Solera CEO: Providers Will Miss Massive Hospitality Hiring Opportunity Without Rapid Action

A sizable portion of the U.S. hospitality workforce is out of work thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic — and if senior living providers want to hire them, now is the time to start reaching out.

That’s according to Adam Kaplan, founder and CEO of Solera Senior Living. The Denver-based provider, which has three communities open today and others in development, began reaching out to hospitality companies and organizations like the National Restaurant Association this week on finding a way to bring both industries closer together.

The math, Kaplan says, is simple: Senior living providers will no doubt need more workers in the coming weeks and months as Covid-19 rages on. And since many operators already hire from the hospitality talent pool, why not try to help those laid-off workers get back to work?

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“It dawned on me last week that … there’s going to be a tremendous amount of layoffs in the hospitality industry, [and] that [came] to bear faster than I expected,” Kaplan told Senior Housing News. “I have two employees that all they’re doing is contacting restaurants and hotels.”

Kaplan’s outreach to the hospitality industry has garnered some interest so far, and the National Restaurant Association was receptive to discussing collaboration with him — though a representative for the organization declined an interview with SHN, citing ongoing relief efforts aimed at aiding newly laid-off workers.

“We heard from national hotel operators. We’ve heard from local restaurant operators,” Kaplan said. “We are getting a pretty significant response to these efforts.”

Just this week, thousands of bartenders, managers, servers, line cooks, bussers, dishwashers and other hospitality workers got the news — sometimes unexpectedly — that their jobs were on hold thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic. For instance, New York’s celebrated Union Square Hospitality Group laid off 80% of its workforce Wednesday “due to a near-complete elimination of revenue.” In general, as many as about 2.25 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment this week — potentially the highest amount of claims on record, according to a new report from Goldman Sachs.

For hospitality workers in search of work, the good news is that many companies in the senior living industry are hiring. And for senior living providers, this is an opportunity to draw from that talent pool and fill positions that were hard to hire for just weeks ago.

But there is a catch: Ifthe senior living industry wants to make a dent in the new unemployment rate among hospitality workers, it’s going to have to start making outreach and building inroads now. Simply waiting for hospitality workers to show up en masse is not an option, Kaplan explained. And, meanwhile, there are many other industries currently vying for this talent pool.

“We’ve got to have people but we can’t put ourselves in a vulnerable position where we’re being reactive,” he said. “We know that hospitality is laying off a lot of really, really good people, and so, we might as well start getting in front of them and seeing if we can bring them in.”

A role for tech

Solera isn’t the only company thinking of ways to bridge the gap between the senior living and hospitality industries. Arena, a Baltimore-based data analytics firm with a predictive hiring platform for the senior living industry, is also focused on identifying out-of-work hospitality employees who might be a good fit for senior housing and care providers.

Last year, the company launched a beta “sourcing product” aimed at finding potential workers who aren’t in an organization’s current applicant pool. Arena also began working with clients in the hospitality industry late last year.

On Wednesday, the company pledged to temporarily make its sourcing product free for existing senior living and skilled nursing clients in a bid to match laid-off hospitality workers with open jobs in health care and senior housing. It’s also expanding the product in anticipation that more clients will choose to use it.

“We can apply those algorithms to the individual who is no longer at a restaurant, but actually would be likely to thrive as a line caregiver in a senior living building two miles down the street,” Arena Chairman and CEO Michael Rosenbaum told Senior Housing News.

Like Kaplan said, the senior living industry’s biggest challenge now is reaching out to this vast and growing talent pool while many of these workers are still formulating their next steps.

“More job applicants know about the hospitality industry than they know about the senior living industry,” Rosenbaum said. “[There are people] who would thrive in a memory care unit or be fabulous in an assisted living operation, but they may not apply because they didn’t think about it.”

Of course, one company can only do so much, which is why the industry must put its full weight behind hiring hospitality workers now.

“We had a pretty significant response to our efforts, but we’re a small operator. We have three properties,” Kaplan said. “This is an opportunity to say, what positions are open, and how do we get people into our industry?”

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