Ms. Gioia

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Rewarding Employee Longevity without Breaking the Bank

By Joyce Gioia, CEO, Employer of Choice, Inc

Though the hospitality industry is clearly in recovery, recent surveys indicate that frequent fliers' spending on airline tickets to enjoy increased comfort has not been matched by their spending on lodging. People expect that after they have been with a property for a period of time that their compensation will increase. However, hoteliers don't always have the extra funds to reward their valued employees with the longevity increases that they want and often expect. What can you do to insure that you minimize your high cost of employee turnover, including training, recruiting and onboarding expenses? Not to mention the high cost of rebuilding the institutional memory that often takes years.

Non-Financial vs. Financial

While it seems an easy solution to throw money at people, that tactic is seldom as effective as investing the time and effort to demonstrate your appreciation in a myriad of ways that will cost very little, if anything. Reaching out to your employees and showing them that you really care will go a long way towards helping you retain your employees without spending funds you may not have in your budget. Moreover, there are numerous additional non-financial rewards that hoteliers around the world have found to be effective.

Non-Financial Rewards

premium parking. Some non-urban properties set aside a parking place just past the handicapped spots for their employees with over 20 years of service. If there are multiple employees with this longevity, the long-tenured employees rotate who get the spot.

meal with the boss. Another no-cost benefit that has worked elsewhere is breakfast or lunch with the general manager. Wise hotel executives use this valuable time not only to engage their employees, but also to conduct their own intelligence gathering about what's working and what's not. This informal opportunity offers a prime time to discover areas for improvement that won't cost you much, but may make a huge difference in the work lives of your employees.

Flex-time. Even the ability to move work around the clock is often perceived as a great advantage to employees. The ability to avoid traffic by coming in early or staying late is an actual time-saver for many, especially when your property is located in an urban area.

Often, it can be a definite advantage for you as well. It gives you an opportunity to have front-line staff, like housekeeping or bell staff providing service coverage for an expanded number of hours.

Flex-space. Sometimes, you can allow long-tenured back office employees to work from home on a part-time basis. Not only are you giving your employees the reward of being able to work where they wish, but you are also doing a good turn for the environment as well by reducing the carbon footprint of the organization. extra time off. Perhaps the greatest reward you can give an associate is the gift of time. People really appreciate a little extra time off to be there for their children, spouses, or aging parents... or even for themselves. In the past, when we gave time off to our associates, we urged them to do something for themselves─even when that only meant going an art museum or taking a yoga class.

educational opportunities. You may have looked at this bullet point and said to yourself, "Since when are educational opportunities free"? What you may have overlooked is the chance for on-the-job training, internal training, or additional coaching. These perquisites have a high-perceived value to employees who are looking to get ahead.

In addition, we have recommended that hoteliers create their own certification programs for front-line staff. This allows them to give their people certificates for reaching a certain level of expertise in their jobs. It costs next-to-nothing to print a certificate on your computer printer and it makes associates feel very good.

If you want to take a further step, you can spend a few dollars on a frame at Wal-Mart. You will be surprised and pleased how this small expenditure can make a big difference in an employee's attitude and performance. opportunity for advancement. Many people perceive a new title or more responsibility as a reward. Even when you are not in the position to accompany the new title with a raise, the acknowledgment is often highly prized by associates.

A New GM's Feedback on What's Working for Him

Recently, we stayed at the Hilton Fisherman's Wharf and enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with its new brand General Manager, Michael Hirsch to discuss this important topic. With 239 rooms and a high occupancy rate, this particular Hilton Hotel holds a unique position, among the Hilton properties located in San Francisco.

This Hilton holds what they call "CARE Rallies" Organized by the CARE Committee, this monthly celebrations celebrate longevity of tenure by honoring anniversaries of employment. Each CARE Rally has a theme, adding an additional dimension of fun and excitement to the events.

CARE Rallies are part of the property's CARE culture. CARE used to stand for "Caring And Responsible Employees". Taking care of each other as well as their guests is the strong foundation for their high levels of service performance.

But they don't stop there... Hilton Fisherman's Wharf also has special dinners for more long-term employees to which their spouses and partners are invited. When someone has been with the property for 20 years, it has its entire staff sign the mat around a picture of the employee being congratulated by the executives. Not surprisingly, the executives seek out their longer-tenured employees for leadership roles. These employees have "the knowledge and skills to mentor others" and this property wants to capitalize on it. Hilton offers a lot of training and when asked on their semi-annual opinion surveys whether the training is effective, employees consistently say, "Yes"!

Finally, Hilton Fisherman's Wharf does something else worth mentioning: when they took over the hotel, which had been a Renaissance, they gave all the employees credit in the Hilton system for their longevity with the previous owner.

Financial Rewards

If you're willing to invest a relatively small amount of money, you can realize a great return in loyalty and high morale. As small business owners, we at The Herman Group provided some wonderful rewards to our employees that cost us very little.

Local Discount Books. Every year, around November, we gave each of our employees an "Entertainment Book". These paperback books contain hundreds of pages of two-for-one offers and discounts on local eateries and national chains and much more. For your investment of less than $25 per employee, they will enjoy hundreds, even perhaps thousands of dollars of savings on tires, oil changes, hotel rooms, airfares, rental cars, furniture, etc. Our employees really appreciated all the "deals" they were able to enjoy, because of our thoughtfulness.

AAA Memberships. At the time, our offices were located in Greensboro, North Carolina, which did not have very good public transportation. We didn't want to worry about our valued employees being stranded on the road somewhere unable to afford help. Our solution: give each of our employees a membership in the American Automobile Association (AAA). This membership features roadside service as well as towing. Though it was seldom needed, our employees really appreciated the safety net and we slept better at night, knowing they were protected.

Event Tickets. My husband and I loved to go to the theatre and to the symphony, however, we were seldom in town to use the tickets, so most of them were enjoyed by our employees. There are also special promotional tickets you can acquire, often free, to preview events of movies in some cities.

Dinner Certificates. We also gave people certificates for dinner-for-four. That way, people could take not only their partners, but another couple as well. Our policy was not to pay for alcohol, however we arranged with the restaurant to send us a bill for the dinner, after the fact. Hoteliers with restaurants are in a particularly good position to exchange these kinds of coupons with other brands. (Some hotels even exchange holiday parties, so that their staff will not have to serve each other on this particular occasion.)

Saying thank-you every day in a myriad of ways. Many times, the simple act of saying a heartfelt "thank you" can go a long way towards making your loyal employee feel valued. Here's a short list of ways you and your people can say "thank you" to your associates:

• Mini candy bars
• Post-it® Notes
• Flowers
• Thank-you letter home to the family (with pizza coupons)
• A book about something that interests the associate or will support their personal or professional growth
• Homemade cookies or brownies
• Coupon good for some time off

Finding the Best Ideas for You

As we alluded to in the description of this article, the best ideas will probably not come from you or even this article. The best ideas will come from your people themselves―if you ask them. Find out what people value that you can give them, without having it cost you a lot. You'll be surprised and pleased at some of the out-of-the-box ideas they will provide, when you ask. Take the time and make the effort to create a non-threatening atmosphere in which people feel comfortable sharing. You'll be glad you did!

You, as a hotel executive, do not have to spend a lot of money to keep your valued employees. A thoughtful, well-planned approach will be more effective than just throwing money at people every time.

Joyce Gioia is a workforce futurist concentrating on relationship aspects of the future. This arena includes workforce and workplace trends, as well as consumer, education, and business-to-business trends. Ms. Gioia is also CEO of Employer of Choice, Inc, a distinction earned only by companies whose leadership, culture, and best practices attract, optimize, and hold top talent. Employers of Choice® enjoy "a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits". Ms. Gioia can be contacted at 336-210-3548 or joyce@hermangroup.com Extended Bio...

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