Industry Update
Opinion Article18 November 2021

Employee Retention "How To" - What you need to know

By Zoe Connolly, Founder and CEO of Hospitality Spotlight

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Oh retention! It’s 2021 and we are witnessing “The Great Resignation” with a mass employee exodus. Somehow private businesses are now able to do things that are out of this world like launching civilian crews into space, so this alone should make employee retention feel more manageable. Retention is at least earthbound. Covid did a number on the industry and the morale of hospitality professionals. In June of 2021 alone, approximately 3.9 million American workers quit their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of August, 6.4% of hospitality workers quit their jobs. This percentage is higher than the pre-pandemic average and does not include layoffs. Now more than ever we need to focus on retention and building employee morale. Below are a few places to start that will make a big difference.


Be Financially Competitive

Let's start at the beginning! Keeping an employee happy starts before they even come on board to your organization. I’ve seen a large number of managers base a salary on the previous employee that worked the role or what they themselves made when they worked that role. Times change and so do salary expectations. A few years can make a difference in the cost of living and what helps an employee stay financially happy in order to stay with an organization. Even a 5k difference can get an employee to jump ship and take another opportunity. So, do your research when it comes to your salaries prior to posting a job. If candidates share their salaries with you, keep a record of it. Current salaries can be useful in understanding market salary norms. Keep in mind that in most places, it’s illegal to ask for a candidate’s current salary. It is always best to base the salary on what candidates are requesting. Some candidates will shoot for the stars and others are underpaid and don’t know it. Take all the salary requirements requests and come up with the average salary. Do resist making low ball offers. Candidates can use companies like to find out how well (or not so well) your organization pays and employees talk and will always find out that they are being underpaid. Even if they request a low salary, go ahead and educate them on the salary range. They will appreciate you sharing the information. If a current employee’s salary is too low then get them up to the market average. Don’t call it a raise or give them more responsibilities. Make sure to communicate the reasoning behind it. This will be appreciated by the employee and it will make it harder for them to be recruited out of your organization.

The Career Path

Employee and career growth are critical in retaining quality employees, and this is true of all levels. When employees are first brought onboard their career paths are clear and most often outlined for them. This can be as clear as your next role will be X or as vague as, you or we will be creating your next role as needs arise. Either way it’s clear as to what the path is or can be. Most employees will look at a role as a stepping stone to the next opportunity. When the next step is no longer clear and the steps have crumbled for one reason or another, like covid or another more junior or same level employee exiting their role, then it is time to revisit where they are and where they want to be. Covering what was promised is a great place to start. Having “the career path” talk can do a few things for an employee. This conversation will make it clear to the employee that you see them in the future of the organization and that you believe in their work. It can also remind them of what it will take to get promoted. With time and different managers, the steps and requirements to grow can become a little fuzzy. Be clear with the steps they need to take in order to be promoted, Always know and be transparent about your employee’s career path. Don’t forget to document your conversations so, there won’t be any confusion as to what was said and when. At time of review, you’ll be able to quickly revisit your notes to discuss next steps. Have these career chats often. Try not to leave it for their yearly review. If you wait a year, the employee may have already become complacent and lost within the expectations and how they are doing. Talk often!


Train, train, train and train. I can’t say this enough. Building your current employees skills first instead of automatically hiring out of the org is key. Employees like to feel like they are being valued by an organization. They also want to see their organization invest in them. This is where a good training program can come into play. Building a program where there is cross training can do a few things. It can lead to employees feeling valued because they are able to do more and potentially be promoted. It can teach them what other roles are and why processes and procedures are what they are, so it provides a better understanding of the property as a whole. It can also make it possible for employees to chip in here and there when needed. Once the spot they are training for becomes available, they are able to jump right in. They will also be able to train their new employee. Reach out to your crew and find out what roles they want to be trained for or what kind of training they would like. Help them feel like part of the process and the future of the property. While some may fear the employees will leave with their new training, this has the opportunity effect. Employees will feel more valued and will be less likely to leave.


While most organizations offer some type of healthcare, it’s often not covered in the interview process. Some companies go pretty far in order not to disclose details or are quite vague with the details they do share. This often happens because healthcare information is seen as information that can only be provided to employees, almost like proprietary information. This can also happen because management doesn’t fully understand what is available. Take a deep dive into the complex world of healthcare and look into what is available within your organization. Make sure all potential employees and current employees have an understanding of the cost and what is being offered. There is no shame in getting a cheat sheet and having it handy in an interview. As part of Leadership in any organization it is always best to keep an ear out for what employees believe is missing and any new benefits that have become standard within the market. If employees and candidates aren’t sharing, then take the time to find out what they value most when it comes to benefits. If you often hear another employer won out because of benefits then ask the former candidate what they offered. If a current employee is having issues with their benefits or understanding what is available, then try to reach out to HR and set up a conversation. Employees with great healthcare are more likely to seek medical advice or treatment, allowing them to get back to work faster. Healthy employees will be able to have more energy for guests.

Allow for flexibility

Try to figure out a way to balance out schedules so no employees are burnt out. In these tough times of understaffed hotels, restaurants and offices we need to keep an eye out on those close to burning out. The team members that go above and beyond are the ones to really keep an eye on. This means juggling around schedules when needed. While a large number of hospitality jobs are customer facing and require employees to be physically present, not all parts of said job or all jobs require it. This means it's ok to let an employee input data at home or call in remotely for a meeting when they need to be elsewhere for their kids or for any other reason. An employee can share and negotiate their schedule with other employees. For example, if two employees that have the same role are comfortable mixing up their schedule so the front desk is covered, but their shifts are shorter or longer than usual for a doc appointment (again, for any reason) then let them try it out. Allow for flexibility! If employees can come up with ways to make their jobs a bit more flexible then be open to trying it out. At the very least, they will appreciate the attempt.


Building relationships is key to retention. If you provide all the benefits possible and don’t work on the relationships, then people will leave. Working on building relationships will help build a connection and loyalty. When there is a real connection, employees will want to be at work and happy to return the next day. You will have a lower number of employees leave and a larger number of employees stick around longer than they originally would have. Internal team networking events are great for building relationships. It can be as simple as having a weekly or monthly lunch with the team or heading out to a baseball game. Managers can also do one-on-one lunches of coffee with each team member once a month. The point is to professionally share and bond. This is the quickest way to find out what your team members are thinking about work and to give them the opportunity to share new ideas.

Here is the deal, in order to increase retention you must build relationships and loyalty. Employees spend more time at work than most other places. Building loyalty in your team takes time, just like any other relationship. Your hotel or travel tech org will be that much more successful because of it.

Zoe Connolly

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    Zoe Connolly
    Founder and CEO of Hospitality Spotlight
    Phone: +1 858 230 8501
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