G6’s Operation Next Step

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G6 Hospitality establishes program to attract and hire military veterans and spouses.

By Nick Fortuna

If you’ve served with SEAL Team Six, then maybe you should work for G6.

Actually, you needn’t have put yourself through the punishing training and high-risk special operations undertaken by the Navy’s most elite warriors in order to take advantage of Operation Next Step, G6 Hospitality’s initiative to hire military veterans and their spouses. If you’ve served your country proudly or stood by a spouse in the armed forces, then you might be just right for one of the nation’s largest hotel companies.

G6 Hospitality, which owns, operates and franchises more than 1,350 economy-lodging locations under its Motel 6 and Studio 6 Extended Stay brands, began Operation Next Step in 2014 and has used the program to hire more military veterans and their spouses in each successive year. Last year, the Carrollton, Texas-based company made more than 400 such hires, exceeding its target. The original goal was for Operation Next Step to hire 1,000 military veterans and their spouses within five years, but the company expects to reach that mark at least one year early.

The stated goal of Operation Next Step is to “provide a great next step for any transitioning military veteran or spouse” as part of The Blackstone Group’s Veterans Initiative, which aims to hire 50,000 veterans and their spouses across the private equity firm’s many portfolio companies, which include G6 Hospitality, La Quinta Inns & Suites and Hilton.

The Veterans Initiative hosts an annual summit, quarterly calls and working groups to focus on specific opportunities to benefit veterans and establish best practices for sourcing, hiring, training, integrating, developing and retaining veterans throughout the company. The program also provides opportunities for former Blackstone portfolio companies, current service suppliers and strategic partners to coordinate efforts with the Blackstone Veterans Initiative.

“Operation Next Step is an important initiative to G6 Hospitality because it supports those who have served our country with loyalty and commitment to preserve our safety and values,” said John Bradley, G6 Hospitality’s director of talent acquisition. “Additionally, it allows G6 Hospitality to hire and attract talented men and women and build a highly skillful workforce.”

“We believe hospitality team members require a ‘heart for service,’ and we know those who choose to serve our country embody that value. Veterans make strong leaders. Military spouses are adaptable, organized and educated. In hiring transitioning military members and their spouses, we strengthen our organization.”

Operation Next Step was built around three principles: attracting and hiring military veterans and their spouses, retaining those hires by building a culture that understands and embraces military personnel and their needs, and partnering with organizations that support military communities. Toward those goals, Operation Next Step seeks to ensure G6 Hospitality words its jobs descriptions in a way that encourages military veterans to apply, interviews veterans in a way that allows them to highlight their skills and experience, and accommodates employees who need time away from work to serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve.

The program also holds fundraisers and donation drives of items such as school supplies for the Armed Services YMCA, which provides assistance to more than 500,000 young enlisted soldiers, sailors and airmen. These efforts reinforce a company culture that recognizes the importance of military veterans and their families.

Operation Next Step has led to numerous success stories of veterans launching promising careers. Among them:

Juliana Kanelos, a former ammunition technician in the Marines who now works as a guest services representative at a G6 property in Temecula, California. She’s currently studying hospitality management at California Polytechnic State University and hopes to become a hotel general manager.

“She’s been a tremendous addition to that property,” said Jessie Burgess, a former Air Force captain now working as the chief technology officer for G6 Hospitality and helping to administer Operation Next Step. “She has a great smile, a great attitude. She really greets guests with the attention and the care that you would want to see representing your property.”

Melissa Lawton, a Navy veteran who now works as the general manager of a G6 Hospitality property in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

“She’s increased revenue, room cleanliness and the friendliness of our staff,” Burgess said. “These are all things that leadership brings.”

Heather Heiney, a former public-affairs photojournalist in the Air Force who works as an internal communications specialist at G6 Hospitality’s corporate headquarters.

“Her skills translated flawlessly to our internal communications role here at G6,” Burgess said. “She was able to bring tons of skill, her spirit, her energy and her ability to roll up her sleeves and just get it done. Her work is some of the best we’ve seen out of this position.”

Burgess said one of the biggest obstacles to hiring veterans in the hospitality industry is getting companies to understand how veterans’ skills can be applied to their hotels and getting veterans to understand that they do possess the skills to thrive in the industry.

“That divide between folks saying, ‘I’m not sure how I’m going to use an ammunition technician,’ and then that ammunition technician saying, ‘I’m not sure if they want me,’ that’s what we’re trying to overcome,” Burgess said. “Our business leaders know that could be a very good candidate to bring onto your team, but we also help that person who’s getting out of the military to know they are wanted as a candidate.”

Burgess said G6 Hospitality has had success hiring military veterans in virtually every role within the company.

“Our success stories go on and on when it comes to military hiring,” Burgess said. “From the start, we knew that military hiring was the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for those who have served loyally. For G6, it’s absolutely been the right thing for our company and has been a boost to our performance. Military veterans have had hundreds of thousands of dollars of training invested in them. This is a talented, ready workforce.”       ■

G6 Hospitality has created informational brochures targeted directly toward job-seeking military veterans and spouses. To learn more, visit www.motel6.com/military.

Traits that matter: Key reasons why veterans are good bets for the hospitality industry

They fight for our country, are entrusted with multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment, are among the most disciplined and team-oriented professionals anywhere in the world and have no problem following instructions, so why wouldn’t your hotel tap into the wealth of talent offered by military veterans?

Elizabeth Reyes, the director of employment opportunities for Hire Heroes USA, said the need for companies to reach out to military veterans is great. Her Alpharetta, Georgia-based nonprofit organization has helped more than 15,500 veterans and military spouses move into new careers since 2007 by offering free career coaching and job sourcing.

In March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 405,000 veterans were unemployed. And according to a BLS annual report, at the end of 2016, the unemployment rate for veterans who have served on active duty at any time since September 2001 – a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans – was 5.1 percent, higher than the current overall unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. The news is better for veterans of all ages, however, as their unemployment rate was 4.3 percent at the end of 2016.

Further, a 2014 joint study by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Officers Association of America found that 90 percent of the nation’s 1.1 million military spouses were either unemployed or underemployed.

“While the veteran unemployment rate is back under the national average, Hire Heroes USA has actually seen an increase in clients looking for our help, and we have to turn away 150 to 200 per week that we don’t have capacity to help,” Reyes said. “This indicates that veteran unemployment continues to be a major issue for many veterans.”

Reyes said some of the key traits that make military veterans ideal candidates for careers in the hospitality industry include:

Leadership and teamwork skills. Military veterans are used to working with others, having been part of a close-knit team since the first day of basic training. It’s well-documented that soldiers in the same platoon often regard each other as family, and veterans can help to bring that sense of teamwork and camaraderie to hotel staffs. Veterans who have risen through the military ranks also know how to manage resources – manpower and supplies – to get the most out of their team and meet established goals.

Organization skills. Careers in the military require thorough planning, workload management, and an ability to follow instructions and take the time to do things the proper way. This is a natural fit for hotel brands that want every hotel in their portfolio to meet a uniform set of standards.

Professionalism and flexibility. A long line of customers waiting to check into your hotel is hardly likely to rattle a military veteran, who has been trained to keep cool under fire and maintain a high level of professionalism even under significant duress. Veterans also have been trained to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and prioritize tasks, key skills in the fast-paced hospitality industry.

 

Getting started: Resources for hoteliers looking to hire veterans

US.Jobs
There are many websites that allow military veterans to post their resumes and companies to post job listings. Some are free, and others require a fee. Among the top free resources is US.Jobs.

One key is to make sure your job listing tells veterans that you’re looking for them. Use phrases like “actively seeking military veterans and their spouses” and “or related/equivalent experience” so veterans know that their skills may be applicable even if they don’t have hospitality experience. Also, avoid industry jargon that can dissuade veterans who don’t have hospitality experience from applying.

American Job Center network
Get help finding veteran candidates through free Department of Labor resources such as the American Job Center network: http://jobcenter.usa.gov. There is one in every county in the United States. The website can be used to locate the job center closest to your hotel and to learn about the services it provides for both business and jobseekers. Most of these job centers have representatives who specialize in placing military veterans and their spouses.

CareerOneStop
Another Department of Labor resource, www.careerinfonet.org/moc, can help employers determine how a veteran’s military skills can translate into a career in the hospitality industry or other business sectors.

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