Keeping Front Line Employees: Solutions for every hotelier's biggest problem

By Joyce Gioia CEO, Employer of Choice International, Inc. | June 19, 2011

As my profession of speaking and training takes me around the world, I ask the General Managers of hotel properties, "Where does it hurt?" Where in your organization do you experience the greatest challenges? A few, whom you will read about in subsequent columns, are such enlightened leaders that they have none to speak of. The majority, without hesitation, answer "Employee turnover in my front line: housekeepers/room attendants, bell staff, kitchen help, and often switchboard". Invariably, I make suggestions some of which you will read in this article.

One Size Does Not Fit All

First, it's important to remember that "one size does not fit all". People are individuals. What works with some won't necessarily work with others. What you will read here is a series of tips and tactics that have worked for hoteliers and restaurateurs around the world.

Understand that your employee is a person, not just a work machine. People want be treated for who they are¨Dunique and special. Wonder why the younger generations are so keen on body armor, including tattoos and piercings? It's the only way they know to express their uniqueness.

Create your Own Certifications.

Taking a page from the Ritz Carlton playbook, create your own certifications for front line employees, complete with curricula and tests (not necessarily formal). Here's an example: A First Level Housekeeper will know how to clean rooms sufficiently that s/he can work unsupervised and the room will pass inspection. Not only does this individual know how to clean each item, but s/he understands "the why" as well as the consequences of lack of attention to detail.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.