Ways to Support and Retain Your Hotel Staff
It’s no secret that many industries have taken a battering as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit here, with travel being restricted for domestic and foreign visitors alike, and stay-at-home protocols being implemented.
One report found that travel spending in 2020 dropped 42% in comparison to the previous year. As a result of this, and the loss of profits that has come with it, many hotels have been forced to reduce their staff numbers, and the hours that those who have been retained can work.
So, during this difficult period of economic instability, how can you mitigate potential disruption to your business, and provide your staff members with the support they both need and deserve? Let’s take a closer look at the challenges and how you can effectively address them.
Prioritize Health and Safety
One of the clear takeaways from the pandemic, as we move gently toward a new normal, is that employees have a renewed focus on their wellbeing. They’re also cognizant of how their employers make adjustments that ensure the ongoing health of both them and their families. In order to reassure and retain your staff, you must ensure they continue to be comfortable with working at your hotel, and demonstrate that you are taking steps to prioritize their safety.
This of course begins with the basic upgrades to your hotel sanitation standards and enhanced housekeeping procedures. Remodeling to ensure that safe distances and barriers between staff and customers can also be maintained on a more permanent basis will also improve workers’ long-term confidence in your business. However, this should also extend to being aware of how the environment they’re working in affects their personal health challenges. Review the health benefits that you offer staff, and look into providing subsidized access to counseling during stressful periods.
It’s also important to understand that the hospitality industry is among the most diverse sectors in the U.S. Diversity is vital to ensure that your business continues to innovate and thrive. If you have a truly diverse staff, it means you welcome workers who experience challenges from physical disabilities or their mental health. You can best support them by going beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines in ensuring their reasonable accommodations can be met. Talk to them about what difficulties they have, and invite them to provide you with key insights into adaptations or processes that can mitigate the issues the workplace provides.
Be Empathetic to Their Needs
Even beyond the current pandemic crisis, it’s important to remember that people can live challenging lives. Their careers comprise a small part of their wider existence, and at times they may be having difficulties that can be disruptive to the operation of your hotel. It can be easy for leaders to prioritize the needs of the business above those of staff members. However, in order to retain your valued workers in the long run, you have to approach their issues with empathy.
This encompasses many of the attributes that make an effective hospitality manager — attentively listening to the problems they have, creating a culture of open communication, and being flexible with them. If they need additional time off for family duties, whether it’s an emergency situation or for a kid’s school event, don’t just deny this because it clashes with the hotel’s scheduling. Take time to understand that these kinds of requests come from a place of humanity, of needing to maintain a work-life balance, and that satisfaction at work, in turn, helps them become better employees. Do what you can to work with them to find solutions.
As hotels have diverse staff, one of the issues that can frequently trouble employees is the nightmare of the immigration process. Some staff members will have already gained visas — usually h3-B visas for temporary non-agricultural workers, or J-1 visas for students. However, these may occasionally need to be renewed. Or, some might be on the path to permanent residency or citizenship, and employer sponsorship or references can be required.
This may represent to you just another piece of paperwork that takes time out of your day, and as such won’t be a priority. However, an empathetic manager understands the level of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty these processes can elicit in staff. When you make efforts to be cognizant of your workers’ needs and act accordingly, they’ll tend to return the gesture with innovation, creativity, and loyalty.
Invest in Them
Your hotel staff has likely seen many of their friends, family, and colleagues become unemployed. During the initial few months of the pandemic, the unemployment rate in the U.S. rose higher than it was during the Great Recession. Is it any wonder that they are feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment? One of the best ways that you can support and retain your hotel staff is by offering them some semblance of stability by investing in them.
You are, of course, never going to be able to guarantee them a job for life. Nobody is expecting that. However, you can commit to developing their skills and encouraging their career growth. Create a clear path of progression in your hotel that encourages employees from entry-level onward to engage with mentorship and training that helps them rise through the ranks.
Where possible, invest in certified hospitality courses that gain them recognized qualifications. This not only encourages them to stay with your organization, but it gives them the confidence that if you are unable to retain them, they have valuable skills they can use to gain other employment.
It’s also important to not simply make this talent development a purely verbal agreement. Formalize it in the employee handbook or other contract documentation. Specifically, outline that your hotel recognizes the immense value of your employees, and as such you are keen to provide training and resources to those who want to grow with the company. This gives workers confidence that their ongoing development forms part of the official company procedure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for the hospitality industry, and staff has been particularly badly impacted. As we head toward a new normal, you can make gains in supporting and retaining your staff through making their ongoing safety a priority, and taking an empathetic approach toward their diverse needs. With an additional commitment to developing their talents, you and your workers can continue to benefit from one another’s contributions.
Author: Luke Smith