Survey: Compensation down at high-level properties

In partnership with Hutchinson Consulting, Wage Insight, a hospitality salary benchmarking company, recently completed a survey with human resource professionals at four- and five-star hotels and resorts across the country. The results reveal mostly decreased wages compared to 2019.

The survey was not conducted in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. It is important to note that the wage and salary surveys were completed in September 2021 just after the reopening of many hotels. The rapidly changing current climate reflects ownership and management elevating some key role compensation and wages strategically.

Among the findings:

  • Executive-level hotel positions’ total wages decreased more than 20% in many instances
  • Total compensation for general managers and above fell nearly 30% from 2019
  • Mid-level management total compensation fell between 10%-20% in many cases
  • Entry-level exempt positions remained flat or experienced small increases in most cases
  • Food and beverage and culinary appear to be the only operational divisions whose salaried wages showed marked, consistent increases from 2019

According to Hutchinson Consulting Partner Michael Tompkins, these results are emblematic of the challenges he sees in the company’s high-volume recruitment practice every day. In fact, he believes addressing compensation is one of the most critical issues facing the hospitality industry today and that big changes are needed to ensure a successful future.

“The industry, as a whole, is facing talent shortages, and much of that can be attributed to the realizations many people had over the course of pandemic shutdowns,” he said. “Employees want to be fairly compensated for their work, and they have also realized the importance of work-life balance, something not traditionally a priority in hospitality. If we want to keep talented people within our industry and meet the growing demand, changes need to be made.”

Indeed, there is a significant demand for hospitality talent around the globe. Tompkins reports that 2021 has been the second-most-successful year for Hutchinson Consulting in its nearly 20-year history. He points out that the majority of this business comes from clients who have evolved to meet the expectations of today’s talent. “We are placing a record number of employees in their dream roles,” he said. “However, we are mostly placing them with companies that are willing to listen to our guidance and offer exceptional compensation packages that build work-life balance into offers. While we only place top talent, the companies that realize the relationship is reciprocal not only attract these candidates, but they ensure those placements stick and that they maximize that individual’s potential long-term contributions. Clients who come to us offering lower-than-average salaries, limited benefits and with unrealistic expectations around hours and work-life balance are not having the same success finding candidates they may have had in the past. Even the promise of working with storied brands and in beautiful locations now seems to come second to these more basic variables.”

Tompkins says these results should be a call to arms for the hospitality industry, and he hopes the industry will begin to rethink some of its dated practices and instead come up with creative ways to compensate talented candidates, both financially and with other benefits. “If we want to keep them—and recruit new talent into our industry—we have to change the narrative,” he said.