Social media has become a hot topic in hiring recently, especially in the service industry. As social media becomes more integrated with daily activities, the line between professional and personal lives becomes blurred. Job seekers have changed their names on social media to first and middle name only, hidden or deleted their profiles completely and tackled the ever-more-complex Facebook privacy settings in hopes of keeping their personal lives out of reach of potential employers. Several states, including California, Maryland, and Illinois, have passed legislation prohibiting employers from requesting social media passwords from employees. Now that Facebook has launched a jobs feature, it will be interesting to watch how it is used; individuals publicly share the act of changing jobs, but the process of finding one tends to be private. Most people like to share their success when they get hired, but keep the act of applying quiet in case they fail. Opening the entire process to Facebook may not sit well with some job seekers.
LinkedIn pioneered the social profile for the professional lives of executives. Now sites like shiftgig.com and proven.com are focusing on the hospitality crowd by tailoring a social profile specifically for their needs. These communities cater to the styles of Gen Yers not served by LinkedIn or Facebook, such as showing one’s social media influence without giving direct access to a job seeker’s private accounts. Additionally, community aspects of the sites allow for a new breed of job seekers to network for professional purposes in different ways than executives traditionally have. For example, it is more common in hospitality and retail industries for Gen Yers to be hired in groups, whereas executives are more often hired individually. Therefore, referral networking and communal hiring features offered by these new networks are relevant and beneficial to hospitality job seekers.
Hospitality job seekers are seeing the value in having a professional social profile. They can be alerted proactively of jobs that match them. Employers can do the legwork and reach out with job offers. This trend is driving down the costs for advanced recruiting tools that historically have been reserved for executive, high-level hiring, making them available for mainstream hospitality and retail hiring managers. As hospitality job seekers and employers become more tech-savvy, existing services such as Craigslist and other low-cost classified sites will become less efficient, and the professional profile will become more common.
Restaurant hiring is particularly challenging because the high-volume, low-margin business model doesn’t allow for significant investment in hiring. The average yearly turnover rate approaches 80 percent. When you consider that labor is often one of the largest costs for a restaurant, and it becomes clear that this is a big problem. These constraints have limited the options available to hiring managers, who have come to rely on employee referrals and Craigslist to find new staff. Twenty years ago hiring managers used classified ads in newspapers to find new staff; ten years ago they began using Craigslist. Today they are starting to use social media and professional networking sites. It’s becoming apparent that hospitality hiring is in the midst of another paradigm shift.
Steve Palmer, the owner of Palmer Place Restaurant & Biergarten in La Grange, IL, since 1990 and former chair of the Illinois Restaurant Association, uses an online site that gathers social profiles for hospitality industry staffers. He has found more than a dozen employees using the site. Steve, who is always looking for ways to simplify his business, saw the need for a platform that could streamline the hiring process when he needed it the most. Steve’s prior go-to for finding staff was posting jobs on Facebook, but the applicants rarely met his specialized needs. Receiving 50 applicants for a bartender isn’t helpful when none have adequate knowledge of the many great beers for which his restaurant is known.
In October, Steve was particularly concerned because he lost a key daytime bartender with little notice and needed a quick replacement. Using Shiftgig, Steve was able to narrow his applicants to those with a Cicerone certification and who would work the specific hours he required. Within minutes he received six applicants that fit the bill and was able to start the interview process immediately.
Social media is not the only driver of change. Companies such as ZipCar and TaskRabbit have become successful by creating more-efficient, just-in-time resource-sharing platforms that allow only a piece of a resource to be purchased when more isn’t necessary. This trend is continuing into hospitality hiring through platforms that allow unemployed or underemployed job seekers to work a shift at a time. The automated matching features benefit companies with a more dynamic workforce and allow job seekers to find jobs better suited to their skills. Additionally, companies like Innerworkings and Echo Logistics have been successful in their approach to modernize “analog” industries that have traditionally operated with minimal technology automation of their operations and created new platforms for greater profitability and scalability for them. Steve Palmer uses beermenus.com to keep his online beer menu up to date. He then uses Twitter and Facebook to keep his customers aware of any new beers, because he knows many of them will go out of their way for specialty beers that are not always available.
So, how can an employer solve the social media conundrum without blurring the lines of social and work interactions and embrace the changes in restaurant hiring? Ideally hiring managers need to look to a talent acquisition and measurement platform that facilitates better connections between employers and job seekers through advanced data analysis algorithms. The result is both a significant time savings from more applicable connections and substantial cost savings in reduced turnover through better hires.
Jeff Pieta is president of Shiftgig.