.Motivating And Retaining Employees

by Michael Hampton, Ed.D. CHE  December 2003

Although management has the utmost influence on the overall direction of a property, it has been said by many prominent industry leaders that employees have the most influence on the success of a property.  This assertion may have a great deal of merit because of the fact that employees interact with guests more often than do managers; and, employees are directly responsible for delivering the “products and services” guests receive. 

Therefore, ensuring that employees are motivated to consistently perform at the established standard, and to remain with the property for an extended period of time, is contingent on many factors.  Three of those critical factors include the leadership qualities of managers, the coaching and development tools used by managers, and the diverse characteristics of employees.

Leadership Factors

Employee behavior is quite often a reflection of the guidance they receive from their superiors.  The postulation, then, is that if managers are unmotivated, employees will be unmotivated.  If we hold this premise to be true, then it becomes important to recognize that managers must establish a motivational atmosphere by setting a positive example through the utilization of good leadership practices.

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In order to be good motivators, managers must also be good leaders.  Leadership practices that constructively influence employee motivation involve several activities, some of which include the following.
  • Make others feel important.  Managers that are good leaders recognize and acknowledge the contribution that employees make to the operation; and, express appreciation for the worth they add.  Employees that feel they are a valued and integral part of the organization are likely to remain with the property for extended periods of time.
  • Treat employees fairly and equitably.  Managers that establish a high regard for the integrity of employees, and who incorporate the principle of the “Golden Rule” into employee dealings will set the stage for creating an atmosphere of congeniality and mutual respect.  Employees that perceive that they are dealt with fairly are less likely to seek other employment opportunities.
  • Be visible on the front lines.  Managers that get out of their offices and move from behind the scenes make themselves accessible where the action is.  Managers that go so far as to get involved in or participate with employees in the performance of their jobs communicate a strong humanization message.  Employees that believe their managers will lend support and reinforcement during challenging times are more likely to remain with the organization for the long term.
Certainly, there are a great many other variables that can influence employees in their motivational level and their potential for retention with the property. All of these are guided to some degree by the leadership style a manager uses, and by the leadership actions a manager takes.  By implementing these three basic practices, managers can establish the fundamental framework from which their leader profile can grow.

Coaching And Development Factors

Employee behavior is also molded by the measures taken by managers in cultivating and expanding the employees’ skills, knowledge and abilities.  Research studies have demonstrated in numerous instances that employees who are given the opportunity to learn and to expand their capacities to contribute in new ways are more motivated than employees who are not given those opportunities. Thus, an essential element of motivation and retention is the establishment of systems for coaching and developing employees to acquire higher levels of competency.

The tools that can be utilized to help a property’s team members progress to the next stage of their growth can be quite simple.  Some of those that should be considered involve the following.

  • Provide regular, consistent feedback.  Recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors stimulates the employee to engage in the same type of behavior in subsequent instances.  Pointing out behaviors that need improvement, and coaching employees by offering suggestions on how to modify behavior to reach acceptable levels prompts them to begin adjusting their approach.  Employees who feel that they work in an environment where managers are aware of and care about what they do are more likely to stay with the organization.
  • Develop aptitudes for performing other jobs.  Managers who provide employees with training opportunities, either through in-house workshops, distance learning or public seminars, create a foundation for their progression within the property’s hierarchy.  Employees who become eligible for promotion and advancement, as a result of having acquired the necessary qualifications through training, have a greater likelihood of staying with the organization because of their anticipation of new positions eventually becoming available to them.
  • Delegate.  Giving employees the responsibility for developing important projects, and then providing guidance on how to complete them successfully, demonstrates management’s confidence in the employee to perform beyond the norm.  Those employees that sense a greater worth to the organization subsequently develop an affinity and a greater degree of loyalty that makes them less likely to leave the property.
Providing employees with job aids, standard operating procedures manuals, audiotapes, videotapes, and other resources that can assist them in self-paced or group learning activities can also be significant contributors to motivation levels.  Encouraging employees to read industry publications, trade journals, books and newsletters can help them expand their knowledge and understanding of their roles and the inter-dependency of the jobs they perform.

Employee Diversity Factors

It is widely recognized that employees are all different in their perceptions and behavior because of their cultural origins, educational backgrounds, experiences and exposure, demographic characteristics and life cycle stages, as well as a host of other variables.  Consequently, a fundamental management principle emerges related to stimulating employees toward achieving optimum performance and productivity levels.  This principle stipulates that in order to get the greatest results, employees must be managed as individuals and not as a group.

Acknowledging that employees cannot all be managed in the same way, it becomes obvious that employees cannot all be motivated in the same way.  Some of the steps a manager can take to create an individual specific focus that allows employees to become motivated include the following.

  • Appeal to personal interests.  This is accomplished by actively listening to what is important to them.  This means that managers must take the time to truly understand what their priorities and goals are, then develop a plan that can help them achieve those goals.  When employees feel that management is willing to help them get to where they want to be in terms of their own vision for the future, they are more likely to stay with that organization.
  • Offer personalized rewards.  Different employees have different value attachments associated with recognition and incentives.  Managers must identify which type of structure is most attractive to each employee, providing them with remuneration, compensation and the types of rewards, both financial and intrinsic, that they prefer.  Employees that receive the types of rewards that create the highest level of satisfaction for them personally are less likely to seek other employment.
Giving employees the opportunity to set their own work or shift schedules, allowing them to select cross training interests, seeking their input for improving products and services or systems and procedures; and, permitting them to participate in setting succession and advancement plans can also impact individual motivation levels.

Of course, a strategic issue in motivating and retaining employees is to take measures that contribute to recruiting, selecting and placing the right type of people into the property’s available jobs.  If the characteristics and qualities of the individual are not aligned with the requirements of the job, the task of motivation and retention is appreciably more challenging.

Conclusively, those organizations that are most effective at motivating and retaining employees are those that take the first step of selecting the right people.  Once the right people are in place, they have to be exposed to leadership that creates a motivational environment and atmosphere.  Then, providing coaching and development tools that enable employees to acquire the skills, knowledge and abilities to grow and progress to higher levels of competency must follow.  Finally, offering consistent rewards that have high degrees of value attractiveness to the individual are a necessity.

Unquestionably, the formula for success will not be the same in every situation.  Putting together the combination of these factors that are most appropriate for any given organization will vary depending on the profile of and the resources available within the property.  The key consideration in moving toward achieving higher levels of employee motivation and retention is to not do everything at once, but to identify where a change in approach can be implemented that will have the greatest impact and put it into place.  Once improved results are realized, then move on to the next step.

Michael Hampton, Ed.D. Is a professional speaker and serves as Chief Executive Officer of HSA International, a global provider of training, educational and consulting services for the hospitality industry.  Additional information on this topic is available by contacting him via e-mail at mhampton@hsa.com or via telephone at (954) 432-7301.


HSA International Worldwide Headquarters
1601 North Palm Avenue, Suite 211 
Pembroke Pines, FL USA 33026
TEL 954.432.7301 FAX 954.432.8677
Also See Hospitality Leaders Are Responsible For Setting The Standards / Michael Hampton, Ed.D. / HSA International / August 2003
Challenging Times Require Hospitality Leaders On The Front Lines / Michael Hampton, Ed.D. /  July 2003
How To Increase Front Desk Sales & Customer Service Skills / July 2003
Motivating And Retaining Employees When Times Are Tough /  Michael Hampton, Ed.D./ June 2003

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