The hospitality industry has long been suffering from failing to attract and bind talent. The labour turnover rate is shocking: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitality employees quit their job two to three times more often compared to other industries. Researchers have painted a similar picture with employee turnover rates of anywhere between 60% to 300% across the hospitality industry. A stressful work environment, low wages, stringent rules, and hierarchies, as well as a lack of identification and purpose, might be some of the reasons behind this situation. With a new generation entering the labour market, can sustainability be a determining criterion to attract talent? And if so, what kind of sustainability commitment are young people looking for in their prospective employer? New talent will inevitably impact the existing workforce and is as such an opportunity to manifest sustainability further into the corporate culture. Workforce cooperation and cultural integration are vital factors for a thriving sustainability engagement. What steps can be taken to turn employees into sustainability ambassadors? Ultimately, how can a culture of sustainability be achieved in hotels?

Aurora  Dawn Benton
Aurora Dawn Benton
Founder & CEO, Astrapto

Green teams!! I hear comments like "we tried that once" or "it's the last 15 minutes of our safety committee meeting" or "our executive committee is the green team." None of those is a solution to culture (or sustainability, quite frankly). The green team, or whatever you want to call it (referring to a diverse, representative team that meets at least monthly and pulls from every level and every department), is a fantastic way to tap into the hidden energy and passion of the staff.

I teach an online course on green teams in hospitality and it proves that even college students with little or no authority are able to achieve much! The class assignment requires them to start a green team where they work. I frequently hear about how much it improved bonding, teamwork, inclusion, and culture. And students finish the course with such a sense of accomplishment (they implement a wide range of sustainability ideas) and actual results! I hear many stories of how they got the attention of GMs and other important stakeholders. 

It's eye-opening because students who opt into the course are often the very ones referred to in studies that show the next generation is seeking purpose and sustainability, yet they are so disconnected from what it actually means at a practical level or how to proactively pursue it in their roles. They tend to be passive and the green team can connect them with specific opportunities and accountability. 

The green team is a tough proposition in an environment of high turnover and all the conditions mentioned in the panel question, but these students make it happen and within about 12 weeks they recruit a team, hold meetings, and implement at least one idea (and often several). They overcome language barriers, budget constraints, crazy schedules, and more. 

What can owners, GMs, and Directors do? Empower and support these teams. Make even just a little bit of room (in schedules, in a conference room, in resources). And don't make it an executive only thing. You will be amazed by what your staff can accomplish with just a little bit of encouragement! 

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