Ms. Connolly

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Employee Appreciation Programs

By Zoe Connolly, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Hospitality Spotlight

Appreciation programs can range in scale and cost. They can focus on recognizing individuals, promote teamwork and/or help employees achieve goals. Before implementing a program, hotel leadership should take time to identify the areas where they are hoping for improvement. To do so, they can consider a variety of quick (but effective) steps to make these programs more effective (and therefore, more impactful in terms of ROI). For smaller operations and corporations alike, the planning phase should start with hotel managers. It's important to identify the improvement areas these key leaders believe are most critical. Is there a morale problem at their location? Are there regular personality clashes between staff members? Perhaps most importantly, what is the most common guest feedback?

For corporations, it's important that this information be gathered and analyzed. Is morale a problem across the entire company, or an isolated concern at one or two locations? Is an inability to retain great employees hampering growth efforts and ultimately hurting shareholder value?

Following are some examples of different programs that can be implemented at individual properties and initiatives that can be launched across organizations. Some of these may seem simple, or like common sense. However, as you're reading them, ask yourself how many of these "simple" programs your hotel has actually implemented. Oftentimes, a little appreciation goes a very, very long way.

Location by Location

There are obvious constraints implementing appreciation programs at each location. These range from the costs associated these types of programs to the reality that these programs are another checkbox on a team of employees' to-do lists. However, here are a few simple programs that have very limited costs, and in some cases, allows employees to work on their to-do list on the schedule they're most interested in:

  • Lunch With Another Employee - (a co-worker of the winner) and the boss- This is a perfect way to give your employee a nice meal but also chat about anything and everything. Bringing a colleague often allows people to be more forthcoming (it eliminates the awkward situation where an employee doesn't feel comfortable being open). "Lunch on the boss" can be offered as a reward for an employee who's done something exceptional. It can also be a perk in which employee names are drawn out of a hat once per month.

  • Flexible Hours - Working hard and meeting numbers is an incentive on it's own, but when it coincides with being able to work flexible hours it can be an even bigger reward. Yes, it's difficult for hotels to offer true flex-time benefits. After all, if you need to have someone on the property at all times, it isn't like you can send an overnight person to mid-days. However, sometimes these can incorporated as simply as letting someone leave a little early with the idea that they'll handle tasks like paperwork on another day when they're making up time.

  • Extra Time Off - Whether it's setting weekly goals for employees to meet and rewarding them for consistently meeting those goals, or rewarding employees for paying extra care to a particular situation, extra vacation days are one way to make a dramatic difference in employee morale.

  • VIP Parking - There is nothing better than getting to work and having the spot right next to the door. If there isn't already one there, then maybe you can get with building management to create one.

  • Field Trip - This is best for department goals. If your entire department meets quota, then a day at a ball park or maybe going to a show may make for a great reward. The team can come up with options and throw them in a bowl for a blind pick.

On a Corporate Level

Company-wide, HR teams should be aware of what managers at locations are implementing and how these programs are working. It's incumbent upon HR to share best-practices in an organization, and also to augment initiatives. For example, if, in the early planning phases, many employees identify questions about feeling like leadership has employee interest at heart, perhaps HR can work with various VP's and other executives to stop into locations for lunch and learn sessions. These can be coordinated with pre-existing travel plans, or be special "road shows" for leadership.

Some other ideas on a more corporate level might be:

  • Trip - HR can work with regional and location management to identify employees responsible for big wins, and then allow that employee to have a trip to a sister hotel, a client location or just another destination. Hotel leadership can also incorporate goals into these offerings. For example, perhaps the top manager in each region is allowed to bring their significant others on a trip.

  • Leadership Conferences - Grouping these trips into a few days of a "leadership conference" can be an exceptional reward for employees. These can be organized to include participants from all levels of a hotel's employee base, and focus groups/involvement from corporate leadership can enhance the experience. After all, there's no better to to make an employee feel "heard" than by sitting him or her at a table with peers and senior leadership and actually, well, having them be heard.

Other Considerations

In addition to the obvious considerations, such as planning travel schedules or identifying a parking spots, there are a few things leaders at hotels should do to ensure these programs are successful.

  • When starting programs, HR can, and should, work with each location to ensure variety. For example, perhaps three locations try "lunch with the boss," three try a special parking spot, and three more incorporate "old faithful" employee of the month programs. HR can use this type of A/B testing to identify which programs are most likely to be successful across their entire property base.

  • An often undervalued area for employee appreciation is the corporate call center. Generally speaking, most call centers will have implemented some of the individual location programs. However, the larger initiatives like executive meet and greets or even trips to properties can be overlooked. It's important to realize that call center teams are often 1) the first impression a guest will have of your property, and; 2) regularly your best line of defense. After all, while booking a stay may be the first reason a guest is calling your call center, the next half dozen reasons are all with some sort of issue. Making sure your team knows you care about them and appreciate the work they do can go a long way toward improving the way your guests are treated. In addition to Hotel Executive, ICMI has terrific resources for building agent appreciation programs.

  • The message conveyed through employee appreciation programs is only as strong as the method in which it is conveyed. To be successful, leadership at all levels needs to buy-in, and broadcast successes. On a micro-level, announcement of a winner is just as important, maybe even more than the prize itself. Is there a plaque for "employee of the month?" Is there a bell (which may be equal parts 'hilarious' and 'obnoxious') to recognize good work? Are managers posting pics (or Facebook check-ins) during 'lunch with the boss'? On a corporate level, HR can be a megaphone for larger initiatives, building a 'yearbook' that identifies good work from across the company and sending out regular, company-wide e-mails or LinkedIn posts to celebrate employee successes and recognition.

  • There is a movement within many corporations to incorporate various employee engagement or wellness programs that are based on points. These programs can be terrific in improving morale and promoting healthier employees. They can also be very costly. By effectively leveraging A/B testing across programs, and incorporating some of the less costly initiatives above, HR may determine their employee base is particularly apt for these types of programs or not.

  • The purpose for the recognition should always be positive. Team building events and the competition should be only aimed at promoting good work. If you see it become negative, try to figure out a way to change things around. If it's a monthly reward, limit the times a winner can win.

Effective appreciation programs come in all shapes and sizes, and costs can range dramatically. These programs can also scale with an organization, and multi-property hotels can test out different programs at different locations to see which might be most effective. Hotels that take the time to properly plan and test these initiatives will ultimately see the highest ROI, the happiest employees and the most satisfied guests.

Zoe Connolly is the co-founder and managing director for Hospitality Spotlight, a full service executive search firm for the hospitality and travel industries. For more than a decade, she’s pioneered innovative and proactive recruiting efforts, connecting the best talent with the best companies, across all levels of organizations. Currently, through working with clients like Starwood, Viceroy and Pacifica Hotels, Hospitality Spotlight has emerged as one of the go-to firms for senior level talent in the hotel and travel technology space. A refreshing combination of an expansive network and brutal honesty continues to push Ms. Connolly and her clients, both companies and candidates into a bright spotlight. Ms. Connolly can be contacted at 858-230-8501 or zoe@hospitalityspotlight.com Please visit www.hospitalityspotlight.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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