Ms. Schuler

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Does a Positive Organizational Culture Contribute to Retention?

By Cynthia M. Schuler, Human Resources Professional,

The hospitality industry is an industry known for high turnover. Employees work for lower wages than in other industries, and if a better opportunity presents itself for more money at another hotel, some employees may feel there is nothing to lose by jumping ship - unless the employee is engulfed in a positive organizational culture and the hotel invests in the employee's personal and professional growth.

While it is difficult to retain employees in the hospitality industry, it can be done. However, the organization must be committed to the following five principles:

  1. Developing values and a mission

  2. Hiring the right talent

  3. Understanding the new generation entering the job market

  4. Offering training and development opportunities

  5. Displaying positive behavior

Developing Values and a Mission

Some of the questions that must be answered by an organization in an effort to develop values and a mission are:

  1. What is the message the organization would like to communicate to its employees?

  2. What is the organization's commitment to its employees and to its customers?

  3. What separates your organization from others? What makes it unique?

  4. What will make customers return to your hotel?

Values are important because these are the principles by which employees will display their commitment to your hotel. For example, in The Ritz Carlton's Gold Standards displayed at, the standards are the foundation of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. Their Credo states:

"The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests."

While it is not imperative to develop something as formal as this, it is important to define the principles by which your employees and organization will "live." If these principles are defined and communicated to employees, a purpose exists by which others will "live" and "work" for the organization.

Hiring the Right Talent

In Justin Hoffman's May 2014 article "Secrets of the Ritz-Carlton's 'Legendary' Customer Service," he speaks about a study performed by the American Society for Quality regarding customer service. The study showed that 9 percent of customers will leave for a competitor, 14 percent will leave because of dissatisfaction with a product, and 67 percent of customers will leave because of the attitude of one person in your organization. For this reason, it is essential that hotels hire the right talent. If the right people are not hired and committed to providing excellent customer service, patrons will not likely return to the hotel.

In an article published by in March of 2015, it states that in 2014, the National Restaurant Association stated that the turnover rate for employees in the restaurants-and-accommodations sector rose for the fourth consecutive year. So, it proves true that in an effort to attract and retain the right talent in the hotel industry, recruiters must have a plan. First, the quality of candidate the hotel is looking to attract must be defined. Some important things for recruiters to consider in reviewing resumes include: 1) previous or current experience in the hotel business; 2) previous or current experience in a service industry; 3) customer service and/or quality service training; and 4) progression in a position in the service industry. Recruiters should also identify red flags such as job hopping and/or instability with respect to tenure in jobs held. Second, during the in-phone or in-person screening process, recruiters must evaluate the level of enthusiasm and excitement a candidate displays. Does the candidate have a real passion for providing service excellence? How does the candidate's current or previous service experience relate to the needs of the hotel? Does the candidate's tone indicate a level of enthusiasm? During an in-person interview, does the candidate's body language show enthusiasm for providing service excellence? Third, in conducting in-person interviews, ask behavioral questions such as the following:

  1. Describe a stressful situation you have been in at work.

  2. How did you react to that situation?

  3. How did you resolve a conflict with a guest?

  4. What could you have done differently in a difficult situation with a guest?

A candidate's behavior in a past situation will generally predict how he/she will react in a situation in the future. In asking the questions above, a recruiter will learn what the candidate perceives as "stressful," and how the candidate reacted to the situation. The recruiter will also learn what the candidate perceives as "conflict," and whether or not the candidate can accept constructive criticism or if the candidate thinks logically regarding how he/she could have possibly handled a difficult situation with a guest. In other words, the recruiter will be able to identify how the candidate behaved in past situations which will be an indicator of how that candidate will likely behave in the future if hired to work at your hotel.

Understanding the New Generation Entering the Job Market

In creating a positive organizational culture, there is also a need to understand the new generation entering the job market. Good talent can be recruited away, so making an effort to understand the new generation's wants and needs will lead to loyalty and trust between employee and employer and assist in the bottom line success of the hotel. In "Organizational Culture in the Hospitality Industry" by Colleen Reinhart, Ms. Reinhart states that in a Delta Hotels organizational profile published by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Bill Pallett, SVP of People and Quality said, "We do not have a health club. We do not have a day care center. But we have a high degree of trust between our manager and employee groups." What this means is that if there is a trust and respect between managers and employees, employees will commit to living out the mission of the hotel by displaying behavior that represents the hotel's values.

Millennials are looking for things such as a career path, professional growth and a feeling that they are valued and appreciated. They also want to know that the hotel for which they are working understands work/life balance and that the hotel supports different social causes. If managers do not fully understand these wants and needs, retention will be difficult. Offering health club discounts, offering volunteer opportunities for social causes or time off to volunteer for social causes, and offering some flexibility with schedules will assist in creating a positive organizational culture. Another way to draw Millennials in is to encourage collaboration in group meetings and acceptance and implementation of innovative ideas to assist the hotel in operating more efficiently. The market will only get tighter, and as there is less good talent to recruit, an understanding of the new generation entering the market and their wants and needs will benefit recruiters and managers in the hotel industry in the long run -- especially because research shows that they will only stay with an organization for a couple of years and move on.

Offering Training and Development Opportunities

Personal and professional training and development opportunities will also assist in creating a positive organizational culture - which will then lead to retention of good employees. If an employee feels that the organization is committed to his/her development, the employee will likely remain loyal to the hotel. As stated at, one of Marriott's core values is "We Put People First." "Take care of our associates and they will take care of the customers." This philosophy has consistently earned Marriott awards and recognition around the globe. Giving associates opportunities to grow and succeed is part of the company's DNA. In an article in in March of 2015 entitled "Why Employees Love Staying at Marriott," it states that many Marriott associates will say the best perk in working for Marriott is the opportunity to grow a career. In the same article, the General Manager at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC states that he worked his way up through sales, marketing and operations before becoming a General Manager, and that a culture of mentorship is what pulled him along. Any time an opportunity to learn new information is offered to employees, they see that the organization is invested in growing individuals personally and professionally. And those employees who are looking to grow and work for the hotel long term will appreciate that opportunity for professional development and training they may not get elsewhere.

Professional growth and training opportunities begin when an employee is hired. Start by providing a thorough new hire orientation. Allow employees proper training that will set them up for success. A thorough orientation will provide a sense of understanding of the hotel, what is expected, and it will provide a sense of comfort and confidence for new employees. Other training that could be offered is customer service or service excellence - and not just once. Ongoing training on a quarterly basis will be well received. In addition, developing an incentive for employees who display exemplary customer service may be a way to push employees to excel. Some other methods of providing professional growth could be through weekly or monthly newsletters created by the hotel, daily or weekly meetings, and other training sessions such as conferences or seminars. If the lines of communication are open and employees sense commitment to their growth, they will work hard and will most likely stay with your hotel as opposed to leaving to go work at another hotel.

Finally, empowering employees will make them feel valued. Ask for their opinion on initiatives, and instill in them that this is "their hotel" and that their contribution is a direct result to the bottom line success of the organization. If an employee feels as though their contribution to the organization affects the bottom line, they are likely to work hard and produce for the hotel. Giving an employee some authority to provide a guest with a gift certificate or a comped meal if their room service meal arrived late will provide the employee with a feeling that his/her contribution makes a difference in the success or failure of the hotel. These are just some examples of professional development and training opportunities, but the point is that if employees can sense an employer's commitment to their success, they will work hard and produce for the organization.

Displaying Positive Behavior

Displaying positive behavior is also imperative in creating a positive organizational culture. But since the hotel industry is a high turnover industry, it is even more important to display positive behavior. If your employees believe in the values and the mission of the organization, they will display the same positive behavior they see from managers and colleagues. If employees really believe in the values of the organization and they believe that their contribution directly affects the success or failure of the organization, their behavior will display their enthusiasm and commitment.

Managers should also recognize and reward individual achievements. Employees love to be recognized. Something as simple as a certificate of success or achievement is a simple acknowledgement, but announcing that employee's individual achievement can be career altering. In addition, a simple "Thank you" goes a long way. Employees who are happy will display their happiness by doing things such as teaching new employees the ropes at the hotel and by helping other employees when they are in need. That behavior will then be emulated which will create a domino effect. Living the culture is important.

So now we see how a positive organizational culture can have an impact on the success or failure of any organization. In order to retain employees in the hotel industry which is characterized as a high turnover industry, a positive organizational culture can make the difference between retaining or losing employees. While the hotel industry may remain a high turnover industry, following the principles outlined above will assist in creating a positive organizational culture. As stated in Michigan State University's online publication entitled "Organizational Culture in the Hospitality Industry" -- hospitality organizations that create an environment for establishing and maintaining quality culture are long-term survivors. If hotels develop values and a mission, hire the right talent, understand the new generation entering the job market, offer training and development opportunities, and hire talent who will display positive behavior, a positive organizational culture will exist - and if a positive organizational culture exists, employees will be happy and engaged which will result in retention of good talent.

Cynthia Schuler, PHR, SHRM-CP, CPRW is a human resources professional who has been in the field for approximately 20 years. She has observed the transformation of human resources and has a passion for sharing her experiences to assist other human resources professionals nationally and internationally. Ms. Schuler’s experience includes the oversight of the full life cycle of human resources to include talent acquisition and recruitment, onboarding, compensation administration, benefit negotiations and administration, employee relations, professional development and training, and regulatory compliance. Her experience extends beyond the basic life cycle to areas including affirmative action reporting, HRIS systems, learning management systems, applicant tracking systems, and diversity and inclusion. Ms. Schuler can be contacted at 301-343-7369 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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