5 Reasons Good Employees Leave Hotels

Productive, trustworthy employees are getting hard to find and harder to keep.

Hotels invest significant amounts of money and time to recruit, hire and train employees, often using recent developments in advertising (social media), technology (online applications), and psychology (personality and behavioral assessments). So why is it that hotels—after hiring and training—still manage people like they are operating in the 1950s?

From my interactions with hotel operators and hotel employees for the past 30 years, a disconnect continues to exist between those operators and their employees; and that disconnect is primarily driven by the operators’ inability or unwillingness to recognize, comprehend and meet the basic needs of employees.

Below, I have set out 5 reasons why hotels lose their good and often best employees.

1. Not scheduling in advance
As challenging as it may be, hotels must provide employees with their schedules at least two weeks in advance, and three weeks in advance for the holiday season. Employees have lives outside the workplace, and they want to plan those lives. If you are not using a cloud-based scheduling app, then you are way behind the curve on this. Bottom line: by scheduling in advance, you demonstrate to your employees that you care about them; employees do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

2. Lousy paid time off (PTO)
A hotel with a shoddy PTO policy reminds me of the last economic crash in 2008 when hotel companies would not allow their employees to travel while simultaneously besmirching the general public and other businesses that cut their travel budgets. Generous PTO is a magnet for good employees, even if it is “use it or lose it” so it does not accrue (a good policy for small operators).

Bottom line: PTO is good for employees, good for productivity and good for the business.

3. Not holding employees accountable
It is often amazing how long hotels take to separate from poor employees. Hold employees accountable to core values and performance targets from the get-go. If they do not comply or perform, coach them and develop a performance improvement plan, then support their development. If it does not work, it is time to go! No more warnings, no suspensions (which is an obsolete tool and creates chaos for the business)—accept the fact that you made a poor hire and ease on down the road, Dorothy.

Bottom line: Good employees like to work with other good employees; if you are not holding your poor performers accountable, your good performers will walk, leaving you with a whole team of poor performers.

4. Not embracing remote work stations
Seriously what is the hold up here? Do you have trust and control issues? Assuming you are utilizing cloud-based platforms (if you are not, stop reading this and learn about them now), working remotely is ideal for marketing, sales, revenue and accounting staff.

I’ve heard of abysmal decisions by hotel sales departments during the last weather challenge in Houston. We had ice and snow, which we never have, so people do not know how to deal with it much less drive in it. The mayor was advising everyone to stay home, but traditional hotel sales execs were pressuring their staff to venture in, telling them to bring a bag to stay overnight in case they could not get back home. This was zero notice for non-essential personnel (or alternates for essential personnel) that had children and pets.

This behavior was incredibly shortsighted and deplorable, putting their employees’ lives at risk for zero benefit; even worse, it was premeditated, not spontaneous split-second decision making. It also demonstrated a total lack of empathy for employees and their lives outside the workplace.

Bottom line: Working remotely, with the right people, the right guidelines, and the right oversight increases productivity and makes for much happier employees.

5. Not being sensitive to employees’ physical health
There are two primary situations at the front desk that stand out here: one is insisting that front-desk associates stand at the desk throughout their shift. Is this some kind of acid test? I hear from many front-desk associates that the standing created leg and back challenges for them and ultimately led to their leaving the hotel and most often the industry.

Over the last 20 years, when I have brought it to the attention of GMs, the response I often hear is “Well, that is what I had to do, so they should, too.” What a ridiculous justification for continuing to insist on an archaic and unhealthy practice (keep in mind that it was reported during the Iraq War that the U.S. used standing for eight hours at a time as a method to break down the enemy during interrogation sessions).

The second situation is stationing smoking and vaping areas near the front entrance. The secondhand smoke and vape (both poison) drifts right into the desk area and, since breathing is not voluntary, the desk agents are forced to breathe it in. This is a reprehensible practice that also alienates customers. Smoke and vapor drift up to 200 feet; please do the math. You would never allow someone to stand at your entrance with a spray bottle of poison misting guests and employees, and yet, that is exactly what you are doing when you allow smoking and vaping near entrances and exits.

I encourage you to immediately add e-cigarettes and vaping to your no-smoking prohibitions in public areas, guestrooms, registration cards and websites. Then strongly consider making your entire premises tobacco and vapor free. You will be amazed how positively it will impact your employees and bottom line; because how often does a decision please 87% of your target market?

Stephen Barth

Stephen Barth, an attorney, professor, and author of Hospitality Law, Intelligent Emotions: On Self Responsibility, Owning Our Emotional Power and Changing Our Reactions, and co-author of Restaurant Law Basics, is well-versed in the world of hospitality law. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Houston, Conrad N. Hilton College, he was an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University. With over twenty years of experience in hospitality operations, including line positions, management, and ownership, Professor Barth is a regular guest speaker covering a variety of issues for national, regional, and local industry associations and businesses. Professor Barth is a member of a select group of instructors worldwide designated by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association to instruct its Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) program. Recently, he has been quoted in many national publications including: Hotel News Now, Leisure & Hospitality International, USA Today, Successful Meetings, NBC News, and the Los Angeles Times.



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