When Kenny Rogers penned this Country Classic back in 1977, it is unlikely he was thinking about the staffing issues in the Accommodation Sector

But it does provide me with a cheesy start to this article on Staff retention.

According to the Australian Workplace Relations Website (www.flexibilityworks.dewr.gov.au/what_facts_about.htm) the retail employment sector has an employee turnover of a15%, and although there is no hard evidence, the anecdotal evidence might suggest that the Accommodation sector could have turnover of nearly double the national average.

So the big question is why are they leaving… and more importantly, what can you do to reduce this in your own business.

Why are they leaving and why should I care?

Lets start with the second part first.

Yes you should care – because – to replace even a mediocre staff member, costs you a packet. Had you considered…..

….. the increased costs involved in a new hire (advertising, recruiting,  time spent interviewing etc.) and then training  new employees. And in Accommodation, the chances are you might be hiring someone without specific industry knowledge – so that is bound to take longer to bring them up to speed with the industry and the processes involved.

  • What about the value of the intellectual capital that just walked out your door, in terms of the employee’s knowledge of your clients and their relationship with them
  • You also have to factor in much slower productivity and use of time, while the new employee is being trained. And there is also a greater margin for error when training a newbie and mistakes cost you plenty.

“The costs of replacing a lost employee can be staggering. research has shown that the costs of re-hiring can be as much as three times base salary for a manager. “

What can I do about it…

Many properties are owner-managed, and like many small businesses, when an employee decides to leave, for whatever reason, we tend to take it quite personally. In some cases there is a period of grieving, not dissimilar to a breakdown in our personal relationships and we can experience some of the well known five stages of grief;

  • Denial (I cant believe they have done this to me!)
  • Anger (why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (maybe if I was a better boss….)
  • Depression (Who cares If they leave… I am better off without them.!)
  • Acceptance (Right… lets move forward and get someone new…)

So clearly the quicker we can get to the last stage… the better!

 So why are they leaving?

This is an area where a great deal of research has been done, internationally and the results might surprise you. The striking thing about the results, and it applies across every sub-group and sample and in both men and women, young or old, is that money is not of primary importance, but slots in third behind “work-life balance” and “job security”. This might be the reason, that even though we might be paying great salaries (relative to industry) but people are still not sticking around long enough to earn them!

But I can hear you screaming at this article… “But I already offer a nice work/life balance, some semblance of job security and above average salaries, but the blighters still leave!”

I have a theory about why staff  leave, particularly in the expensive early days of the employer/employee relationship, and there is a significant amount that you can do to increase your chances of having them pay you back in productivity for all this training and time you are investing.

“Mind the Gap”

Like a London commuter boarding a train in the Underground, employers need to “Mind The Gap” to ensure that their new hire sticks. The Gap that matters here is the Gap that exists between Expectation and Reality, ie. the gap between the expectation of what they THINK the job is all about, and the REALITY of the job. I tell my clients (and candidates for that matter) that the secret to the success of a new appointment is to make the gap between expectation and reality as small as possible.

Remember – when you hire someone for a position in Accommodation, it is unlikely they will have worked in it before, so unlike a job at McDonalds, or in a Call Centre, a Travel Agency, or in a clothing shop, they may not have any real idea of what the job entails.

So the gap might be enourmous. They might THINK they know, but do they understand that the role …

  • has a VERY strong sales component?
  • may involve some (frequent!)  cleaning?
  • may require some level of financial management understanding for day/week/month end reporting?
  • may expose them to some of the more seamier sides of society?
  • may require them to chase people for unpaid rents?

So the interviewing process, as much as it is about finding out if they are suited to do the job (and we covered this topic magnificently in June/July Insider), as it is  about providing them with a comprehensive understanding of the business and their place in it.

A traditional interview usually takes place in the swankiest part of the property, perhaps in a nicely decked out boardroom, or small conference room where the manager waxes lyrical about some of the interesting things about the job, and how lovely the team is to work with, and often gloss over the less attractive or more mundane aspects of the role and the industry. Then after the interview, they often sweep past reception on their way out to the front door, leaving the poor candidate with a fairly superficial understanding of  what the Reality of the job is. But, I can hear you say, we don’t want to scare them off! Well – it is a damn side cheaper to scare them now – than employ them and have them run off after their business cards have been printed, the uniform delivered and the customers have learnt their name!

The difference between Expectation and Reality is Information. and  the more information the candidate has about the role, the better informed they are, in order to make an intelligent decision, and they can only base it on the information that you provide for them.

Although it is controversial and a little but risky – I would strongly recommend, where circumstances allow, all prospective employees be able to spend a couple of hours in the business, observing the way the business works, the way clients interact with the business, and the dynamic within the office. Remember this is a people business and prospective employees need very much to be able to relate to the dynamics between staff and each other and the clients… because.. this, essentially is what the Candidate is buying.

Although it is not a fool-proof method of “closing the gap”, it goes a lot further than your traditional interview process, at making a good match between the job and the person.