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Hospitality Leaders: An Unparalleled EX Needs End-to-end Engagement

How often do you come across articles that advocate for better employee engagement? If I had to guess, I’d say a lot. It’s true that the employee experience (EX) is lagging; in fact, research shows that engagement dipped for the first time this year since 2012. Global employee engagement fell from 65 to 63 percent in the last year alone, representing hundreds of millions of unfulfilled workers.

Today, less than 25 percent of employees are highly engaged. This is certainly a problem, yet one that won’t go away with mere acknowledgement. While recognition is key, improvements come from the efforts of proactive, intuitive and forward-thinking business leaders. The good news is, there are plenty of us out there who fit this mold.

We know that there’s nothing scarier than the thought of stagnancy. So, let’s not make this just another blog about the consequences of poor team engagement. Rather, let’s talk about what we can do to deliver better value to those tasked with keeping our guests satisfied. More specifically, how we should be doing so across employees’ end-to-end experience with our brand—from the initial hiring phase to retirement.

Supporting the Entire Employee Lifecycle

The operational benefits of employee engagement are clear. For example, studies predict that it costs anywhere between six to nine months’ salary to replace a salaried worker. That means up to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses to replace an employee who made $40,000 a year. Of course, there’s also the positive ripple effect of supporting personal growth and development. When employees feel their roles are meaningful, they’re more likely to make an impact with customers.

But what are companies doing to support the end-to-end EX? Research suggests not that much. A recent study from Virgin Pulse, for instance, found that over half of companies still use single point in time data verses ongoing assessment tools or real-time data to measure employee engagement. They’re still using rigid tactics like standardized questions and annual surveys to measure the impact of something that is constantly growing and changing.

To support the entire employee lifecycle, leaders’ mindsets must evolve alongside their employees’ changing needs. Consider the below three stages of the employee lifecycle and how companies can engage differently throughout each:

1. Onboarding/Training: The hiring and training process is unique for several reasons. It’s often-stressful for managers, making engagement a lower-level initiative, yet it’s a critical time of development for employees. At the same time, research suggests a narrow window of opportunity for new hires to prove themselves, with 27 percent of execs saying they form an opinion of new employees in less than two weeks.

My suggestion is simple: give new hires at least 60 to 90 days to settle in and confidently display their best qualities. Use this time to also identify what you believe may be unexplored areas of potential. When interviewing, establish a safe space for prospects to freely ask questions; set the tone early that your brand is flexible and open to employees having ownership of goals and decision making.

2. Retention/Development: Research shows the average worker stays at one company for about 4.5 years, with the median tenure for millennials being about three years. While we’d love for these exits to be circumstantial (ex: moving out of state), it’s more likely that employees feel burned out, unappreciated or see little room for advancement. In fact, this is exactly why 30 percent of employees leave (specifically, citing the need for a more comfortable and stimulating work environment).

My suggestion here is this: don’t overlook these employees along your journey towards growth and success. Don’t assume they’re comfortable or engaged. Keep the lines of communication open to ensure you’re constantly aligned. A good idea is to work with each individual employee to create a strategic roadmap that outlines his or her career trajectory, and give each person creative ownership of completing core objectives.

3. Exit/Alumni: It’s safe to say your older employees aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be engaged. You may find yourself at a crossroads, however, when it comes to motivating them towards higher levels of performance. The goal here is to usher close-to-retirement employees towards a memorable departure; so much so, that they are inspired to become advocates of your brand even when they’re gone.

Respect these employees’ experience. Show them that you value their extensive contributions by offering exclusive opportunities not afforded to younger workers. Again, keep the lines of communication open to ensure you’re meeting their individual needs. Prove that you’re committed to investing in them, even after all these years.

Want more EX tips? Check out the following related blogs:

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