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The Huge Problem of Hospitality Turnover (and Three Creative Ways to Reverse It)

You’ve heard it all before: employees who don’t feel respected in or fulfilled by their job will adversely affect the customer experience. Any good manager knows that employees are the lifeblood of every organization…so why do mounds of research still show employee turnover to be a massive problem industry-wide? Why do nearly 40 percent of employers believe turnover has picked up over the last 12 months? How come 78 percent of businesses are more worried about a talent shortage now than they were over the last two years?

It all has to do with employee engagement, or lack thereof. Research from Gallup shows that nearly half of employees today are “not engaged,” and nearly 20 percent are “actively disengaged.” This only worsens in industries like government and manufacturing, which studies show employ some of today’s most disengaged workers. The most disengaged employees across the board, however, are in hospitality.

Just how bad is it? The turnover rate in the hospitality sector in 2015 rose to 72.1 percent—an increase from 66.7 percent in 2014, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. This was the fifth consecutive year of turnover rate increases within the industry. While some may argue that this climbing rate indicates confidence in the labor market, any good manager would be remiss to not consider how internal culture and engagement factor into these numbers.

In today’s world where 83 percent of full-time employees would consider leaving their current company, it’s imperative that managers—especially hotel managers—find out-of-the-box ways to keep workers satisfied and engaged. This becomes even more important considering the rising generation of millennial workers. Just consider that 57 percent believe corporate loyalty is dead, and 58 percent plan to leave their jobs in three years or less.

It’s clear something must be done about this issue, and fast. While I don’t have all the answers, there are a few ways hospitality leaders can begin actively improving turnover rates. If you’re stuck on what to do, consider these suggestions:

1. Give employees creative authority: Offer opportunities for employees to be collaborative partners, verses underlings. Be open to hearing their ideas for betterment across the board (that includes ideas on how you can improve, too). Many people are quick to leave a job that doesn’t allow them to actively contribute or deliver value, so give employees opportunities to do so. This will also help you identify potential new leaders among your associates.

2. Stop ignoring cultural fit: At this point, you should have a strong culture within your organization defined by standards, mission statement(s) and service expectations or values. Pay attention to how new hires will fit into this culture, and reinforce your culture to existing employees. The goal is to make them feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves…something that is worth sticking around for. This all starts by creating a strong and adaptable culture that employees can learn by. Also, keep in mind that a well-thought out culture represents a sturdy foundation for you to build your business upon. An organization without a well-defined culture is the equivalent of an empty, uninviting home.

3. It’s not all about you; start getting in the game: In the end, the best way to increase retention is to engage workers day in and day out on a personal, individual level. It means being in the trenches with them when they need it most. It means being a mentor by revealing and reinforcing associates’ innermost strengths. It means tapping into something that cannot necessarily be seen to yield tangible results. Perhaps you’re inadvertently detaching yourself from your associates. Stop closing your door. Focus a little less on KPIs and GSS scores and a little more on the emotions and drive of your employees. I guarantee you will see changes if you do so, but you must put in the work to make it happen.

What other suggestions do you have for improving hospitality turnover? Share them in the comments section below!

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