How well do you manage your most important assets?

There’s a lot of chatter these days about progressive work cultures. It’s easy to get lost in it. Should we be supplying our team with free organic smoothies every day? What about carwashes, guest speakers or massage therapy? Are we on the wrong side of history if our employees don’t spend half the day playing table tennis in Hawaiian shirts?

The reality is, we can’t all be Google. Working in a hotel can be one of the most demanding jobs around, and fires are constantly being put out. Sometimes it seems the only thing one can expect in this industry is the unexpected.

At the same time, hotels can’t deny the importance of creating a place that people really want to work. When it becomes apparent that people are the building blocks of a successful hospitality business, it becomes obvious that attracting the right talent to your hotel is just as important as having a solid physical foundation for the property itself. All of this talk about creating a “cool” work culture becomes a million times more interesting.

In reality it’s all about moving from a defensive to a proactive stance in terms of talent management. Being defensive might allow you to build a team who meet your minimum requirements. Being proactive can get you a team who are motivated, skilled, inspired to put more in and get more out. This flows directly into work performance and interactions between staff and guests. It feeds into every area of your business that matters.

For any hotel manager or owner who becomes convinced of this, the question becomes a very simple ‘how do I do it’?

One of the first steps to evolve your work culture is to understand employee turnover. Hotels put a lot of energy into finding out why guests come and go, and what makes them tick. The same effort (if not more) should be put into understanding why employees leave and why they stay. Exit interviews are invaluable, even if they may not always be pleasant. In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s not even unheard of to track down former team members and ask why they like their current job more. The insights you glean from this type of analysis and conversation can reveal the chinks in the armour and give you a clear direction for improvement. And from a cost perspective, many studies have shown that the cost of employing and training a new staff member far outstrips the cost of keeping and motivating a good existing one.

Aligning your hotel with social responsibility, i.e. positioning yourself as a value-oriented organization, is another channel to the talent you want. Recent studies show that as millennials take over the workforce, more and more talent will flow toward organizations that strive to make a difference in this world of ours.

This may sound generic and corny, but the implications are not. For today’s (and tomorrow’s) top talent, work is not an inherently selfish pursuit however the talent does want to work a company where the values are aligned. Companies that lack a strong commitment to the environment, social justice, or similar causes will have the appearance of being insular, isolated and static. When a hotel plays a dynamic role and maintains meaningful connections to the community, talented people will see dynamic and expansive possibilities for themselves. They’ll see a meaningful input for their talents.

Giving your online recruitment presence a makeover is another practical step. There are a lot of boring career pages out there, full of lifeless jargon that doesn’t really connect. Many hotels have found increased success by infusing their recruitment pages with meaningful storytelling, including insights from current team members, infographics, video, and other content that sends a fresh and modern message about why talented people should want to join your team. Another novel thought is to be honest about the job. If housekeeping requires strong physical stamina then say so! There is no point painting a picture of relaxed cleaning when the job requires a lot of get up and go. It can always be portrayed in a positive light, but don’t tell people the role is one thing when it is not or they will soon be gone.

Lifestyle perks like the ones mentioned in the beginning of this post are always a hot topic, even if they’re not the best place to start. Riot Games, a notable gaming company, gives its team members an annual allowance to purchase games from other firms. It’s fun, desirable, and it helps the company as a whole to better understand the industry and competition.

Many hotels insist their staff stay in the hotel within the first few months and then ask for feedback on what they liked or disliked It provides staff with a unique insight into the guest experience that can’t be shown from a training video. (And that includes administration staff as much as front of house) What about finding a way to give people more flexibility in their working hours or partnering with local businesses or tour companies to provide some fun perks for your team members.

Hotels will never be able to provide the private golf course membership or the ability to leave the work space for a thinking pod. But we can take a page, however small, from that playbook. Or we can simply let the brightest young hotel professionals take their talents elsewhere.


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