|by Kirby D. Payne, CHA
The labor market where your hotel, restaurant or resort is located is
undoubtedly difficult and unique. Nobody really understands how difficult
it is to staff your business with an adequate number of competent, caring,
efficient, and trustworthy, employees. Now that we have that on the table,
let me be the first to disagree!
Back in the early seventies I used to hear that from the General Managers
of the many Hiltons in the Southeast that I was supervising. I was in my
late twenties and believed almost anything except I couldn't understand
how it could be unique if almost everyone had the problem. To look at it
more closely, we had everyone list their staffing problems and found that
nearly 90% of them were common to all the hotels.
Interestingly, the hotel managers who complained of staffing difficulties
had high turnover of new employees. The hotels with low turnover didn't
feel there were staffing problems. Further, there was no correlation to
hotels with staffing problems and any objectively quantifiable socioeconomic
issues in the surrounding communities. Interviews with regional supervisors
at other hotel companies revealed that they had the same situation but
not necessarily in the same communities. Our conclusion was that most of
the problem was a management problem. If you accept that you should gain
something from reading the rest of this article as it contains a few ideas
which might cause you to rethink your solutions to staffing.
Any time an employee quits or is terminated the supervisor and manager
should ask themselves these three questions:
If these questions are reviewed whenever an employee leaves for whatever
reason, management should be able to improve their ability to handle each
of these three items. The result will be lower turnover which will save
the business money, make it a more desirable workplace for all, and provide
the guest and patron with consistent, quality service.
Should the person have been hired in the first place? Adequate screening
depends on the obvious interview questions as well as the not-so-obvious
but still legal ones. Why do you want this particular job, how will you
get to work, what other kinds of jobs have you been applying for? To the
greatest extent possible, require that all applicants pass job-related
skills testing and examine the person's ability to follow directions and
learn. Don't hire someone just because you are desperate with-out taking
the time to check references and in some cases credit and criminal records.
You do have a release on your employment application, don't you?
Did the employee receive an adequate orientation and quality training?
Did anyone that cared explain the mission, culture, physical layout, rules,
etc. of the hotel or restaurant? Did he or she meet other employees and
leaders during a tour of the hotel? All those things are part of an orientation
and give a new employee an even playing field to start with so they are
familiar with the workplace and feel as if they belong. Training should
be conducted by supervisors and staff who are trained to train, have lesson
plans, and understand the learning process. Is it fair to a new employee
to have them trained by someone who isn't even good at the job, is overworked,
and is not certifiably enthusiastic about their job and the business?
Did the employee benefit from good leadership? Leadership is a balance
of positive and negative incentives specifically tailored to the individual
and the circumstances. A public praising for some employees might be more
effective than a raise while a thank you note or a pat on the back will
be enough for another. As to negative incentives, it is essential that
be implemented in a timely and constructive manner. Further, the severity
of negative feedback must be tailored to the individual and the undesired
behavior or work quality. All negative feedback should have a positive
goal where everyone and the business gains rather than simply punishment.
A few other thoughts are in order regarding recruiting.
Good employees are like alcoholics, they hang around with like-minded people.
Get current employees to help recruit new staff and reward them with cash
after an agreed-upon retention period, it works.
There is nothing wrong with recruiting good people you observe in other
hotels and businesses.
Advertise for job openings in non-traditional areas of the classifieds.
Only out-of-work hotel and restaurant workers look under hotels and restaurants.
I always lay off my worst employees first, don't you? Where do the car
rental companies find so many nice rental agents? What industries have
high unemployment in your area? Maybe these individuals have never considered
a career in the hotel or restaurant business but a well-focused help wanted
ad, perhaps written by your marketing staff, could bring you quality personnel.
Almost anyone can learn the job skills of our industry with good training,