Ms. McDargh

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Retention & Recruitment: Lessons from Your Guests

Flipsides of the Same Coin: Getting and Keeping Employees and Guests

By Eileen McDargh, Principal, The Resiliency Group & McDargh Communications

Co-authored by Dr. Beverly Kaye, Founder of Career Systems International

We both travel much in our work as consultants and keynote speakers. We watch for ideas to help our clients create environments that support, nurture, and retain talent. We seek insights to nurture resilient organizations that grow through engagement challenges. We realize one source of continual insights often comes from our experience as guests in hotels around the world.

When asked to write this article, our collective brains hit upon an idea that many of you already have in place: superb training to enhance the guest experience and encourage repeat visits.

We marvel at the "guest" training that hotel employees receive and we wonder why we aren't doing a better job of treating our employees as "guests." Think about it: We want our employees to return day in and day out (just like a guest) We want them to feel as though the organization needs, values and respects them (just like a guest). We want employees to spread the word about the great place they work -just like we want a guest to speak highly of our property. What if those same methods were used with employees.

Eric Schmidt, co-founder and co-author of the book, Google, pulls no punches when he states that mangers spend a lot of time in the hiring process to recruit just the right person. " How do they pay you back? By leaving. That's right. News Flash: When you hire great people, many may come to realize that there is a world beyond yours. This isn't a bad thing...it's an inevitable by product of a healthy, innovative team. Still, fight like hell to keep them."

The hospitality field for HR professionals is being slammed with the need to replace an aging workforce, find and develop talent among significantly different generations of workers, create career paths to grow the next generation of leaders, plus measure and manage budgets that must be justified for recruitment and retention. Getting these tasks done-tasks that will result in a vibrant, resilient organization--seems overwhelming. Yet, it is often the elegant, simple approach to keeping and attracting talent that wins the day.

We offer this article as a stimulus to your thinking. You do have to fight day in and day out to attract and keep good talent. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Create an Experience Where Employees Feel Welcomed and Valued

Hotel service providers are trained to know guests' names, look in their eyes, thank them for coming. Sounds trite. But consider this. In one hotel we visited, housekeeping's main request was that the general manager acknowledge them and call them by name. Small gestures go a long way. Think how you train the front desk, the bell help, the wait staff to interact with guests. Why not make that standard protocol for interacting with one another? Many hotels have a 10-5 rule that applies to contact with guests. Basically, when you are 10-feet away, smile! When you are five feet away offer a warm and sincere greeting. We know of organizations who have adopted this same practice with employees.. People are more likely to stay where they feel appreciated and recognized. Put down the cell phone and look at your staff-all of them and all the time.

Ask What Can Be Done to Improve the Employee Experience

We do it for guests but we rarely take the time to do this with employees. We're afraid they will ask for more money. (This article is predicated on the premise that each property is paying a living wage that matches the cost of living in a specific area. A living wage in Des Moines will look different from a living way in Los Angeles.) The reality is that our research shows employee requests are more often about wanting to develop personally, learn more, and increase skill sets. Millennials also seek the challenge of new assignments and want to be asked for their ideas and shown how they can advance.

These first two ideas are important for HR to keep employees because these employees will talk about your property. The word of mouth goes out on the street. That's called your brand. The best recruiters are found in your current talent pool-if that talent pool is excited and incentivized to bring in good people as co- workers.

Involve Your Employees in Hiring

If you seek more Millennials, ask them what would attract their peers to the field. In fact, train them in the hiring process. First, it will help the employee understand all that goes into hiring and why the loss of talent can be significant. Also, if the employee has performed the job that is now open, she might offer superb insights to the hiring manager.

Create an Each-One-Reach-One Recruiting Program

Just as guests can be rewarded for spreading the "positive gossip" about a particular hotel, so too can employees become the best source for finding new talent. Decide how to reward employees who bring in colleagues for work. Such a system works best if the new employee stays past a probationary period and then the older employee is rewarded. This also incentive the older employee to help the new employee succeed. In many hotels there is a "buddy system" in place the minute the new recruit begins the job. The job of the buddy is to re-recruit the new hire and to serve as a go-to person.

Seek Feedback on a Regular Basis

Ask, "what would make this a great place to work?" "What do you think could improve our hotel?" But listening is more than nodding of the head and moving on. Everyone wants to feel heard, understood and served. This does not mean putting up an employee suggestion box that more often than not, is considered a joke and a monument in wasted paper. Action and responses are critical. Let people know what insights you can use and if you can't, why not.

Regularly Conduct "Stay" Interviews with Your Key Talent

Sadly, managers often are caught by surprise when talent leaves. Why wait for insights at the exit interview? That's too late. The concept of a stay interview was first explored in Bev's co-authored book, Love'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay. The premise is simple. A manager has a conversation that asks the employee what will keep him engaged and on the team. Why wait until it's too late. The other benefit is that this lets a talented employee know how much he is valued. We believe you ask early, ask often and ask in a straightforward manner.

Create a "Mystery Employee" Task Force

Just as mystery shoppers report their experience as a shopper, so too can a mystery employee report what the different jobs are like and how to create meaningful improvements and changes. As a variation on this theme, Southwest Airlines has a program in which executives are required to work at a job that is not theirs. Imagine what the vice president of operations learned when he volunteered for the day to deliver mail through corporate headquarters! And what message did that send to everyone that EVERY job is important. Those who watch the popular TV show, Undercover Boss, will smile in understanding this strategy.

Co-create a Compelling Vision of Employee Hospitality

Your co-creators are the men and women at different levels of the organization. This is not driven by some corporate mandate and-particularly in a chain or franchise operation-not standardized by a plaque on the wall. Let it be personal to your people and your geography. What if there was a vision about how employees are individually valued? How would you know it if you saw it?

Seek Personal Connections with Your Employees

They crave it. Just like you keep lists of what returning guests want for amenities, do you know what your employees want? Bellhop George loves the Bengal Tigers. Surprise him with a Bengal ball cap. Receptionist Mary cares for her aging mother. Surprise her with a container of soup to take home for dinner. Talk about good will! Positive gossip. The key here is surprise - nothing regular but, rather spontaneous and genuine. Remember a pat on the back is a long way from a kick in the pants-and generates far greater results.

Develop Them

Ask what people are interested in. Note the words are "interested in". Skill level is not as potent as interest. One hotel had a talented maître d. What he was most interested in was the world of wine. The general manager stated he would help the young man take the appropriate classes and in exchange, the maître d had to find and train his replacement when it was time to become the sommelier. In Eileen's new book Your Resiliency GPS, she recommends individuals unstick their thinking and that managers help them by asking recalculating questions.

What is Your Employee Service Strategy?

Every hotel has a service strategy! Hotels have a whole set of do's and don't for providing service to guests. What if there was an "employee service strategy". One hotel chain that we frequent has a care package for families with kids. It contains extra towels, water, and a simple game for children of any age. If there are care packages for guests, why not care packages for employees.

Huddle for Help

Hotels are known for their huddles. Consider if managers would huddle with their direct reports every day. Or once a week. But unlike the football huddle where the quarterback is directing the plays, allow everyone a voice. Or trade off and create a "quarterback" of the week. Also, make it cross functional. Why shouldn't a reservation agent know what is on the mind of a bell captain. Huddles are usually 15-20 minutes and expectations for the day are shared. Small wins and big wins are shared too. How might leaders make huddles more positive, more like energy builders versus energy drainers. Non-customer-facing employees need huddles too.

Find the Fun

Millenials know it. Life is too short for boring work, dry conversations, and rigid systems. Look at the new concepts in hotels that are being redesigned to attract younger guests. Spaces are open, airy, and conducive for conversation and gatherings. And laughter. At one resort property, the director of marketing came into work around the Easter season in a full bunny costume, giving out candy. No one knew who it was and everyone had a great time guessing. Another property adapted the "Elf on the Shelf" concept. Over the holiday season, housekeeping hid "the elf" in different places with prizes for whomever found it. The top companies listed as great places to work all rank high on their fun quotient. The hospitality industry should be no exception.

Hospitality is a word that comes from the 14th Century Middle English and means to care for, to make welcome, to value. Guests seek that. And so do our employees.

alt text Dr. Beverly Kaye co-authored this article. Dr. Kaye is founder of Career Systems International. She was named the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award by ASTD. Dr. Kaye is recognized for her groundbreaking body of work and the significant impact she has had on learning and performance in the workplace. Bev is the author of Up Is Not The Only Way and co-author of "Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay" the Wall Street Journal best-selling book, co-authored with Sharon Jordan-Evans as well as "Love It Don't Leave It". Her book, "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go" was released in 2012, and her newest book (coming in May 2015) is titled "Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss: A Manager's Playbook". Her firm, Career Systems International, has worked with the Fortune 500™ and continues to invent, create and design systems and strategies in development, engagement & retention.

Eileen McDargh is the founder and CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of The Resiliency Group and McDargh Communications. Ms. McDargh helps organizations and individuals energize the life of their business and the business of their life by developing skills to respond to constantly changing professional and personal demands. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Ms. McDargh can be contacted at 949-496-8640 or eileen@eileenmcdargh.com Extended Bio...

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Feature Focus
Guest Service: The Personalized Experience
In the not-too-distant future, when guests arrive at a hotel, they will check themselves in using a kiosk in the lobby, by- passing a stop at the front desk. When they call room service to order food, it will be from a hotel mobile tablet, practically eliminating any contact with friendly service people. Though these inevitable developments will likely result in delivered to their door by a robot. When they visit a restaurant, their orders will be placed and the bill will be paid some staff reduction, there is a silver lining – all the remaining hotel staff can be laser-focused on providing guests with the best possible service available. And for most guests, that means being the beneficiary of a personalized experience from the hotel. According to a recent Yahoo survey, 78 percent of hotel guests expressed a desire for some kind of personalization. They are seeking services that not only make them feel welcomed, but valued, and cause them to feel good about themselves. Hotels must strive to establish an emotional bond with their guests, the kind of bond that creates guest loyalty and brings them back time and again. But providing personalized service is more than knowing your guests by name. It’s leaving a bottle of wine in the room of a couple celebrating their anniversary, or knowing which guest enjoys having a fresh cup of coffee brought to their room as part of a wake-up call. It’s the small, thoughtful, personal gestures that matter most and produce the greatest effect. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.