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Maintaining Hotel Employee Productivity and
Morale in the Face of Doom and Gloom

By Joseph M. Gravish, January 2009

January, 2009 - We’re all feeling the pain of these harsh economic times. Your occupancy is going south, in some supposedly recession-proof locations, significantly so. Industry ADR for 2009 is projected down 5-10%. You forecast lower profits. Your budget is flat.

As a hospitality leader it’s your job to adapt while still (hopefully) generating revenue for ownership. So how can you do that? 

You’ve surveyed the landscape and already taken obvious, and perhaps no-so-obvious, belt-tightening measures. You’ve cut the fat and are looking at the bone. Some have even taken the extraordinary step of mandating a pay freeze for this year. And you’re not alone – small comfort though it might be.

I recently received an e-mail and video from the President of my alma mater – a Big Ten, East Coast university. In it he outlines the measures being taken to cope with reduced funding. Among them was a pay freeze – the first ever in the almost 150-year history of the school. Just as importantly, he also describes other steps being taken to maintain the morale and productivity of the staff.

Following his lead, here are my top 10 tips for maintaining employee morale in your organization. They are simple suggestions. Inexpensive but used correctly, effective. You can adopt them today.

1. Don’t cut wages. Top-shelf performers still need to be rewarded. For example, spot bonuses for outstanding achievement not only encourage them to continue high-level performance but can provide an incentive for mid-level performers to improve. Cutting wages while asking employees to “do more with less” is insulting to them. Money still talks – even if at the same volume.

2. Say “thank you” to each employee – sincerely and frequently. Look them in the eye - shake their hand.

3. Send them a birthday card with a handwritten note of congratulations. Include appreciative comments for their support of your business.

4. Let employees knock-off one hour early – without announcing it in advance.

5. Buy lunch for a deserving employee, or the team. Have a surprise, impromptu pizza party for lunch.  

6. Give someone an extra, personal day off – with pay. Free time to take care of personal business is greatly under-utilized by management – and very much appreciated by employees.

7. If you don’t’ already have an “employee of the month” program, start one now. Any reward need not be great. But the public recognition, in the eyes of co-workers, will be a big boost to an employee’s self-esteem – and generate better performance

8. Send deserving employees to a local, off-site training class. Doing so will pay off handsomely in the employee’s long-term effectiveness to the organization.       

9. Find out what hobbies or special interests an employee has and give him/her a related, inexpensive gift. 

10. Send a wedding anniversary card to your employees’ spouses. Thank them for supporting the employee and your company.

It’s important to routinely connect these actions with the reality of the times. During shift and department meetings remind your employees that you’re continuing employee recognition and reward programs despite the downturn. Engage them in the process to maintain guest service standards since guest expectations are often immune to your financial/resources constraints. 

This is not a time to lose customers because of second-rate employee performance and lower guest satisfaction scores. Nor is it the time to forget about, or possibly lose loyal, knowledgeable staff to your competition. 

The author wants to know what new employee morale and recognition programs you’ve created. What’s working for you? What’s not? Why? Send your comments to the e-mail address below. 


Mr. Gravish is a human resources professional with over 25 years leadership experience in numerous customer-service environments. He is an advocate of building profitability and success through, and by, people – first.

Joseph M. Gravish
Also See: Mohegan Sun, in Uncasville, Connecticut Takes Steps to Reduce Costs That Do Not Include Layoffs / January 2009



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