An Industry Redefined: Flexibility and Freelancers

January 28, 2021

Laura Hartmann

Laura Hartmann, CPCE, PBC, is co-founder of H&F Redefined, an Orlando-based network that supports individuals on their furlough/lay-off and new business journeys from all over the globe. Prior to her own layoff due to COVID-19,  she worked in various positions within the industry across brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, and Waldorf Astoria as Assistant Director of Events. 

 

Could hotel skeleton staffing levels offer freelancers the opportunity to help shape the future? 

It’s hard to believe that in just two months we’ll be embarking upon the anniversary of the hospitality industry getting dismantled due to the effects of COVID-19. Not exactly an anniversary to celebrate, is it? I guess that depends on perspective though, as many individuals have risen from the ashes, focused on personal development and have possibly started new ventures where they are the boss now. Consider “freelancer” and “consultant” a few of your first 2021 buzzwords.

Despite the hardship that hotels are facing from a business perspective, or the pause that organizations have had to embrace with their meeting and convention programming, it’s inspiring to know that being forced to shut down, or losing a job, has in many ways granted opportunity for ALL.

However, are we prepared for a shake-up in deployment and organizational charts to reap the benefits? As an industry, we should address those areas sooner than later, and make it a priority to commit to restructuring within our hotels, because progress is worth celebrating. There is also a sea of people—freelancers—eager to help take it on. 

The past 10 months have granted the opportunity for hotels and businesses to re-brand, evaluate their culture/core values, train remaining employees and/or create new training programs. I'd like to think it’s also allowed time, and the abundance of it, for productivity. They’ve had the chance to finally tap into their crystal ball mindsets and start pioneering solutions filled with creativity and ingenuity for customers with hopes of being competitive when the sun comes back out. 

This past year has also granted opportunity for the employees who were furloughed or permanently lost their jobs, regardless of how crushing or unexpected it was. The next phase of their lives is now for them to decide, and many have gone the freelance and consulting route. It’s empowering to dissect your specialty skills, and pinpoint your favorite aspects of your previous role, knowing that you can now create your own title, write your own job description and set your own price if that’s your desire.

All of the above spells out the perfect formula for why freelance workers and consultants are expected to make a big comeback in 2021. Hotels, aren’t your meeting planner clients expecting, or shall I say assuming, that you are making progress on the plans and actions items previously mentioned?

Hopefully this isn’t a news flash, because it is what they are expecting. Unfortunately, with the skeleton staffing levels due to the financial impacts and labor cuts, it could be unrealistic to achieve the type of forward motion required in such a competitive industry. 

In March 2020, as the furlough phase began, freelance workers, contractors and consultants were the first to be released. The notion was to remain loyal to company employees, which made sense. However almost a year later, many of those company employees have since been laid off, and have either moved on to other industries, or have redefined their skills to strategically position themselves to be brought back in, as freelancers. 

You now have hyper-focused, highly skilled workers, that are willing to be paid per project, without benefits, a permanent office desk and on an as-needed basis. For a hotel, finding a dream team of freelancers or consultants that you regularly call upon and can depend on could be a savvy way to control labor costs, yet maximize results when used in your biggest need areas. 

The power of flexibility is what the hospitality industry relies on as a part of it’s foundation. Every day, we are ebbing and flowing with guest needs, trends, staffing levels and new business philosophies. We know hybrid meetings are here to stay, but what about hybrid teams? What about showing your clients and meeting planners that you’ve embraced a hybrid solution to prepare for their return, by using freelancers to tackle the creative and ingenuitive projects your existing staff just can’t get to. What if you told them you took the freelance approach, because their business is that important for you to earn?

Gaining competitive results, creating innovative guest experiences, getting people back to work, cost savings, exceeding client expectations, flexibility, and organic growth strategies. Sounds like an opportunity for all if we let freelancers help shape the future.

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