By Sarah Fister Gale
Nov. 7, 2018
The unemployment rate may be at a record low, but there are still vast pockets of workers in the United States struggling to find jobs.
Global hotel chain Hyatt Corp. is tapping into one of these talent pools with RiseHY, its new community-hiring program, which uses virtual reality and gaming to introduce young people looking for career opportunities to the hospitality industry.
As part of the initiative, Hyatt hotels around the world have committed to hiring 10,000 “opportunity youth” — people ages 18 to 24 who are neither in school nor working — by 2025. According to data from Brookings Institute, 4.7 million young people fall into this category.
“This program is a labor of love,” says Jessica Schultz, Hyatt’s senior manager of community engagement. Part philanthropy and part talent development, RiseHY was designed to support the community while helping Hyatt fill its talent pipeline. “This is a pool of untapped talent who have skills and ambition,” said Audrey Williams-Lee, vice president of corporate HR and philosophy. “They could be a great fit for our organization.”
Immersive Hotel Tours
However, RiseHY is more than just a targeted recruiting effort.
Opportunity youth often come from disadvantaged neighborhoods and have limited work experience and education. “Hospitality jobs aren’t even on their radar,” Schultz said. When Schultz and Williams-Lee began designing the project, they knew they would need to close that gap and find a way to help young people imagine building a career in hospitality.
To give them a sense of what life would be like working in a hotel, they worked with a vendor to build a virtual reality app, called YouVisit, where candidates can take a virtual guided tour of a hotel, see what workers do and learn what’s required of different roles including room attendants, hostesses, wait staff and concierge. “The virtual reality lets them see what their career path could be, and to think about whether this is a good fit for them,” Williams-Lee said.
Gaming the System
Interested candidates are also invited to complete an online assessment, built by Pymetrics, that uses artificial intelligence to assess a candidate’s skills and attitudes through a series of games and reasoning exercises. The games use neuroscience and reviews of past assessments to measure things like how well candidates multi-task, whether they can filter distractions, and their willingness to take risks, explained Priyanka Jain, head of growth and lead product manager for Pymetrics.
The system then determines where a candidate would be a good fit. “There are no good or bad responses,” Jain said. Rather, it helps the candidates and Hyatt understand where candidates are likely to thrive in the absence of a resume or past job experience.
The virtual reality app and game-based assessments are meant to ease these young people through the early recruiting process, but it is also expected to help increase retention and job satisfaction by ensuring the right people are put into the right roles, said Schultz. “It will create a better flow for our talent funnel.”
Once candidates are selected, they are either hired directly and given a mentor to support them as they ease into the role, or they are placed in a three- to six-month training program developed in partnership with community groups to give them the skills they will need on the job.
Once the training is complete, they may be hired by Hyatt or referred to other hospitality employers. “We aren’t just doing this for Hyatt,” Schultz said. “It’s about helping these kids find careers in hospitality.”
Expanding the program ensures every interested youth has an opportunity to find a job and that Hyatt doesn’t have to slow the program down during low hiring seasons, she added. “We expect to hire at least 10,000 youth, but this program will impact so many more.”
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