Successfully Managing Today's Shorter-Term Hotel Workforce
By Cara Silletto Founder, Crescendo Strategies | March 25, 2018
An imminent danger is threatening many companies and their future profitability: short-term workers. Unfortunately, the decrease in average tenure of today’s workforce cannot be avoided completely. But fortunately, it is a situation leaders can prepare for and manage successfully, mitigating much of the long-term risk to the organization and its bottom line.
While many blame Millennial workers (born 1981-2000) for their lack of traditional loyalty, a perfect storm situation has caused the revolving door of turnover to speed up over the last decade, including a competitive market for talent and the lack of loyalty from both employers and employees.
The Perfect Storm of Staffing Instability
First, everyone is hiring – inside and outside the hospitality industry. Since the recession lifted, we have remained in an employees’ market where applicants and staff have an advantage over employers. They know everyone else in the area is also looking for talent, so if they are unhappy with their schedule, their uniform, or their boss, they are likely to walk away.
Additionally, most companies have cut long-term benefits such as pensions, and there is no guarantee of long-term employment when everyone knows layoffs occur to combat the competitive hotel environment. Employees know their loyalty will mean nothing if the company needs to downsize, so why should the company expect loyalty to go in the other direction either?
So, what should organizations do about it? Plan for shorter-term workers, extend their tenure as much as possible, and maximize the time you have with each worker. More specifically:
1. Improve the new-hire experience.
2. Make finding and processing things fool proof.
3. Communicate your expectations.
4. Create micro-advancement opportunities.
5. Bring back management training.
Improve the New Hire Experience
We ensure our guests have a road map to success by pointing out where the elevators, restaurants, and other amenities are located upon check in, and we do everything in our power to make them feel welcome upon arrival. But do we do the same for new hires, or is their ‘day one’ potentially underwhelming? Do new hires know where to go, what to wear, who to ask for, etc. when they arrive or do you expect them to figure it out? People decide quickly if they plan to stay at a company, so if you want to convince new hires to stay with your organization, ensure they feel welcome from the beginning.
On day one, if they have to sit and fill out boring HR paperwork on site, at least offer them a variety of drinks and snacks. If they have to watch e-learning training videos, be sure they are good e-learning sessions with interaction instead of terrible ones where the new hire just clicks the next button over and over until a quiz pops up. And to be sure the new hire feels a part of the family, send them home with logoed swag.
Make Finding and Processing Things Fool Proof
To maximize the time you have with each employee, don’t waste any! New hires should not be hunting for things, asking the same questions over and over, or making simple yet avoidable mistakes. Think about what you can label in your office supply cabinets, front desk drawers, and beyond. We use signage to tell guests where elevators, pools, and key drop boxes are located, but what signage are you putting in the office, behind the desk, and around the hotel that can help new hires find what they need quickly?
In addition to finding things faster, many processes can be made fool proof by posting checklists or scripts, and updating software systems to wizard-based, step-by-step screens where a new hire cannot complete a check-in or other action without checking all the right boxes. Making answers to frequently asked questions accessible also helps them handle guest inquiries without showing their inexperience.
Communicate Your Expectations
New hires cannot read your mind and they do not know “how it’s always been done,” so please do them a favor and tell them exactly what you want and expect. Ensure your handbook is clear to someone who has never worked in hospitality, for example, by defining jargon and acronyms, and ask someone outside your organization to review the documents from a new hire’s perspectives. You may be shocked to find many misunderstandings are occurring because documents and managers are not as clear as they think they are.
At my first job, no one told me I had to keep my shoes on all day! It was not covered in the handbook and it was not discussed during orientation, so how was I supposed to know it would be a big deal, so long as no customers saw me barefoot? Unfortunately, many of my own peers judged and laughed at me behind my back, deeming me “unprofessional,” but no one told me for weeks that the behavior did not meet their expectations. People claimed it should have been “common sense” or that I “should have known better,” but how? No one told me!
Thankfully, a few months into the job a kind older colleague pulled me aside and told me that my work would be much more appreciated if I would keep my shoes on all day. Although it was embarrassing to hear I’d been missing the mark for those months, I was grateful to finally learn what the unspoken office expectations were even about something as unexpected as shoe etiquette. From that day on, I was sure to keep my shoes on all day. I wanted to be known for my hard work, not my shoe preferences! So be kind and clearly communicate your expectations to your new hires who likely do not “know better.”
Create Micro-Advancement Opportunities
Staff sometimes leave simply because they feel bored or stuck in a position, so create additional ways to “level up” workers who become more efficient and/or competent in their roles over time. For example, no matter the department, many roles can be separated into Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 based on technical competencies and soft skills gained. Have they become better at troubleshooting issues? Do they know how to handle frustrated guests? Can they navigate complex software with ease?
Micro-advancement levels give managers more opportunities to recognize improvement and advance the careers of their staff based on new competencies learned rather than just tenure-based milestones, which do not promote enhanced performance. Offering advancement outside an annual performance review model puts promotion in the hands of the staff who are driven and want to climb the ladder faster. Simply make the competency level requirements known and then ask staff to let their supervisors know they feel they are ready to “level up.” And yes, higher levels should align with greater compensation as well, since they are bringing more value to the organization at a high competency level.
Bring Back Management Training
Most people leave a company because they do not like their boss, and I can’t really blame them when many of those in supervisor and management roles today were promoted into their positions without being given the tools and training to be successful at the job. The workforce has shifted away from one that accepts a “because I said so” approach and instead now expects incentive-based motivation. In order to make the above initiatives successful, companies must start providing, or reinstate, more management and supervisor training to improve leaders’ effectiveness.
Do your managers understand the mindset of today’s new workers who have a different perspective on authority, work/life balance, and loyalty? Are your managers ready to manage the impending shorter-term workforce - without frustration and burnout? You can prepare them!
The Long-Term Switch is Flipping
The tidal wave of change occurring in your workplace does not have to devastate your organization or your leadership team. The sooner you embrace the new workforce and make the necessary operational adjustments needed to manage them, the sooner you will be able to regain staffing stability, recruitment traction, and financial sustainability.
But those who refuse to adjust their tenure meters and demand long-term commitment from new hires will find themselves more frustrated and less profitable in the coming years.
Remember, people don’t want to quit! But in order to encourage them to stay longer, you must create a place where people want to work and be a manager people want to work for.
Do You Know Exactly Why Staff Leave?
Too many leaders make assumptions as to why staff leave, believing it is primarily pay-related or just for better schedules, but all the staff surveys we have conducted or analyzed show that more staff leave due to their mistreatment by management, being underappreciated in their roles, and/or having no opportunities for advancement. Before you jump into retention initiatives that may or may not work, we first encourage you to gather the real, candid data about why people are leaving through anonymous employee surveys, stay interviews, or the implementation of staff councils.
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