Upward Mobility: How to Recognize and Reward Employees Who Deserve It

By Tom Conran Principal, Greenwood Hospitality Group | March 22, 2020

This article was co-authored by Kelly Viscount, Corporate Director of Human Resources, Greenwood Hospitality

The hospitality industry has always had a peculiar relationship with the labor market. On one hand, hospitality is unrivaled when it comes to growth opportunities, with many industry leaders starting their careers in entry level positions before working their way to the top. Simultaneously, hotels grapple with some of the highest employee turnover rates on record. But this doesn't have to be the case. By recognizing star employees at an early point in their career, hotels can retain key team members while setting a solid example for future generations of workers. All it takes is a keen eye, and a desire to extend the spirit of hospitality beyond the guest experience to your employees.

First of all, how significant is hospitality's labor shortage? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover program, as of 2018 hospitality turnover in the U.S. was in excess of 70 percent four years in a row. This number is high, but it has the potential to climb even higher. For example, while turnover reached 73 percent in 2018 it reached 80 percent in pre-recession 2007.

It's clear that retaining employees in low-level positions is difficult, but are hotels doing enough to keep a handle on their most skilled employees? In many cases, the answer is no. Hotel employees are often confronted with long hours and difficult challenges, from unruly guests to daily unexpected complications. These workers are forced to think on their feet while remaining hospitable at all times, and if they feel undervalued or encounter resistance from management they may choose to take their skills elsewhere- skills they gained working in your property. There are ways to keep these employees engaged with your property, just as your guests are, but they require foundational changes to the way hotel operators approach the business.

More Than the Money

While it is true that one of the best ways to attract and retain stellar employees is to offer competitive wages, the hotel industry has long provided wages higher than the national average and yet high turnover continues to persist. The reality is that increasing wages will attract more prospective employees, but they are far from the only way to attract- and recognize- rising stars.

First, hotel operators must think about what their competition is doing to recognize their employees, and think outside of the box about what they can do to set their property apart from the pack. Yes, everyone wants a higher wage, but it is important to identify what your property is lacking and meet employees on equal ground.

One way to understand where your property stands with its team is to hold exit interviews between departing employees and your human resources department. This is an excellent opportunity to dive into the reasons for their leaving, what (if anything) the hotel can do to keep them, and whether or not the employee would ever consider coming back in the future. The answers to these questions can sometimes be difficult to hear, but confronting your property's shortcomings is a key component to maintaining strong employee relationships, especially if the issues are related to policy or management strategies.

The Grass is Always Greener

In many cases, employees resign because they have been presented with a better opportunity elsewhere. There are only so many positions open in a hotel at any given time, and sometimes it becomes difficult, or even impossible, to provide exactly what every one of your employees is seeking. However, it is always possible to sew the seeds of growth, setting up your rising stars for future success should they choose to stay on. The key is to recognize these rising stars before other opportunities find them, and provide them with room for growth within your organization.

This presents several challenges for hotel leadership. First, how do you recognize potential star employees while they are growing? The hotel industry has long boasted that it can train anyone to be a leader as long as they possess interest, passion, and a hospitality mindset. What that mindset looks like will be different depending on the hotel, but it is often not something that can be learned. Once these qualities are recognized in an employee, operators should do their best to foster growth within that employee regardless of if a position is open for them.

There are a variety of ways to cultivate talent early on, but the process begins at orientation. Managers should be present at every orientation. That way all employees are immediately familiar with leadership. Just as it is important for the general manager to walk the floor and talk with guests, managers and front-line employees should have a relationship where they can share information and speak without fear of reprisal.

Another way to grow and retain talent is through an apprenticeship program. Operators are free to create their own programs, but existing options can be found through organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Through offering apprenticeships, hotels are able to test employees for the qualities required to be leaders in this industry, while letting star talent know they are valued even if a position is not immediately available. By rewarding passion with training and industry insights, hotel leadership can demonstrate how they value  and invest in their key team members, creating a bond for the future.

For smaller hotel companies, or even individual properties, this apprenticeship strategy can be implemented even without a full program. Allowing outstanding employees to shadow more senior team members is a helpful way to recognize two employees at the same time. In this way, more inexperienced workers are able to invest in their own personal growth while senior staff put their knowledge to the test and grow as mentors. These mentors can also help alleviate some of the needs facing hotel operators by creating an additional person for fledgling hotel workers to come to when in need.

Taking Action

Promoting "employee empowerment" has become an ugly buzzword, but the concept remains sound when implemented correctly. So many companies fall short of actually empowering their employees because so few employees actually understand the concept. Too often employee sentiment boils down to "Empowered to do what?" If you don't understand your options, you are ill-equipped to do the job.

Hospitality is a demanding profession. There are many people who enter the hotel industry and are thrown onto the floor before they understand what is fully required of them. If these employees were better trained from the start, and this training was reinforced, they would be better positioned for success and more likely to find enjoyment in their job. In a world of high turnover, this can sometimes seem like a suggestion when it could be the root of your problems.

Orientation should not be fleeting. Nothing about hospitality can be learned in a day or two. Topics such as how to speak to guests, how to greet and welcome visitors to the property, and how to deal with unexpected challenges are all important facets of hotel operations, and that is just scratching the surface. Seasoned hotel professionals may think the basics come naturally, but in many cases a two-week orientation can be the difference between an early dismissal and the creation of a new rising star within your organization.

A substantial orientation should be followed up with on-the-job training that persists for several months. New hotel employees cannot properly serve guests without training of this kind. This includes meetings with the property general manager to understand the goals of your organization, and also as a check-up to see how specific employees are acclimating to the hotel and understand how they can personally improve.

An employee is only truly empowered when they understand what they are fully capable of. This is an ongoing effort, but the reward for seeing it through is a team member who can think on their feet and provide exactly what is necessary to improve the guest experience and keep your property running efficiently. The alternative is under-training, which can cost you future guests as well as current employees.

A Culture of Retention

Lastly, consider the importance of a strong company culture as a means to retain staff. The current generation of workers value a healthy work/life balance, which is something the hospitality industry has struggled to provide. A healthy and welcoming company culture can help set you apart from your competition when attracting employees, particularly through word-of-mouth and referrals.

Developing a culture can be difficult because it is easy for the result to come off as artificial or contrived. In order to develop and retain an authentic culture, identify some limited by key components for your properties to focus on (trust or open discussions, for example), and then give individual properties the freedom to form a culture of their own.

The goal of a culture is to celebrate employees and create ambassadors to represent your properties. Money and benefits may attract workers, but the reason most team members choose to leave their positions is often because they do not feel appreciated, or they feel disconnected from management. Your property's budget may not be flexible, but the way you treat your employees is. Find ways to understand them, cultivate their strengths, improve upon their weaknesses, and celebrate their achievements. As part of the spirit of hospitality, we owe this to our employees.

Ms. Viscount This article was co-authored by Kelly Viscount. Ms. Viscount is a graduate of the University of Maryland, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Human Resources Management. She also has a Certificate of Human Resources Management from Villanova University. Ms. Viscount began her hospitality career at the Hilton Harrisburg in 1990. She worked in the Front Office until 1994 when she transferred to the Human Resources department. She was promoted to Human Resources Manager in 1996. With the addition of the Hilton Garden Inn in 1999, she was promoted to Director of HR overseeing both properties. Ms. Viscount was promoted to Corporate Director of HR for Harrisburg Hotel Corporation in 2005, overseeing its 5 properties. In 2014, Ms. Viscount joined the Greenwood Hospitality team as the Corporate Director of Human Resources. She was promoted to Vice President of Human Resources in July of 2017.  

Mr. Conran Tom Conran serves as a Principal of Greenwood Hospitality Group, where he is responsible for strategic investments and third-party hotel management assignments. Mr. Conran has more than 30 years of hospitality experience in the management, finance, and real estate sectors. Prior to Greenwood, Mr. Conran served as Vice President of Business Development for Richfield Hospitality. He expanded the Richfield management platform to include hospitality investments and acquisitions. At Richfield and its predecessor companies, Mr. Conran held several key responsibilities, including sales and marketing, property management transitions, and client relations within the management portfolio. Mr. Conran earned a Bachelor's Degree from Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. Mr. Conran was a founding member of Meetings Planner International in Hartford, CT and he currently serves on the Owners' Advisory Board of Doubletree Hotels. Mr. Conran can be contacted at 860-648-9040 or tconran@greenwoodhospitality.com Extended Biography

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In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Zoe Connolly

"We are in uncharted territory, but we also know that this crisis will pass. The hospitality industry has weathered many a storm and will continue to do so. We are a resilient, imaginative and eminently human industry and by working together and acting swiftly, we can plan successfully for the upturn," writes Pedro Colaco, CEO and Founder of Guestcentric Systems. In this article, he shares how Guestcentric is working closely with the hospitality industry and tech leaders to build for a brighter future, launching the non-profit Rooms Against Covid to support relocated healthcare professionals as they tackle the crisis head-on. READ MORE

Brandon Billings
Theresa van Greunen
Lisa Cain
Court Williams
Renie Cavallari
Stephanie Smith
Susanne Carter
Stephanie Hilger
Peter O'Connor
Coming up in May 2020...

Eco-Friendly Practices: Creative Innovation

Being eco-friendly is no longer a fad. It is an urgent planetary need and hotels are actively doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint by implementing sustainable, green practices. In addition to the goodwill derived from doing the right thing, hotels are also realizing the benefits to their business. A large percentage of Millennials expect hotels to be eco-friendly and will only patronize those properties that are proudly conforming. Consequently, more hotels are realizing that sustainability is a key element in a successful branding strategy. In addition, going green can lead to a more profitable bottom line, as savings on electricity, water and cleaning materials can add up. Also, there are other advantages that come with being an eco-friendly business, such as government subsidies and tax and loan incentives. As a result, many hotels are finding innovative ways to integrate eco-friendly practices into their business. Geo-thermal energy systems, along with energy-from-waste systems, are being used to heat and cool the property. Passive solar panels, green roofs, natural lighting and natural ventilation strategies also assist in energy conservation. Low-flow water systems and plumbing fixtures make a contribution, as does eco-friendly hardwood flooring, and energy efficient televisions and appliances throughout the property. In addition, some hotels have implemented in-room recycling programs, and only provide all-natural, personal care items. One hotel has actually constructed a bee-keeping operation on their grounds. Not only is this good for the bees but the hotel also produces products from the operation which they sell. This kind of creative innovation also holds enormous appeal to guests. 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.