Hiring for Hospitality


“Make something people want includes making a company people want to work for.”
– Sahil Lavingia


Executives Share How They Select a Successful Team

Here in the Scenic City, we pride ourselves on the varied enrichment and entertainment options on offer for visitors and locals alike. None of this would be possible, however, without a devoted and passionate workforce. From customer service personnel and maintenance staff to volunteers and food service professionals, each team member’s contribution sets the stage for unforgettable guest experiences. Here, we ask local leaders in hospitality and tourism how they successfully shape personnel in a dynamic, ever-evolving work environment.


José Russell

Corporate Recruiting Manager, Vision Hospitality Group, LLC

What makes hiring in the hospitality industry unique? Hiring in the hospitality industry is unique with the blend of talent that is required for each property at Vision Hospitality Group, LLC. Each property has its own culture, amenities they are known for such as a rooftop bar, coffee shop, or room design/layout, and location. People who want to work in hospitality bring a special kind of personal care and touch to their jobs you may not see in other sectors.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? Vision Hospitality Group, LLC empowers and encourages our leaders to throw lunches, hold special events, nominate and vote on employees of the month, and celebrate diversity in an environment of inclusion. Additionally, we have a unique culture and a central hub where each property can share, at any time, a special event, accomplishment, birthdays, inspirational quote, and holiday fun and cheer!

How has your team adapted to face staffing challenges? At Vision Hospitality Group, LLC we provide training to set employees up for success. We also have dedicated resources through our Gear Up program to upgrade employee skill levels in all aspects of our company: sales, leadership, operations, recruitment, and revenue management, to name a few.

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Roshan Amin & Rebecca Johnson

President & CEO; HR Manager, Dynamic Group Management

What makes hiring for hospitality unique? In the hospitality industry, hiring isn’t just about finding employees; it’s about welcoming individuals who share a genuine passion for making a difference in others’ lives. The ability to touch lives, contribute to cherished moments, and witness genuine happiness in guests is the most enriching aspect of working in hospitality. A standout hospitality worker naturally wants to make guests feel special, values teamwork, and genuinely cares about creating lasting memories.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? Overcoming burnout, talent competition, and adapting to technology require empathetic solutions. Leaders must authentically care, prioritize work-life balance, invest in professional growth, and create a positive culture. Fair compensation, team bonding, and mental health support are crucial. Thanks to our incredible team for being the heartbeat of our journey!

How have the recent years paved the way for the future of hospitality? Recent challenges drive resilience and innovation, embracing technology, flexible models, and sustainability. The industry thrives by being agile, connected to community needs, and committed to health and safety. As leaders in Chattanooga’s hospitality industry, the commitment goes beyond guest satisfaction. It’s about consistently embodying the perfect response, setting a benchmark for excellence, and actively contributing to the community.

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Darde Long

President & CEO, Chattanooga Zoo

How has your team adapted to face staffing challenges? We are constantly evolving to maintain a staff that is happy at work and passionate about what they do. At the Zoo, we work hard to create a flexible work environment, provide ample training opportunities, and build a positive community. We recognize that, as a nonprofit, it can be hard to compete in terms of salary, but we closely evaluate our finances to provide equitable salaries.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in hospitality? The most rewarding aspect of working in this industry is knowing that what you are doing is a benefit for everyone in our city, and it will only help to create a better visit for our guests and a better quality of life for everyone in our community. The hiring process is so important because the people in hospitality and entertainment are what make Chattanooga so successful in attracting tourists and enriching the lives of locals.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? Lean on your colleagues in Chattanooga and surrounding communities for ideas, training, recognition, and opportunities for collaboration. For example, we often trade tickets with other attractions for our employees to use, and they really enjoy that benefit. If adequate staffing becomes a concern, it’s essential to maintain open communication with employees to avoid burnout and to always reward them when they go above and beyond.

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Micheal Floyd

VP & Chief Guest Experience Officer, Tennessee Aquarium

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in hospitality?  Seeing a child’s face light up when they get their first glimpse of a gentoo penguin swimming through the water or hearing the excitement in someone’s voice when they approach River Otter Falls is a kind of joy that is difficult to quantify. As employees, we feel a special connection to our flora and fauna, and seeing that connection translate to hundreds of thousands of people each year is truly the most rewarding experience of all.

What makes hiring in the hospitality industry unique? In hospitality, your applicant pool consists of much more than those who “just need a job.” Our applicants often apply because they have a passion for our industry. For the Tennessee Aquarium, that could mean applicants interested in education, conservation, or simply someone who loves animals or wants to work in an exciting environment each and every day.

How have recent years paved the way for the future of hospitality? Our guests’ expectations are constantly evolving, and we need to meet those guests where they feel most comfortable. For us, this means understanding that our guests are more aware of how many people they are around and will have a better experience if we limit how many visitors we have in a day. By giving our guests the space they need, they’re able to slow down and connect to water and wildlife in a more meaningful way.

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Tim Sears

President & CEO, Creative Discovery Museum

What qualities make an employee successful in this industry? Employees who are adaptable, enthusiastic, and willing to learn are set up for success from the beginning of their time at an institution like Creative Discovery Museum (CDM). It’s a unique experience to be part of the spark that ignites a passion for lifelong learning, and our staff often enjoy that experience with the children and families we serve.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? An area that Creative Discovery Museum excels in is flexibility with employees in any way possible. Staff can bring children to work or work from home (depending on their role) to accommodate a wide variety of circumstances. Staff often mention that this kind of support keeps them from changing jobs, because they won’t be able to find the same flexibility in this field as they can at CDM.

How have the recent years paved the way for the future of hospitality? There is an interesting opportunity for the hospitality and tourism industry to capitalize on the biggest gap during the pandemic – the opportunity to have authentic experiences with other people in a community space. As the industry looks to the future, finding creative ways to communicate the desire for novel experiences will be a continued boost for travel and tourism.

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Tim Andrews

President, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

What makes hiring in the hospitality industry unique? Finding the right person for the right position is always a challenge – especially for seasonal employment. A pleasant and fun work environment along with competitive pay have become the items we are seeing as best for helping retain our employees.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in hospitality? Seeing happy guests of all ages. Witnessing the moment they fall in love with the history we share is truly rewarding. We are very fortunate in that many of our employees come to work with a passion and enthusiasm for railroad preservation, which they gladly share with guests. A number of our employees came through volunteer opportunities we offer as well as our summer camp program. 

How has your team adapted to face staffing challenges? We have prepared many times by having “floaters” during large events that fill in various roles at a moment’s notice. Often management helps fill in some of these spots – especially during our larger events. We are looking at ways of transitioning from seasonal to more long-term employment opportunities – making it possible for us to retain those employees that need more permanent employment.

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Olympia Mason

Director of Human Resources, Ruby Falls

What makes hiring in the hospitality industry unique? Hiring in the hospitality industry is unique due to its emphasis on interpersonal skills, customer service, and the dynamic nature of the work environment. The focus is often on finding candidates who can thrive in fast-paced settings, provide exceptional service to guests, and demonstrate adaptability. The most rewarding aspect of working in hospitality is the opportunity to create memorable experiences for guests from all around the world. 

How has your team adapted to face staffing challenges? Our team has proactively addressed staffing challenges by implementing strategic recruitment efforts and fostering an engaging work culture. We also offer flexible scheduling solutions to accommodate the dynamic nature of the industry. Embracing technology for contactless services, emphasizing cleanliness and safety protocols, and redefining customer experiences have become pivotal.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? Leaders in hospitality can enhance employee retention and satisfaction by fostering a positive work culture, providing development opportunities, and recognizing and rewarding accomplishments. Additionally, actively seeking employee feedback can contribute significantly to building a satisfied and loyal team in the hospitality industry.

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Belinda Hawkins & Tamarah Daniel-Lewis

Human Resources Manager
& Talent Acquisition Manager,
See Rock City, Inc.

What makes hiring in the hospitality industry unique? See Rock City, Inc. requires a wide range of roles, from first impressions and operations to chefs and event planners. Every day is different, and each role demands a unique set of skills and personality traits, making the hiring process diverse and multifaceted. Great hospitality workers live to serve and seek out ways to impact a person’s experience. The ability to connect with and relate to people from diverse backgrounds, creating positive interactions, is fundamental in a service-driven industry.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in hospitality? It all comes down to the joy of service and the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to making someone’s experience delightful and memorable. There are few careers that create lasting memories that people will hopefully repeat and pass on to future generations. This human-centric focus is what sets the hospitality industry apart and makes it a rewarding field for many.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? Leaders in the hospitality industry can take several steps to enhance partner retention and satisfaction, recognizing that a content and stable workforce is crucial for delivering exceptional service. Competitive compensation, professional development opportunities, and employee well-being initiatives can reduce burnout and make the work environment more engaging.

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Marsha Lacey

VP of Human Resources, LBA Hospitality

How has your team adapted to face staffing challenges? We recognize that change is inevitable and happens quickly, so we have made a conscious choice to embrace it. Our focus is on equipping our candidates and employees with the tools, resources, and benefits they need for success. We also prioritize promoting growth and development from within our organization, cultivating a pipeline of future leaders who resonate with our company culture and values.

What steps can leaders take to support employee satisfaction? At LBA, we understand the importance of creating a total positive team member experience. Employees today want to know that the jobs they are doing are essential to the mission of the organization. They want to feel valued, and they want to have a voice. Leaders who foster a culture that prioritizes integrity, respect, and a focus on the well-being, development, and satisfaction of their employees will be able to maintain a more sustainable workforce.

How have the recent years paved the way for the future of hospitality? The last few years have been tough in many ways, but regardless of our circumstances, we learn to adapt and come back stronger. Overcoming these challenges has required updates to technology and mitigating increasing operational costs while implementing ways to be more environmentally sustainable. Our guests have become conscious of these factors and are watching to see who will take the lead in these areas.

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