How Hospitality Management Is Weathering the Great Resignation
In early 2021, during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, masses of employees across the country began resigning their jobs in record numbers, marking what is known as the “Great Resignation.”
As this ongoing economic trend continues in 2023, the hospitality industry has taken the largest hit from it, accounting for a grand total of 18,848,000 resignations since January 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, turnover is nothing new to the hospitality industry. Kent State University’s Hospitality and Event Management (HEM) program has accounted for turnover for years.
Mandy Ulicney, associate lecturer in the HEM program, implies that these numbers may not accurately reflect the reality of the industry.
“A lot of people that work in the hospitality industry are just doing it while they're in school, or it's a part time job or stepping stone to their actual career,” Mandy Ulicney said. “So, our industry has always faced high turnover rates, even pre-COVID. In a way, I think we were a little bit more prepared than other industries because we were kind of used to that.”
The hospitality industry offers a dense and successful catalog of management careers beyond temporary and transient workers. For students in the HEM program, there’s a big opportunity to capitalize on an industry that is in the middle of a large shift in management.
More than ever, the hospitality industry is very accepting and even encouraging of young professionals stepping into high leadership roles.
“The hospitality industry is great because if they see someone with drive and determination, see they're a hard worker, and see they've got the right attitude, there are infinite possibilities,” Ulicney said. “I, myself, became the general manager of a country club at 23 years old, which sounds unheard of, but it's not. It happens somewhat frequently.”
After gaining her undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University, Ulicney thrived as the general manager of Avalon Golf & Country Club for nine years. She was part of the first group of graduates to receive a master’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Kent State and has been teaching there ever since.
Ulicney and other instructors haven’t had to necessarily change the discussion of turnover, as it’s always been one implemented into the classroom.
Instead, professors and staff in HEM have evolved the way in which they approach this discussion to fit the expected roles of a modern-day hospitality manager.
“One of the things that we are focusing more on is how to better recruit people and how we can bring in new employees to the industry,” Ulicney said. “What we're talking about a lot with our students is what type of career within our industry is going to be attractive to them and why. Then, we're sharing that information with our employers and our professional contacts.”
One of these students, Kyra Bradley, hospitality and event management senior, has expressed an interest in the hotel and lodging industry, as well as the food and beverage industry.
Bradley feels she is being thoroughly prepared to enter the workforce through an immersive program that doesn’t just tell students how to manage and operate within the industry, but also shows them.
“The classes in the HEM program are hands-on,” Bradley said. “In the hotel and lodging concentration, we learn what happens behind the scenes, and we get to have practice in the kitchen often. For example, the Hotel Operations class works with the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center, where we get to visit the hotel throughout the semester and shadow various departments.”
With such a fulfilling experience under her belt, Bradley is not scared to enter the industry during its current climate because she’s spent almost four years preparing for a similar climate.
In fact, Bradley is more than not scared - she is determined.
“COVID-19 hit the hospitality and tourism industry hard,” Bradley said. “Right now, I feel employers are looking to hire individuals who are eager and passionate. As travel picks up, hotels are seeing high occupancy rates. I am excited to fully immerse myself in the industry post-graduation.”
Though it’s impossible to forecast the fluctuating job market, one thing is for certain: the future of our hospitality management industry is in good hands.
For more on the Hospitality and Events Management program, please visit www.kent.edu/ehhs/fla/hm.