Making Sure Hospitality Employees Don't Check Out Early!

By Beth Schelske Divisional Vice President – Client Services, Maritz Motivation Solutions | August 01, 2013

Hospital and hospitality are both derived from the Latin root hospes, meaning host, guest or stranger. That’s fitting when you consider the parallels between the patient-caregiver and host-guest relationships. Studies have confirmed that an engaged and aligned nursing staff positively impacts patient recovery. The same holds true in the hospitality industry, where properties and brands can directly link guest satisfaction with employee satisfaction and engagement levels. By its very nature, hospitality implies nurturing and caring on a personal level. Travelers, particularly those who frequent the same property multiple times, appreciate being treated as valued guest as opposed to another business transaction. Traditional loyalty programs are quickly becoming table stakes, and being replaced by opportunities for guests to interact more intimately with the brand.

Employees in hospes industries increasingly experience high levels of burnout and turnover. Patients and guests can be demanding, the hours long and the benefits inconsistent. During holiday and vacation times, when most people are spending extended time with family and/or taking time off from work, employees in the hospitality industry are putting in overtime and feeling stretched to their limits. It is no wonder that the hospitality industry, in general, is accused of creating a turnover culture. A fact made even more relevant with the reality that many brands within the industry are once again growing and expanding. Employees who may not have had an opportunity to leave in the past may find it easier to exit the industry or join a competitor. Turnover at all levels, even among employees who many not have direct customer contact, can dramatically impact the overall guest experience and influence future consumer behavior and create unnecessary expense. According to the US Department of Labor, the cost of replacing an existing employee equates to 33% of his or her annual salary. Not to mention the time and energy required for training and onboarding.

In this new industry landscape, are there lessons that can be learned that would increase engagement and satisfaction in the workforce? We know key talent is 87% more likely to stay when highly engaged and that engaged employees are also 20% more productive (Source: Driving performance and retention through employee engagement. Corporate Leadership Council). Beyond providing the basics such as fair pay, benefits, and a safe work environment, organizations can implement practices that will ensure they retain their best employees and key messengers of their brand.

While there’s no silver bullet for eliminating turnover and increasing employee satisfaction, there are short and long-term strategies that can make a significant impact.

Voice of the Employee Research

Key, to any engagement strategy, is understanding employees’ actual experiences, particularly those aspects that influence productivity or the employee’s ability to satisfy guests and internal team members. This information helps organizations better deliver on their commitments. Without this input it is difficult to understand the gaps and develop solutions that focus on business outcomes. One approach is to “journey map” an actual guest’s experience from the time he/she makes a reservation through check-out, recording the number of employee interactions and opportunities. Soliciting this type of information from the teams who are closet to the process allows for management and employees collectively to develop action plans and strive towards continuous improvement. It may also expose areas of missed opportunity that if addressed could result in a better experience for both staff and guests.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.