Is April the New January Staff Turnover?
By Zoe Connolly, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Hospitality Spotlight
Traditionally, hotels were most exposed to staff turnover in January, a timeframe directly after the holiday season had ended and corresponding holiday bonuses had been paid out. Today however, as many large hotels report their annual earnings in March, the timeline has shifted, and hotel leaders find themselves facing uncertain employee retention issues as we enter the second quarter of the year.
This happens for a few different reasons. In some cases, this happens because employees tend to hang on to roles until directly after a large bonus (this is standard across a variety of industries). In others, it has to do with employees feeling the stress that can come with earnings season (leadership in large hotels often neglects to explain how a bad financial quarter may not actually be the end of the world). Regardless, this new timeline is creating headaches and opportunities alike, for small and large hotels as well as employees.
For Large Hotels
It's important for leaders at large hotels to understand turnover begets turnover, and can dramatically impact their staff. When a well-liked (or well-respected) employee leaves for a new opportunity, it's common for other to follow their lead, leaving hotels exposed on a variety of fronts:
Hiring and training replacements takes time. While a two-week notice is typical in the industry, it's virtually never enough time to adequately find and instruct new hires. With multiple departures, this impact is magnified dramatically, as there are less 'veterans' available to pick up the slack while new hires are being integrated.
Staff morale can be greatly diminished during times of turnover. When co-workers are leaving, it can often feel like "work families" are being broken up. Beyond productivity, the emotional toll caused by staff turnover can hinder guest experiences. After all, a staff full of unhappy employees is unlikely to exceed their guest expectations.
For hotel managers, it is critical to remain calm during these times, but also convey the sense of urgency to the remaining staff. Someone will need to pick up the slack, and this can mean an opportunity for leftover employees to earn bigger roles. However, while this means a chance for growth, doing more work in a typical shift or taking on more shifts can easily burn out an upcoming staff member; hotel leadership needs to walk the line between offering new opportunity and asking too much of their employees. Another key tip for hotel leaders is to always be interviewing candidates. It can be very time consuming to have conversations with candidates when a hotel isn't actively searching for a new hire. However, keeping a file of strong candidates can lessen the time it takes to find and onboard a new hire. So can employee referrals. It may seem obvious, but employees who refer their friends or past-colleagues for a role tend to stay on longer than employees who don't.
Of course, prior to arriving at the point where it feels like employees are jumping ship, major hotels should look for ways to increase employee engagement to retain their talent. This can be through obvious means, like offering raises. It can also be through less straightforward approaches (link to previous story); flex time, free lunch and premium parking spots can go a long way toward improving employee morale.
The same can be said of formal (and informal) reviews. Asking employees if they feel as though they're receiving the proper level of training, or appropriate level of management support, can help to stem the tide of employee turnover.
For Small Hotels
Small hotels need to look at April as a time to bring in additional, high quality staff. Generally speaking, if employees at large hotels are looking for a change, it can be simple to recruit these folks. A recent study by LinkedIn showed that the biggest driver of employee turnover is opportunity for advancement. For smaller properties, where each employee can have a far greater impact, there will never be a shortage of growth opportunities.
Positioning this fact can be critical. On one hand, it is important not to make it seem as though the current management lacks competence. On the other, candidates want to understand how their contributions will be viewed, and how they can move up their individual career ladder. This is particularly true in the interview process. A hotel manager can highlight some of the increased responsibilities they are offering a candidate, while also explaining where these responsibilities come from. For instance, a manager may talk about offloading a portion of their role (overseeing the front desk), but also explaining that the time saved by offloading this responsibility will be used in some other critical endeavor (taking on more oversight of a maintenance project). With this approach, a manager can provide a line of sight to personal growth, without undermining their own credibility.
April can be a great time for small hotels to identify gaps in their current staffing. For instance, they may identify a need for more marketing support. By building specialties into their job descriptions, they can provide candidates with personal growth opportunity while also strengthening the hotel's overall position. It isn't uncommon for employees at smaller properties to wear multiple hats. Highlighting this as a benefit, and a clear path to growth, can be the difference between attracting mediocre candidates and incredible new hires.
It is easy to look at April as the ideal time to get out there and search for a new role. After all bonuses have just been paid, other hotels will be lining up to hire new talent. However, before jumping the gun and firing off their notice, employees should take a second to understand their position. As an employee, are you happy with your day to day, but hoping for more responsibility? Is your boss a good leader, but you somehow wish that you were accumulating more skills? These are conversations that employees should have with themselves, and based on the results, perhaps even have with their employer.
It is important to be forthcoming when deciding if it's time to look for a new job. Employees should think about projects they were assigned where they weren't as successful as possible. Was that because of poor leadership? Were they given too much work? Or, perhaps, should they have tried harder or asked for help? Finally, employees should consider whether other departures might open up new opportunities.
No hotel is excited to lose good people, and strong managers will generally appreciate when employees come to them and ask for more responsibility. This can lead to discussions about employee strengths and weaknesses, while also drawing a line to the next role with a current employer. Manager feedback can, and should, come regularly, as opposed to some sort of formal annual review.
Alternatively, if this self dialogue makes apparent that it is time for a new role, this is a great time to be looking. Connect with other professionals in your personal network to see if they are aware of any opportunities (and don't be afraid to engage with a recruiter… They can be invaluable in getting your name and resume in front of the appropriate contacts).
An employee who decides to look for a new role can do a few things to make themselves more viable candidates. Classes and certification programs, offered internally and externally, can go a long way toward differentiating between potential hires. The same can be said of quantifiable results. Before going on a single interview, candidates should also think about concrete examples and tangibles results that they can claim as their own.
For many in the travel industry, April's showers can see nearly impossible to overcome. However, the so-called May flowers can result in improvements across each type of property. For large hotels, this might manifest itself as improved employee engagement. At smaller hotels, this can show up in the form of new hires who are experienced and ready to tackle new challenges. For employees, April can ultimately be a very exciting time, albeit one that should lead to self-reflection in order to determine their next steps (and avoid ending up feeling like an April Fool).
Employees and hotel leadership alike should look at April as an opportunity to further develop career paths, either through open and honest dialogue that clearly establishes next steps within a career path, or through a change in role. For management, this can be a difficult consideration; are they willing to part with proven employees? For employees, of course, changing jobs can be stressful. For the employees who aren't changing roles, the collateral damage of seeing their colleagues depart can have grave consequences.
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 email@example.com Please visit www.hospitalityspotlight.com for more information. Extended Bio...
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