Tapping Into Your Team's Talent and Keeping Them Motivated

By Michael Haynie, SR. President, Parkway Hospitality Management | June 05, 2011

Tapping into the talent of employees and keeping them motivated are two of the most important challenges that hotel management professionals face. The public has many choices of where to spend their travel dollars and the quality of service can have a significant impact. Poor attitudes or inattention to detail can make the difference between a guest becoming a repeat visitor or trashing your hotel on travel websites and to their friends. Having a great staff is not as simple as hiring great people – of course that is part of it, but hotel management must also tap into their team's talents in strategic and creative ways in order to bring out the best in their team and keep them motivated to perform day in and day out.

First off, hotel management needs to look at creative ways to attract top talent, as there is no substitute for a quality team. One effective way of attracting recruits is through the use of social media. Posting job openings on your Facebook page and Twitter feed is a good way to attract candidates who are interested in our industry. Young graduates are increasingly turning to social media in their job searches. Depending on the position you are hiring for you may want to use social media to your advantage and see what you can learn about the candidate prior to an interview.

Employee Referral programs are also an excellent way to attract strong hires while also boosting morale within your organization. The premise of employee referral programs is that current employees are given a bonus if a person they refer to the company for employment is hired. Studies have shown that a well-designed employee referral program can produce over 70% of hires, and these hires are statistically proven to have a lower rate of attrition. This benefits everyone, as you will get talent that your quality team members have essentially endorsed and the referring employee receives a monetary bonus, which creates a positive perception of your company and builds good will with that employee.

Once you have top talent in the door it is absolutely essential they stay motivated. One in-house program that my team uses to motivate staff is Spot a Star. This program allows us to identify and recognize deserving candidates from within our organization. Our associates carry printed cards to hand out when they notice someone going above and beyond the call of duty on their own time. These associates are then identified for promotion within the organization. By rewarding our current employees and recognizing their hard work, we are able to provide them with job satisfaction and motivate them to exceed expectations.

Peer recognition and financial incentives are certainly motivators, which entice employees to shine. One strategy that we have found to be successful over the years it to identify and honor employees who are going over and above the minimum requirements for their position and representing the hotel in a positive fashion to guests. It is equally important for hotel management to have predetermined criteria, which they use to assess performance, as it is for employees to be aware that hard work and a positive attitude are rewarded. Employees who management selects to recognize are rewarded at quarterly Employee Recognition & Awards celebrations, where we award these employees of the cash prizes and plaques. The agenda for these meetings always includes games and contests among the departments. As word of the program spreads, other employees will want to know how they can be recognized and will strive to do their best to earn recognition.

On a day-to-day basis it is not necessary to reward employees with money or prizes. Management should simply go out of their way to recognize the good job they are doing and the hard work they are putting in. Give out "Thanks a million" cards, or an "I Get It, I Got It" button. These programs are instant recognitions awards for those who have been observed "doing it right."

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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.