Hotel management companies improve employee training and retention efforts

Over the past year, hoteliers across the United States have sought a return to normalcy as guests return. Instead, they were hit with another new on-the-fly challenge: The Great Resignation.

Faced with a labor shortage and to curb the growing number of employees leaving their jobs, third-party hotel management companies have adapted their training practices and retention programs.

In December 2021, 4.3 million Americans quit their job. And just before that, a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, with hospitality and leisure workers leading the quit rate, according to Fortune.

Factors driving employee exodus from the hospitality industry typically include low schedule flexibility, the desire for a more competitive starting salary, and employee burnout.


Hotel management companies rely on cross-training employees so they can fill multiple roles at multiple hotels while staff numbers are at their lowest.

Michael O’Brien, senior vice president of human resources for South Carolina-based development, management and investment firm Raines, said new hires aren’t hired with the intention of training. cross, but if they show the ability and willingness to do so, his business can take advantage of it.

He added that it has been difficult to maintain a positive customer experience despite the change in employee roles.

“As I would describe it, it’s kind of like a floating duck on the pond where you project calm on top and there can be a lot of moving parts below the surface,” he said.

Laura Presnol, vice president of talent and culture at Atlanta-based hotel management company Davidson Hospitality Group, said the company is training its employees more than ever to fill multiple roles.

“We’re not just hiring for the hotel experience anymore,” Presnol said in an email interview. The friendly hiring theory [people] and teaching technique is more important than ever.

Suzanne Brittendall, regional director of human resources for Atlanta-based investment and management firm Hospitality Ventures Management Group, said staff are moved between each of the four properties she oversees as needed.

Brittendall added that employees are guided as they try out various positions to find the path that works best for them.

In addition to cross-training, management companies have had to change their approaches to training in general due to the smaller labor pool with less hotel experience than in the past. General managers, for example, receive updated lessons on how to train and develop new hires, O’Brien said.

Instead of relying on traditional brand training, Davidson has developed its own skills program to better connect with new hires, Presnol said.

“[We] we are left with a blank slate that has given us the flexibility to create programs that meet the needs and preferences of the modern learner,” she said.

Davidson’s virtual learning platform includes training in the form of gamification, encouraging employees to learn and track their progress in a less formal way through games, Presnol said.

The concept of overhauling standard training procedures is no stranger to these companies; they all had to move to a more user-friendly virtual platform due to the pandemic. Wilson Turner, senior director of human resources for HVMG, said the shift to online training has improved the product.

“What the pandemic has done is bring [remote learning] full board and make this part of our learning and development even more relevant than it was before,” he said.


Earlier employee retention is an industry-wide trend. Turner said HVMG has increased retention and signing bonuses while ensuring his starting salary is competitive.

“We’re really looking at creative, innovative, and unique ways to maximize communication, rewards, recognition, and culture as we move into retention,” Turner said. “We know that if we can make that connection from day one and they can connect with our culture and our business, we’ll be much more successful in retaining them for the longer term and helping them grow their careers.”

O’Brien said the hotel management company has improved its training programs by focusing on onboarding during an employee’s first 90 days. The first three months with a company can be the most important when it comes to retention, he said.

Raines addressed staffing shortages at three levels: retention, more personal time off and pay-as-you-go, O’Brien said.

Management companies have also focused more than ever on strengthening workplace culture, which has helped during the pandemic to maintain positive customer experiences despite high employee turnover, O’Brien said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time as a company building a culture around service, taking care of our people and our customers, no matter what the circumstances in our industry are,” he said. “It can be a bit of a roller coaster ride in how outside influences can impact our business, but by instilling this service orientation, we’ve been able to maintain positive service scores.”

People are at the heart of the hospitality industry, and maintaining and reflecting that in a company’s culture is the best way to ensure strong retention numbers and service, Presnol said.

“It’s more than just compelling core values ​​and great internal and external marketing campaigns,” she said. “It’s how we evaluate and measure performance, how we communicate and treat each other, how the systems we design and deploy focus on humanistic design theories, how we listen and respond to member concerns of our team and much more. »

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Nicholas E. Crittendon