Let’s not forget our human capital

Sometimes instead of speaking in generalities, a short personal story will illustrate far better an important lesson for our corporate cultures.

Springtime sees the prerequisite visit to my favorite outdoor furniture shop. Over the past few visits I had been dealing with the same fellow who was both friendly and extremely knowledgeable. While our largest purchase had been made previously, we continued to acquire additional items that he recommended based upon his knowledge of our purchasing history and what he thought would best help us ‘fill in the gaps’ for our terrace.

To my surprise on our latest visit, though, this salesman confided that sadly this was his last week in the store. He was moving to another furniture company – not a competitor but a retailer who offered him greater opportunities for his personal growth. When asking about his rationale, he told me that he had been with this firm for four years, and in that period, management had never given him a performance appraisal nor any promotion, merely perfunctory small Christmas bonuses and cost of living raises.

He went on to say that when he announced his departure, the owners quickly pitched him with a management position in another store, commensurate with a substantial raise. But for him, the die had been cast and he declined their Hail Mary pass.

Unfortunately, for many hoteliers the situation described in the last few paragraphs is quite reflective of our own staffing troubles, especially nowadays where our industry is not viewed as glamorous like it was in a bygone era. While we tend to be very good at weeding out those who we find unable to excel in a service-based culture, at the same time we often overlook our star performers or do not give them the motivations they need to stay enamored.

With the human resources department typically tasked with this balancing act, ultimately it still rests upon the line supervisors to formally evaluate their teams at least once per year. There are numerous guidebooks and forms that you can utilize, and I will not go through the details here as I am confident that you can obtain this from better sources than me!

Suffice it to say, the costs to your organization of losing a staff member through benign neglect or inadequate vertical trajectory planning outweigh the nominal costs of staff retention. Too often we focus our efforts on cost savings measures, renovation programs or immediate challenges while forgetting one of the fundamentals of our positions as leaders.

When I was in packaged goods, the firms I worked with each undertook an annual staff audit where senior managers were required to identify their teams’ individuals’ career paths. The process allowed everyone to see the future of the organizations’ human capital. Once identified, it was the individual manager’s responsibility to communicate, nurture and educate future leadership.

Perhaps today’s dysfunctional hotel operational programs with separate ownership, corporate brands and management companies are partially to blame. It may also be a consequence of the times and not unique to any particular field or industry. Nevertheless, your goal is to make sure the star performers at your hotel are identified and valued. There is too much at stake in losing good human capital, especially at a hotel where service will also be a matter of passionate individuals helping others have the best possible experience.