A Hassle-Free Approach to Worker Retention
The best solution to the resort worker retention issue may also be the simplest: Adapt your corporate culture so you can treat your employees in the same way you treat your guests.
Every hotel and condo hotel in a resort area works with its employees to provide the very best service to guests and owners. Making visitors feel welcome and making sure all their needs are taken care of is a constant mantra in the hospitality industry. Guests and condo owners have come to view a hassle-free environment as a critical element of their vacation stay. This philosophy is so important to a property's success that some version of this language is incorporated into almost every property's mission statement.
At the same time as the hotel industry continues to innovate in how we can make the vacation experience more pleasurable for guests and owners, many properties seem stymied when it comes to new strategies to attract and retain employees. Annual turnover rates as high as 50 percent remain the standard in our industry, and many hotel companies have chosen to simply accept this as a fact of doing business.
It doesn't have to be this way. At the Antlers at Vail Condominium Resort, we have an employee retention rate that is the envy of the industry: More than one-third of our workforce has been with us for more than a decade, and an additional 33 percent have worked for us between five and 10 years. Our secret: a “hassle-free” employee environment that bends over backwards to value the whole person.
Over an extended period of time, we've worked on several core issues related to resort employees job satisfaction and developed strategies to make them a winning solution for both management and staff. One common mistake hotel properties make is relying too much on a workload-to-workforce calculation, and as a result, laying off resort workers during each season. Instead, we go to great lengths to find work for our employees during slow times because we recognize their value and the costs of replacing them every year.
Employee housing is another issue at the top of the list for many resort properties. Vail is a resort community where the monthly cost of housing is often more than 40 percent of our workforce's average monthly income, and only three out of every ten employees actually live in Vail. Early on, we recognized that any employer who had employee housing available would be in an advantageous position. As a result, we've availed ourselves during every remodeling project to enhance this opportunity for our employees.
Obviously, there is no overnight solution to this issue, but hotel properties can explore other options, such as master leases which can be sublet to their employees and/or close cooperation and planning with the housing director of the resort town. The important thing is to get a plan in place, even if it is not long-term.
Benefits plans are another sticking point. We continue to offer attractive 401k and health insurance options for our employees, even though we could probably get by with less. And when our employees have family/personal issues, our trend is toward more care and leniency, rather than strict adherence to a set of rules and regulations.
The bottom line is that in order to keep valued employees, hotel management must support the whole person, not just the person who shows up for work each day. By creating the most hassle-free environment for our employees, as well as guests and owners, we have a proven formula for success that is part of a new standard for our industry.
Rob Levine, general manager of The Antlers at Vail since 1987, slept on many couches when he first moved to Vail before scoring his employment with the Antlers at Vail. He can be reached at 970-476-2471.
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