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Staffing app matches hotels, workers amid labor shortage

Instawork is helping hoteliers fill critical openings, while putting flexible scheduling back in the hands of the hourly worker.


By: Jenna Walters • Published Aug. 31, 2023



At a time when the hospitality industry is still recovering from pandemic-related labor woes, one online hiring platform is bringing together businesses and employees in an unconventional way.


The San Francisco-based Instawork platform is a career marketplace for hospitality professionals. Different from traditional recruiting services, Instawork provides an automated matching solution that connects businesses with a network of more than 5 million workers on its app across the U.S. and Canada.


“We match businesses with workers using more than 30 different data points, including geography, skills, experience and what the business needs, to bring together those parties in a unique and meaningful way,” Kira Caban, spokesperson at Instawork, told Hotel Dive. 


The platform works with businesses across a number of industries in hospitality, from hotels to food and beverage. Businesses can connect and get matched with hourly or seasonal workers to fill shorter-term job opportunities or search out and hire employees for more permanent positions. On the flip side, workers have the opportunity to decide when, where and how they work best, Caban said, driving some workers to positions they may have not considered before. 


Instawork’s purpose — to connect local hospitality businesses with a network of skilled and talented hourly workers — has remained the same since its founding in 2015. But as the industry continues its recovery, the platform’s flexible matching technology is a welcomed solution by both businesses and workers — though some hiring challenges remain. 


Filling critical gaps

As of June, more than 80% of hotels across the country still reported staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic. And hoteliers, on average, were looking to fill nine positions per property, with their most critical staffing need being housekeeping. 


Instawork has helped hoteliers combat these shortages, Caban said. This year, housekeeper is a top-10 most commonly hired role by hotels on the platform. Other top-10 roles include line cook, dishwasher and event server. 


“The platform is doing a really great job of taking the business needs and matching with the workers who can meet those needs,” Caban said, adding that 93% of businesses that use Instawork want matched workers to return. 


Hotels Instawork works with include the “top-five hotel brands in the world,” Caban said. While she declined to name specific brands, the company’s website lists Embassy Suites by Hilton and Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton as businesses it works with.


Beyond matching by position, Instawork also connects businesses and employees based on timing needs. Because of certain demand influxes, Caban explained, a business may need a worker for one day each week or for a full-time gig for several months at a time, so there are a variety of flexible work opportunities available. Businesses get to bring on help at the exact time they need it, and workers benefit from getting to dictate their own schedules. 


Flexibility is key

Flexibility is key for many hospitality workers following the pandemic. According to Instawork’s State of the Flexible Workforce 2022 survey, 64% of respondents said choosing when and how to work was a leading non-monetary motivation for flexible working. 


“There’s this evolution happening where people want to have a voice on who they work for, how they work, where they work and when they work,” Caban said, adding that financial stability, which “doesn’t necessarily come with a traditional gig economy,” is another motivator for flexible workers. 


According to the survey, pay rates for flexible workers usually exceed those for hourly workers as a whole. But in the hotel industry, specifically, that may not be the case. 


For work in the hotel industry, the average hourly rate on the Instawork platform is $20.69, Caban said. That number doesn’t meet the national average hourly wage for leisure and hospitality workers, which sat at $23.04 in June. And in some regions, hotel workers are demanding an even higher hourly wage to keep up with rising cost of living. 


Challenges remain

In Southern California, hundreds of union workers are taking part in the region’s largest multihotel strike in history, demanding higher wages, expanded benefits and better working conditions. 


According to Unite Here Local 11 — which represents more than 30,000 workers in Southern California and Arizona — Instawork has matched several “gig” employees with local hotels to fill positions left vacant by the striking workers. The union also claims the platform has unfairly penalized these workers when they, too, took to the picket lines. 


At the end of July, Unite Here filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Instawork alleging that the company, along with the Hilton Anaheim Hotel, violated the National Labor Relations Act by canceling the shifts of workers hired through the app after they also began striking. 


Instawork denied Unite Here’s claims in an official statement. “Instawork does not interfere in the relationships or discussions between Partners and their direct staff, whether related to political and/or union activity or otherwise. Nor does Instawork retaliate against Pros for engaging in protected activity, whether related to political and/or union activity or otherwise.” 

Caban declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. 


Looking forward

In May, Instawork raised $60 million in a Series D funding round. The capital, the company announced, will be used to invest in additional AI capabilities for its mobile app and platform. 


Hotels and other hospitality businesses using Instawork are set to see improved operational efficiencies, including quick access to workers within their communities, according to the company. Hourly workers are also poised to benefit, getting access to new “unique training and certification opportunities.”


Article top image credit: davit85 via Getty Images


Original article by Jenna Walters can be found here: https://www.hoteldive.com/trendline/technology/394/

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