Where is all the HR talent?

In conducting a recent executive search for a head of human resources, I came to a rather discouraging conclusion: a large number of hotel management companies have little or no formal human resources department. Furthermore, the HR functions of many of those companies were handled by a legal or operations officer. What does this say about the importance of the HR function in our industry, and do we really “walk the walk” when it comes to human capital?

I was disappointed to find such a shallow talent pool in the very department that is supposed to be about “recruiting and retaining” the industry’s best and brightest. In fact, most hotel management companies touted their HR/talent management capabilities as part of the contract RFP process. I just saw little evidence to back that up. When is hotel HR going to get away from the merely administrative role (e.g., benefits, compliance, labor relations) and become the true business partner that contributes to overall strategy (e.g., succession planning, skills forecasting, employee engagement and retention)?

Perhaps this apparent scarcity of HR talent speaks to a broader issue — specifically, that organizations need to evaluate carefully the role of HR in their businesses. Individual, team and organizational performance is driven, in substantial part, by best practices in HR. McKinsey and Co. in “The War for Talent” found that talent-driven Fortune 500 companies achieved nearly 82% greater profit than their competitors. Take Four Seasons or Wynn Resorts, for example. They have repeatedly been named by Forbes as one of the 100 best companies to work for, and they outperform most of their industry peers. As Katie Taylor, CEO at Four Seasons says: “Always focus on the quality of your people, because the best people attract the best people.”