Creative Retention Strategies: Thinking Outside the Box to Keep the Cream of the Crop
The hospitality industry's relatively high rate of employee turnover has long been a tough challenge for employers. Experts note that the long hours and modest pay that characterizes many of the industry's entry-level positions may help to explain the high rate of attrition. But in a market environment that richly rewards top-quality service, maintaining a stable, seasoned staff is an investment that can pay big dividends in the long run.
Indeed, most hospitality employers are already well aware of this, a fact that is evidenced by the scores of retention programs and campaigns that are in place in leading hotels, restaurants, and other industry organizations. But the formidable challenge of devising effective methods and strategies to hold on to key employees -- whether in the back of the house or the boardroom -- is often more difficult than it seems.
Is it Time to Tune-Up Your Retention Strategy?
Maybe you haven't yet given much thought to a long-term employee retention strategy. Or maybe your organization already has a retention program in place, but you're ready to take it to the next level with a few innovative new ideas.
No matter where you are with your employee retention program, your organization probably still has some room for improvement. Here are a few novel techniques that may be able to help you retain your most valuable employees.
Better Retention Starts With Better Recruitment
Many employers tend to focus retention efforts on their long-term employees, but the most effective programs are those that emphasize the benefits of long-term employment from the employee's first day on the job. Query prospective candidates about their long-term plans and ask how this job figures into them. Get a clearer handle on organizational fit by allowing current employees to interview prospective hires, and vice versa. Develop a short-term, performance-based bonus and compensation system that rewards continued employment at three months, six months, a year, and so on.
Think Like an Entrepreneur.
Most established hospitality industry firms are light-years away from scrappy Silicon Valley tech startups in their organizational cultures -- and that might be part of the problem. While some of their zanier strategies may not work in the hospitality industry, you can infuse your workplace with the same zestful spirit of creativity. Allow your employees a couple of hours each week to dedicate to their own work-related interests, like researching new entrees or developing new house cocktails. A sense of playful innovation in the workplace can really boost employee retention rates.
Choose the Right Rewards.
Retention reward programs aren't exactly a new idea, but designing a reward program around prizes your employees pick is an innovative twist on this long-used technique. Remember, reward systems don't really work if employees don't really care about the prizes. Poll your employees to find out what they really want. Some unconventional suggestions include things like extra time off, choosing one's own shift or section, or being excused from tedious closing or opening duties for a day, a week, or a month.
Cultivate a Sense of Ownership in Your Employees.
One of the best ways to convince your top employees to stick around is to convince them to feel invested in the business's performance. Some hospitality industry employers take this idea literally, establishing employee ownership programs that reward longevity with profit-sharing bonuses or shares in the company. For even more retention-boosting impact, you can stagger the vesting of the profit-sharing program over a period of five, ten, or more years.
Have More Fun!
Although most employees cite compensation as the most important criterion they consider when choosing to leave a position, some experts feel that the real issue is often more complex. According to John Putzier, personnel expert and author of Get Weird: 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work, the most important motivation to stay with a company is being able to have fun on the job. Some suggested ideas include offbeat performance competitions (such as who can sell the most orders of a particular appetizer or dessert in a week) or spontaneously handing out gift certificates or other surprise rewards when a team member is "caught in the act" of providing excellent service.
The ultimate goal is to create an organizational culture that is conducive to retention in every aspect. Make it your job to remain focused on enhancing the features of your workplace that are likely to convince employees to stay, and eliminating those that might drive them away. Keep an open mind and stay s unique needs. A comprehensive strategy that blends together multiple employee retention techniques is likely to be most effective. Feel free to combine or modify one or more strategies, and keep experimenting until you find a system that works for you.