Enhancing the Guest Experience Through Employee Retention

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | May 31, 2015

While many industries are notorious for employee turnover, it is particularly painful for hospitality, where guest service is such a crucial part of the product. How painful? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hospitality and leisure industry had the second largest number of employees voluntarily quit their jobs in 2014, with more than 6,000 people choosing to leave their current position.

One might first conclude that the recovery of the industry brought many employees new opportunities to take better offers with a competitor. After all, "once hospitality is in your blood, you don't leave," as so many in the industry like to say. However, a few years earlier, the downturn offered different evidence, as the opening of new gaming establishments were welcomed in many hard-hit markets, providing jobs for large numbers of employees who were new to the industry. Despite the persistence of high unemployment rates in 2011, new gaming openings still experienced relatively high turnover. Even with such limited alternatives, many employees simply discovered that hospitality was not for them. This challenge will persist the industry, as not only must hoteliers fill vacant positions left behind by job hoppers, but they must also fill new positions, given that the BLS projects a 0.9 percent annual growth rate for the hospitality and leisure industry between 2012 and 2022. The industry as a whole must determine how to improve employee retention and become more skilled in identifying who will truly enjoy working in hospitality in the first place.

Identifying the Impact of Turnover

Replacing an employee is not simply about selecting a new hire. Turnover is both costly and time consuming for hoteliers' human resources (HR) departments. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), direct costs to replace a member of the workforce can "reach as high as 50 to 60 percent of an employee's annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90 to 200 percent of annual salary." When considering the labor statistics cited previously, this can quickly add up to become a significant expenditure for hoteliers. If third-party recruiters or training are required each time a new position opens, this creates additional unforeseen expenses associated with onboarding a new employee. Constantly repeating the recruitment process also detracts from HR employees' ability to promote strategic business objectives, as they must dedicate a large amount of time to screening and selecting candidates.

However, the most important way that employee turnover negatively impacts the hospitality industry is through its effect on the guest. If a hotel property is understaffed, it can cause delays in services such as maintenance repairs or housekeeping rotations. Departments may overwork existing employees or struggle to complete critical tasks because there are not enough names on the payroll. If guests do not have their needs met in a timely manner, it will significantly detract from their brand loyalty and willingness to return in the future, and could potentially deter other guests with unfavorable reviews. Additionally, tenured employees typically provide better service because they are more familiar with processes, know who to contact when an issue arises, and often recognize frequent guests. In order to optimize the guest experience, hoteliers should look to create a workforce comprised of long-term, knowledgeable employees that express dedication to the organization's strategic business goals.

In today's increasingly competitive market, hoteliers must question what differentiates their customer experience from another. Many properties offer a variety of accommodations and entertainment options, so why would a guest choose one hotel brand from the next? When a single negative interaction could make the difference in a guest's brand loyalty, the importance of identifying the best and brightest job candidates becomes clear. Hoteliers across all sizes and locations share a common need to mitigate employee turnover by selecting job applicants that are most likely to be successful in a particular position.

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