Mr. Ellis

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Enhancing the Guest Experience Through Employee Retention

By Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality

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.

Finding a New Solution

Most organizations rely solely on traditional means of selecting job candidates, such as resumes and interviews. While they are certainly relevant, these methods typically do not provide insight into an applicant's core behavioral traits, which are the most reliable indicator of their potential success. Each hotel, and position on its staff, has a unique set of requirements and calls for a certain type of person to excel. In addition to job experience and relevant work history, hoteliers should look to assess the behavioral, cognitive and cultural traits of a candidate when selecting a new hire.

Talent science, a relatively new genre of human capital management (HCM) technology, relies on a combination of big data and performance metrics to help hoteliers make the best hiring decisions. Initially, this type of application is used to assess all current employees to establish a baseline. By examining the incumbent population with a behavioral assessment, each employee's behavioral style and characteristics, essentially their core preferences, can be identified. Simultaneously, the organization is asked to identify its top performers in each position, and their behavioral characteristics form the basis of a profile that will serve as the benchmark for all future hires in that position. Skills can be taught through training initiatives, but it is these intangible attributes, ranging from discipline and ambition to flexibility and attention to detail, that provide the real information hoteliers need to determine what will drive the individual in their work environment.

After a performance profile is generated, it allows hoteliers to more objectively identify best-fit candidates by creating a baseline from which to compare future applicants. Essentially, talent science applications establish a prediction model that allows HR managers to rely on science, rather than gut instinct hiring or resume scanning, to make hiring decisions. Every position within a hotel calls for a unique set of characteristics, which is why individual profiles for each job type are necessary. Talent science identifies the right mix of each behavioral dimension, whether it is sociability or emotional consistency, and then allows hoteliers to hire applicants that demonstrate similar behavioral dispositions.

Consider the vast number and diversity of positions within the hospitality industry. Front desk, housekeeping, maintenance - the list is lengthy. Each of these roles calls for a different type of person, and talent science provides the necessary tools to define that individual's attributes and pinpoint them within the applicant pool.

Realizing Long-Term Benefits

By objectively meeting staffing needs using talent science technology, hospitality organizations can gain a competitive advantage and realize significant long-term benefits. Interactions with employees can either create a memorable stay or prevent a guest from returning to visit, so having the right employees in place has a significant impact on the property's performance. Relying on talent science to create the best possible team of employees allows hoteliers to:

  • Eliminate high-risk candidates from the onset. By removing potentially unsuitable applications from the mix prior to an in-person interview, decision-makers can save time and avoid hiring people that may leave the company without notice or after a short time period.

  • Establish a degree of fit for both the position and company culture. By comparing applicants to the ideal profile, HR managers can assess candidates outside the scope of their standard skills and job experience before meeting face-to-face.

  • Correctly match the right person with the right position. This can seem daunting due to the vast number of roles within a single hotel, but talent science technology uses analytics to match applicant characteristics with those of high-performing employees, accurately assessing the degree of fit. In some instances, the best fit may actually be a different position than the one originally applied for.

  • Reduce employee-related costs. According to Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, many studies show that the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5 to 2x their annual salary. Relying on scientific principles increases the odds of selecting the right applicant, which helps to protect hoteliers' profitability from turnover-related expenses.

  • Save time on the administrative side. Requiring applicants to complete the behavioral assessment prior to moving forward with the next phase in the screening process saves HR employees a significant amount of time. Only candidates demonstrating the highest fit for the position will have their resumes reviewed and participate in in-person interviews. This is especially valuable during a new opening, which may attract thousands of applicants. For those that are selected, talent science applications can also generate interview questions that focus on characteristics where the fit was not ideal.

  • Create a higher performing workforce. By increasing the likelihood that best-fit candidates are selected initially, hoteliers can successfully reduce turnover. This allows organizations to create a workforce comprised of tenured, experienced employees who are better equipped to meet performance goals.

  • Optimize the guest experience. With this higher performing workforce, hoteliers are positioned to enhance the overall guest experience by providing superior service. Best-in-class properties must meet guest expectations at each point of interaction to maintain their competitive position in the market.

  • Increase revenue. Guest satisfaction has a direct impact on revenue. Establishing a reputation for excellent service will help to build brand loyalty and attract new guests, ultimately leading to heightened profits.

Consider this illustration. A general manager of a luxury hotel asks his front office manager to staff the front desk with the most ambitious, sociable people she can find, as face-to-face interaction with elite guests is their primary responsibility. This sounds like reasonable guidance, but upon hiring individuals of this nature, the front desk manager experiences high turnover because employees with very high ambition often became dissatisfied with the role quickly. Additionally, those who were too sociable did not keep the check-out lines moving fast enough. If this hotelier had utilized a talent science application, the organization could have evaluated its incumbent population of front desk agents to identify the behavioral attributes most likely to indicate success, based on assessment results in comparison to performance. HR managers would have recognized before beginning the hiring process that more modest ambition and sociability were characteristic of its existing, successful agents, and therefore would have sought similar candidates. Instead, the hotelier could have saved time and money by simply selecting the applicants that were a best-fit according to the talent science application's analysis.

Talent science technology gives hospitality organizations a new opportunity to improve employee retention and performance by separating high-potential from high-risk candidates. Hoteliers can no longer rely on past hiring methods to ensure the success of their organization. Instead, depending on big data and analytics can help organizations to create a higher performing workforce that stays on the payroll longer.

Today's guests arrive with loftier expectations and the ability to influence brand identity with the click of a button. In a world where guests search online reviews and peruse social media to make travel destination decisions, exceeding these expectations has become even more critical. With more satisfied, seasoned employees, hoteliers are positioned to improve guest satisfaction, increase revenue and ultimately differentiate themselves in today's competitive market by maintaining a reputation for superior service.

Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy for Infor Hospitality is responsible for defining the global go-to-market strategy for the entire Infor solution suite for the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry vertical. In addition to general product positioning, brand messaging, and industry relations, Mr. Ellis directly oversees product management of Infor’s hospitality-specific PMS, RMS, and POS industry applications, and pursues their tight integration with Infor’s world-class solutions.. Mr. Ellis also guides these other solution groups on the “last mile” functionality required to achieve specialized hospitality editions that outperform best-of-breed industry solutions, yet are still cost-effective to implement. With his launch of Infor CloudSuite™ Hospitality in 2014, Mr. Ellis marked over 15 years of evangelizing SaaS solutions. Mr. Ellis can be contacted at 202-232-3839 or bernard.ellis@infor.com Extended Bio...

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