Jan. 03–CharlotteFive recently sat down for a conversation, moderated by SouthPark Magazine's Editor in Chief Caroline Portillo, about creating an ideal workplace culture with Mike King, director of sales and marketing at the Ritz-Carlton's Amelia Island property, and Jeff Hargett, senior corporate director for culture transformation at the Ritz-Carlton leadership center. The conversation was for our 35 Below speaker series and was recorded for this week's CharlotteFive podcast.

What does the Ritz do to keep its employees and what are some other strategies other companies can use to do the same?

Hargett: "We start all the way back at selection. That's really one of the things we focus on. If you were to look at the statistics, on average in the hospitality industry it's very high, averaging close to 80 percent annual basis for turnover. Ritz-Carlton's turnover is typically in the low 20s. If you really think about that from all aspects, not just from the staff, but from the guests coming back in and seeing a familiar face, it's not new faces every time they stay. From a financial perspective, how much does it cost to bring on new employees? And if you bring them on and they don't stay … I kind of refer to it as spinning your wheels — you're not really getting anywhere. If we can bring them on board and they stay with us, we can grow that employee population to become one that is continuously learning about your culture and is able to deliver that on a regular basis. It's not something that you're continuously having to reteach [because] they are getting it and they're growing."

How do you target the ideal candidate for a job?

King: "Hire for purpose, don't hire for function. Right below you, that chair you're sitting on is doing a job. It has a function. Don't hire for function, don't hire for somebody to be a teller at a bank — hire somebody that can interact with those bank guests and really fulfill the purpose, which is to create these great relationships. For us, we hire for a purpose, which is creating luxury experiences."

What are some tangible changes that have come from companies coming to the Ritz-Carlton for advice?

Hargett: "A few years ago, I did some presentations for Cadillac for dealers across the country. Two years in a row all the dealers would come to various Ritz-Carlton properties and I would present to them. They changed some of their cultural aspects because of the work that they did with us. They had had a culture, but Cadillac is one of those organizations that was fighting, just like we were at the Ritz Carlton, the stuffiness of the organization. The feeling of "Oh, the Ritz-Carlton, that's a place for your grandmother to go and have afternoon tea" and Cadillac was the "old man's car". Now with the transition that they've made, more and more people are buying into the Cadillac culture and they feeling they exhibit. Just with Ritz-Carlton, we even say this is not your grandfather's Ritz-Carlton anymore."

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