by Cathy Cook

I had the pleasure of working 27 years for not only the BEST hotel company in the industry but by the time I left the company it was indeed the largest in the world. I loved this company like a family because I always felt that I was treated like family. I was completely loyal to my fellow associates, customers, vendors, and partners.

I worked in operations at 6 different properties, task forced at least 20 properties, and worked at our company’s Headquarters office for 19 years. I survived three reorganizations while working at Headquarters, resulting in completely new reporting lines and departments. This meant that I had to reapply for my same job and sometimes watch as my entire department was “lifted and shifted” or laid off. I had 12 supervisors in the 19 years that I was at Headquarters, which meant that I had to basically train each one on what I did to manage each of my projects every time a new one came into the role. Not only that, but I had to “prove” my skillsets to them. I learned to roll with the changes.

I saw many other associates that loved the company leave for new opportunities over the years. I also had been tempted and recruited, but always resisted. A few months ago I finally gave in, but I never would have once even considered it until my last supervisor took things in a new direction for me. The following are some reasons why loyal colleagues move on, and for those who recognize the value we can bring, leadership tips for keeping loyal contributors like I was from accepting those calls from recruiters.

1. Stop developing us. Or, understand that we know a lot about old systems / processes, but don’t limit us to working only on those types of projects. In my role, I always got stuck on old main frame training development because I was Subject Matter Expert, the only one in the department that could do it. Cross train another associate to help with such project work so that the time can be freed up for us to learn and grow too.

2. Overlook our historical wisdom perspective on new company challenges. Or, recognize brilliant cost saving ideas, especially when associates save the company money by using their wisdom to suggest a better way to overcome a new challenge. For example, once our eLearning department was facing the challenge of having to spend $300,000 due to us having designed courses in an older version of a program. Given my experience, I suggested a shortcut that greatly reduced the cost, yet my supervisor scored me low on the “Managing Execution” competency only because the feedback came in late. It’s the actual idea and cost saving that should be recognized not the late feedback.

3. Take away our autonomy. Or, treat us like adults and respond quickly to our needs, such as vacation requests. If you get to know us, you can trust that our years of service enhance our loyalty to the company and we won’t ask for vacations when it creates hardships. Don’t micro-manage us and make us feel like we can’t be relied on.

4. Stereotype us as stuck in our ways and focus only on Millennials. Or, remember that despite the rise of Millennials, most workers are still Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, and now we have Generation Z (a.k.a. The IGeneration) coming on board. Even better, remember not to stereotype any colleague based on their membership in an imaginary “generation.”

5. Take away things we value most such as face time. Like many C level hoteliers these days, I worked remote most of the time. However, to stay in touch with colleagues and internal customers, I budgeted quarterly trips per year to my Headquarters office that my project leader “clients” approved. I made sure that I kept costs low by staying with friends and made good use of time when in town to network and maintain relationships. Then my supervisor took away my quarterly trips for no reason other than that she did not see the value in face-to-face interactions and how much it helped me stay connected to my on-site colleagues.

Although I was sad leaving after so many years, I am now so very happy I did move on. Now I am part of a growing hotel training company and get to work with all hotel brands and independents. My new company recruited me because of my wisdom and extensive industry experience and because they see the value of someone like me in leading a team of mostly younger associates. In hindsight, because my new job is such a good fit, I’m glad I was overlooked and under-valued. Still, I know I could have offered so much more to the company which I loved so much for so long.