athletes at the most prestigious financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, etc.

“These were kids who were great athletes, great students with a 3.7 average GPA and great leaders. Yet, despite their qualifications, they were woefully underprepared and knowledgeable about career pathways available to them as well as the process for attaining them,” said Mitchell. “I found my first entrepreneurial opportunity in doing that work for them, but what I was doing back then was not scalable. I needed to create a system that could provide a high level of granularity on hundreds of different career paths. That led me to create Virgil.”

Mitchell strongly believes there’s an absolute need for hospitality businesses to develop people internally and enable them to build a career path within the organization. That’s why it’s the core of the Virgil Careers platform.

Ron Mitchell
Ron Mitchell

“We became acutely interested in hospitality for two reasons: First, it is a people-centric business. Despite the fact that automation is making its way into every business, at the core of hospitality is people. Second, hospitality is one of the few industries that can credibly attest to the fact that entry-level employees have the opportunity to work their way up to executive-level positions, including CEO,” he said. “We enable the transparency and communication of skills and experiences that make that journey more efficient.”

Virgil Careers taps into the latest technology, such as artificial intelligence, to power its recruiting and career navigation platform.

“There are three core elements of our technology. First, we have developed efficient ways to capture information from both individuals and companies that have traditionally been cumbersome to acquire. This includes data on skills and experiences developed by individuals, skills that are required for certain roles. We have created our own natural language processing scripts that enable us to pull that information from various sources, combine it with our own data and then organize it efficiently,” he said.

“Second, we have developed a set of proprietary algorithms that enable us to score the data we ingest to deliver the most relevant matches in the industry,” he added. “This enables us to match users to opportunities and surface candidates with the greatest potential to employers.

“Third, we are developing technology that enables us to assess the market challenges associated with job advertisement, whether it’s an internal issue of low salary or poor benefits, or an external challenge such as a lack of talent or an unpopular location, and then immediately build and launch a customized marketing plan that will boost the performance of that job in our platform by marketing it to the target audience in a way that will resonate with that audience,” he continued.

Even more than most careers, hospitality workers need to continually seek cross-functional experience, noted Mitchell. “There are tremendous pathways for growth and promotion, but they typically require experience in many different roles. Don’t be afraid to work behind the front desk, clean rooms or perform revenue analysis. These experiences will lead to greater success in the industry,” he said.

Hospitality workers are in tremendous demand by both traditional hospitality companies and those more removed from the traditional industry.

“The underlying skill of service delivery is transferable. You have many healthcare, property management and financial service businesses that realize that in order to differentiate themselves in the market, they need to have people in their business that truly understand the customer experience,” he said. “They are seeking to hire professionals from the hotel and restaurant industries into their industry. This opens up tremendous opportunity for people who begin their careers in hospitality.”

The Virgil Careers platform is all about growth and development. The company’s goal is to provide each individual with a personalized skill development roadmap for every possible role they might be interested in.

“We want to enlighten job seekers to alternative career pathways that they may be a good fit for but have little awareness of,” he said. “Another key element of the platform is our career development recommendation engine. Based on an individual’s personal learning preferences, we can deliver the learning and development resources that can address their specific skill gaps.”

Virgil Careers has a client base of 2,500, including brands such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Fairmont and more. The team also works with major management companies, including Aimbridge, Interstate, Atrium and Real Hospitality. Small properties and property owners are served as well.

Mitchell shared an example that helps to illustrate the impact of the Virgil Careers platform: “For one large consulting client using Virgil, we found that over a three-year period, individuals using the platform completed 25-30% more of the skill milestones needed for a promotion, stayed at the organization 30% longer, and got promoted at almost double the rate compared to their peers who didn’t use our platform,” he said. “The reason is quite simple. If you properly identify the skills, experiences and behaviors required to advance; provide full transparency on those things; and personalize the experience with a custom career roadmap, you will find that people are more motivated to work toward those goals and, consequently, find success.”