While we all accept the fact that competition for customers is fierce, how much time do we spend considering the fact that competition for employees is equally brutal? More to the point, what exactly are we doing to separate ourselves from the competition for great employees just as we work to separate ourselves from the competition for customers?
Hiring staff in the hospitality industry is not a “one size fits all” challenge. Different markets, different locations, access to public transportation, etc., etc., etc. are all factors that impact our ability to hire and retain employees. Realistically speaking, it is unlikely that any of us can undo the impact of social and economic issues such as these. With that said, there are numerous other actions that we can take to make sure that those prospective employees that we recruit, or those existing employees that we want to retain, are as fulfilled as they possibly can be by the notion of employment with our properties.
As mega-award winning composer & songwriter Randy Newman says, “It’s Money That Matters.” This will always be true at all levels of employment; compensation is number one. However, leadership in our industry sometimes loses sight of the fact that it is possible for hourly associates (think servers, room attendants, warewashers, etc.) to value something more than just their hourly rate. So much attention has been paid to the development of workplace cultures and to the creation of a positive work environment. Do we seriously think that these things matter only to management, and not to our hourly colleagues? Of course they matter, but there can sometimes be a disconnect between that which we know, and that which we act upon.
Think about it this way; if we concede that hourly and junior-level wages in any given market are basically comparable to one another, do we spend any time thinking about why prospective or current employees choose to be with us? There are factors that can’t be ignored; our property is the most gorgeous, our property has a great reputation, our property is in the best location, etc. However, there are also intangibles, those traits that may be harder to quantify, that play a role in an employee’s level of workplace satisfaction.
Leadership must play an active role in all facets of the operation on an ongoing basis. So many times we’ve witnessed and participated in all-employee rallies, family picnics, and various team-building exercises that we plan for our colleagues. These are good, and offering such benefits is clearly the right thing for leadership to do. However, these activities are not nearly enough to truly create and build a culture of enthusiasm, of engagement, and of hospitality. True proactive leadership takes place from the front of the line, and it takes place on a daily basis. The leadership team of your hotel(s) needs to be actively involved with all employees regularly, and not just at the company cookout, or when the full-house commitment group is about to check in. As you are working through your strategic plans and budgets for 2018, are you working on a strategic plan to maintain and upgrade the quality, the enthusiasm, and the overall engagement of your employees?