At hospitality seminars the world over, you are never more than six feet away from a hotelier bemoaning the difficulties of recruiting and retaining capable staff. The topic has been widely discussed, and many solutions have been proposed, yet the industry as a whole continues to find this particular problem its greatest ongoing challenge.
From this, we can reach three basic conclusions: hoteliers are ignoring the obvious solutions; hoteliers are failing to implement the solutions correctly, or the solutions themselves don’t work. Perhaps, therefore, it’s time to look at those ideas again and assess what’s going wrong.
Let’s assume we know the basics. Carefully select the right employees, and give them a competitive salary with appropriate benefits. Create a fun and stimulating working environment where staff generate a positive atmosphere. Give staff a chance to learn and develop a career. Hold parties and recognize good performance with awards. And you still have turnover problems?
Of course you do. Because you can’t afford to pay above average rates when your recruitment and training costs are so high, and it’s all very well to talk about selecting the perfect candidates but actually you need someone – anyone – right now because the last two you hired just quit and the rest of the staff are on forced overtime to cover. Then they have no time for training and ongoing development – or customer service for that matter. Those who jumped ship walked straight into better jobs and are inviting their former colleagues to come along too, while your remaining staff take turns at being employee of the month, mainly for showing up.
We know that the turnover problem is costly, both in terms of recruiting and training costs, and in the long term inability to instil a positive company culture when nobody sticks around long enough to pass on their wisdom and build a sense of common purpose. Therefore it wouldn’t actually cost anything more to try a small adjustment before you set about following the usual guidelines. This is how it goes.
Stop chasing the game, and instead aim to be slightly overstaffed. Follow the advice about hiring the right personalities, but try to do it in advance, on your own terms, when you’re not under pressure to hire immediately. When you find the right people, take on more than you need. Stop looking at the cost of carrying a few extra pairs of hands and look at the benefits of having more staff. You can improve the work-life balance of all your employees. You won’t have to insist on people working overtime. You won’t annoy your long-termers by giving them incompetent co-workers who have no interest in doing their best for your company. When someone does leave, the replacement is already on the staff – and instead of having to start out at the deep end with a full set of responsibilities and no experience, they’ve probably been shadowing someone else for a while and already know the ropes. Chances are, your customer service standards will rise coincidentally.
The difference between being a couple of staff short and having a couple too many is a big one, and if you always keep yourself slightly overmanned, you won’t be rushed into poor hiring decisions and you’ll be able to create that better work environment that everyone recommends. Staff will be able to choose their preferred shifts, or find the time to invest in personal development. They may have the time to be involved in training others, reinforcing their own learning and feeling more highly valued. You’ll have the flexibility to be able to really listen to what your employees are telling you, and act upon it. In short, you’ll be in a position to control the working environment, instead of having that environment control you.
So next time you have a vacancy, hire two people to fill it instead of just one. It will be cheaper in the long run, much more effective in practice, and will start to give your organization the freedom, flexibility and control that are requirements for success.